The group is made up of candidates for National Executive Committee posts, all standing on an "independent" label, and their supporters, and as a result a lot of controversy has raged over whether such a faction exists. Many NUS commentators are in agreement that such an organised grouping is clearly in existence. Various names were in use, including the "Webberites" (after Simon Webber, an early leading figure), the "Owainites" (after Owain James, NUS President 2000-2002), the "Independent Faction" before the term "Organised Independents" took hold. The phrase "independent student officers" was also prominent on many manifestos. Increasingly members of the grouping no longer dispute their existence and the label. However there is still much dispute over whether or not individual independents are aligned to the OIs or not.
The OIs emerged as a group of independent candidates and NEC members who gave support to the Labour Students-dominated NUS leadership of the 1990s. Several admitted to being "members of the Labour Party but not Labour Students," a distinction that some found difficult to understand. Further confusion reigned as some OIs appeared to be members of Labour Students at the ordinary level. The group became increasingly prominent in 2000 when Labour Students declined to... Read More