THE DELEGATE 25th April 2012
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Overheard at NUS Conference Your new NUS presidential team: Turn to p.2 for results and coverage
PAST, PRESIDENT & FUTURE JAMES SKUSE Liam Burns has been re-elected as the NUS National President with 387 votes after a challenge from two of his Vice Presidents and the Black Students’ Officer in what turned out to be a tight race. Speaking to The Delegate after his election victory, Liam said he was “[...]absolutely over the moon, I couldn’t be more excited”. Burns’ priorities over the next year are “student financial support, how we deliver a tertiary education system that delivers for young people, how the general elections play out in 2015”. He is also seeking to “make [the National Demonstration] truly about generational injustice and not just about HE undergraduate funding”. An initially large lead was cut down to a slim majority when Kanja Sesay and Usman Ali’s votes transferred in majority to current VP Union Development, Ed Marsh. “I think how close it came in the final round shows that the other candidates are just as credible, and ran fantastic campaigns” said Burns. The pressure of the tightest race in several years resulted in harsh words on each others’ records, or lack thereof, being exchanged at the election debate last night. Burns also criticised the changing positions of certain candidates, although he seemed to be targeting Ed Marsh in particular. Usman Ali, narrowly nudged into third position by Marsh, congratulated Burns and sought to bury the hatchet, commenting that “Kanja is like
a brother to me, Ed is one of my closest friends and Liam is someone who I’ve always looked up to.” All three unsuccessful candidates will continue working on their respective areas into the summer, but it’s unimaginable that they aren’t disappointed. The race for office of National President is not the only one that is tight. Shortly after a well-fought contest in the Union Development zone, Liam took a stance in favour of subsequently successful candidate Rachel Wenstone for VP Higher Education: “I think she’s going to really shake up our HE campaigns and make them into something that’s more than just about information but actually influencing and winning change.” All three VP HE candidates have been on the NEC over the last year, but Sophie Richardson and Michael Chessum didn’t manage to gain their President, or Conference’s support, despite a notable reason for Burns supporting Rachel being that he views her as “a fantastic activist.” There will be a lot of work going on in NUS over the next three years ahead of the 2015 General Elections. Burns sees student financial support as a key point on which to lobby: “We’ve done a huge amount of research, we now want to turn that into a powerful campaign that increases the amount of money students have in their pockets.” In what seems to be a strange step of bypassing local students’ unions, Burns stated that “[NUS will] also be starting conversations with students directly on campuses about
what 2015 should look like.” While Conference will continue to pass policy, Burns’ simple question for the grassroots is: “What are the things we should talk about, and what should our tactics be?” The Left have been seeking to tie the cuts to HE and FE over the last few years into the wider “attacks” by the Government which have garnered widespread criticism – with reasonable success, although NUS’ coordinated action with the trade unions hasn’t been as prevalent as it might have been. Kanja Sesay commented that “I’m pleased with the victory for the National Demonstration motion, hopefully NUS will start the real fight against the Tories.” The passage of the National Demonstration amendment 305b and the election of Vicki Baars as VP Union Development seem to show the turning of the tide towards a stronger Left presence in NUS. It was not brought full circle however, due to the widely expected re-election of Dannie Grufferty (VP Society & Citizenship) and Pete Mercer (VP Welfare). How will this manifest in the conferences in 2013 and 2014? “I think that [upcoming Conferences] will start to see us as part of wider society, and a generation which has been done over, rather than just students on our campuses” stated Burns. “I do think it will make for better policy, and we’ll have a much stronger campaign come 2015.” Now seems the perfect timing for NUS leadership and activists to be reading from the same hymn sheet.
You’ve been furiously tweeting us your favourite ‘Overheard at Conference’ quotes. Here’s some of the best “What’s voting like?” “Oh God, it’s like pulling on a tiger’s tail! The RAW POWER!” “You can’t speak more passionately than Liam Burns, he’s Scottish. Everything he says sounds like Braveheart.” “I did sign a national demo petition yesterday, but only to get him out of my face. I felt harassed” “SHIT. It’s started. Just missed my speech.” – Michael Chessum “The better the buffet, the more boring the talk” “Anyone else excited to use the voting pad later?” “I’d swear I just saw the returning officer with a Reelect Liam T-shirt on.” “I’m just waiting for the DPC to start rapping again.” “I’ve seen far too many buttcracks at this conference. Delegates, wear a belt!” “I’ve heard that if there’s a tie in the elections it falls to a coin flip…” “This music is SO Eurovision song contest.” “Good cake at the Unpaid Internships Fringe, by the way.”
25th April 2012
VP ELECTIONS ROUND-UP
WENSTONE WINS VPHE
Vicki Baars, last year’s NUS LGBT Officer (Women’s place), was elected Vice President Union Development in a hotly contested race; four rounds of voting saw Baars eventually pass the threshold. The race for VPUD saw Baars running against three, similarly qualified candidates, with a trove of experience in student politics: Rebecca Bridger (Loughborough Students’ Union President), Luke Young (NUS Wales President), Tom Hollick (City College Norwich Students’ Union President) and Christina Yan Zhang (NUS International Students’ Officer). In the first round of voting Baars took 225 ballots, Bridger 180, Young 171, Hollick 110 and Yan Zhang 53. In subsequent rounds Yan Zhang, Hollick, Young and Bridger were knocked out of the race respectively. The final round saw Baars on 385 ballots and Rebecca on 325. Baars ran successfully on a left wing, anti-cuts platform. Her manifesto reads: “NUS needs to be a political fighting and winning collective of students and students unions.” The main competitor, Bridger, ran a campaign probably most memorable for its use of carrots, which were distributed to delegates in a left-field attempt at publicity.
Rachel Wenstone claimed the crown of Vice President Higher Education in a race which was expected to be one of the closest of the elections. The results however were different: what was assumed to be a fight to the death between Michael and Rachel, given both of their solid factional blocks (the organised left and UJS with Labour Students, respectively) was thrown wide open at Conference. Michael took 134 votes in the first round, whilst Sophie gained 168 and Rachel 202. As Michael was eliminated, Sophie’s vote increased to 230 and Rachel snatched victory with 257. Comparing the election to that for president, a gracious Michael said: “Both the quality of candidates and of debates was higher,” which Rachel agreed with, adding that all of the candidates “took their arguments in a different direction.” Despite a gain in momentum towards further left-wing policy adoption throughout Conference, including motions to call for Education Minister David Willets to resign as well as to hold a national demo in the autumn, this loss will come as a huge disappointment to the candidate who holds politics as radical as the policy passed. More than anything, these results show a continuation of the tradition of Labour Student dominance of NUS politics.
Baars said she is “absolutely ecstatic about being elected” and is resolved to “making sure the skills we have in the movement are getting out to students.” Pete Mercer was re-elected Vice President Welfare, beating his opponents Sean Rillo Raczka (ULU President Elect) and Edd Bauer (Birmingham Guild Vice President). Raczka ran for the NUS position despite being elected ULU President in March. Bauer, a prominent activist for NCAFC gained prominence when he was arrested and detained for ten days without charge following a banner drop at the last Lib Dem conference last year. He has fought continued attempts by his university
to unseat him following this. Despite claiming that Mercer had failed to stand up to the Health and Social Care Reform Bill amongst other complaints, the two losing candidates failed to unseat him. In the race for Vice President Further Education, the incumbent, Toni Pearce, was re-elected, overcoming her opponent, Jamil Keating. Toni commented: “I’m really excited about being reelected Vice President Further Education and putting further education students and the lost generation back on the agenda where they absolutely belong.” Danielle Grufferty, Labour student, was re-elected to the post of Vice President Society and Citizenship.
COMMENT: ANOTHER PROCEDURAL MOTION FRAN ALLFREY Observing from the media balcony, it is already hard enough keeping a track of what’s going on: what with being slightly removed from the action below, and unable to see all delegates to get an idea of the voting numbers and conference reaction to speeches. But the thing that makes it even more difficult to follow proceedings is the ‘Procedural Motions’. The ironic thing is that they often come from people wanting to move motions forward, as they don’t think there will be time to discuss them. These
discussions about saving time then can take up to half an hour! Not to mention the fact that many reasons given by delegates for moving motions forwards is that ‘it is really important to them/ they worked hard on it’, which is either blinkered or selfish of them. Furthermore, there seems to be a total disregard for the fact that unions were asked to put in their priorities beforehand, and the nature of this democratic process (like all democratic processes!) means that some people will be disappointed. Of course, this means that any un-discussed motions
go to the smaller collective of the NEC to decide, but they have been elected to make decisions too, and can be lobbied. The suggestion from one delegate was that NUS should facilitate online polls for any motions that aren’t discussed at conference. And this would be a great idea, but I would only want these polls to be indicators and steers for the NEC, not decision making polls - as another part of any good democratic process is discussion, and discussions whether at Conference at large, or within NEC meetings can and do sway the decision mak-
ers even if they came to the room feeling that their opinions were set. Certainly something must be done to encourage more unions to take part in the prioritising stage of motions before conference, and much could be arranged to ensure afterconference engagement with motions which are passed on to NEC. This way, we’d hopefully see fewer procedural motions from people worried that their favoured motions aren’t going to be discussed, at the expense of someone else’s motion.