YESTERDAY IN HUSTINGS we saw candidates for NUS Delegate, Mature Students Officer, and Council Lay-member give speeches to those running for NUS Delegate, the Mature Students Officer, and Council Lay-member.
In what was a pathetic turn out, which should be expected for the November elections, we at least saw a first. There were four competent – well, when compared to Council anywhere – prospective Councillors. That, however, is where the change ended.
There were actually five people standing for the position, Mohsin Salim, Jackie Abhulimen, Georgios Koundourakis, Mohammed Lunat and Kostas Karafoulidis. As usual, somebody wasn’t there … Mr Koundourakis was in Paris.
As usual we went through the standard opening speeches promising greater transparency with the same naïve promises that they can change the entirety of Council, the union and university and misunderstandings that Council is important in union affairs that read as if they are from the laughable statements produced by the union’s democracy committee – after all, can Council get rid of an unelected trustee who actually runs the union? No.
Other illuminating comments of the day include that from Mr Lunat; he said that “my journey began about a month ago when we were at a BDS [Boycott, Divest, Sanction] Conference, I was with a Sabbatical Officer and some people from the university and we saw the presence of certain companies on campus that weren’t good for backing the cohesion of students and we decided they should be people on campus who could back the students, but not only back the students but somebody who could make a genuine difference”.
So, his vote will be in favour of a Sabbatical Officer because he is, it seems, their puppet. So much for holding them to account – yet further proof Council is pointless and will continue to be pointless.
He went on, “I decided to run based on my manifesto” … so, he didn’t write it? “But people will vote for me”, he said, so it is all right.
Others said things about Team Bradford ad nauseam, the fact they are Greek and relevant experience is that they have is secondary school and how involved they are in the union to various degrees.
The most grounded speech of the evening was from Kostas Karafoulidis. Despite essentially threatening to spit in your pint if you don’t vote for him (“I work at the Sports Bar”) he pointed out “first and second year students don’t even know” what the union is and then promptly wishing everyone good luck – recognising the futility of talking to nobody.
The Colours award for ‘Obviously Rigged question of the Day’ goes to Mr Salim. Asked “What does Council do?” he riffled through his notes and began reading exactly what the Council does – as you would expect. Despite him being first and giving an excellent, obviously scripted, answer the others unbelievably continued to get it wrong.
Miss Abhulimen just said that it was ‘what the other guy said’ followed by the trademark-ending of an incredibly fast “thank you” at the end of her speech, Mr Lunat proved he was living on some strange world where the union had any significant influence over the university and stated it was responsible for all the university and Kostats Karafoulidis just said “I don’t need to answer anything new” with a tad of elaboration and then walked off.
The favourite question to catch people out is to ask if they had read the constitution. Shock, nobody had.
It was clear the candidate with the most potential in Council was Mohsin Salim. His performance was shaky, but that is to be expected, and he was more likely than not put forwards by a sabbatical officer in a vote-bloc but he was already slamming Council and its complete lack of transparency. “The last minutes of the meetings are on the 24th September 2013” he astutely noted (without notes then, too). He won’t be able change anything, but the thought is there. He also knew how long the constitution that is, which is more than everyone else. It is clear we have someone who can prepare when he needs to and Council is already full of big-talkers who can shout someone down but put absolutely no thought or preparation into anything and go along for their bloc-vote, CV and the free pizza. He may be welcome change – but then again a majority of these candidates are.
Students who do not realise that the National Union Students died off the instant a Labour government introduced Tuition Fees, brought back to life by the Liberal Democrats only to be ruthlessly slaughtered live on television in a sacrifice the to the Osborne family as students threw fire extinguishers off the roof of Milbank at other students continue to go to conference in the deluded belief that they can change it.
This year, these candidates are Sam Majunga (who was not at Hustings), Hayden Strawbridge, Aadam Siciid Muuse and Jason Smith.
All of the candidates registered their disgust at the NUS, yet all when asked how they would vote in an In/Out referendum said they would vote to stay in.
But the funniest event of the evening was the blatant admission that two candidates (Mr Strawbridge and Mr Smith) were running on the same platform – a slate. Both running under the ‘Socialists Students’ banner, which was obvious from their posters with the logo of the party on and from their badges they wore on the day.
Strawbridge couldn’t bear contain this open secret for the entirety of Hustings, let alone the elections. “Me and Jason” he said, as if he just wanted to get kicked off the election after realising he had better things to be doing in his life like cutting his toe-nails or sending in poorly-written complaints to the Bradford Student.
This just further highlights why the Union needs to reform rules regarding slates, and it needs to do so before the next election cycle. It is overwhelmingly obvious all Sabbatical Officers have run in slates and that anyone who is not planning to run in a slate has lost already and should just continue to complain to the Tech Team. It would be completely anti-democratic to kick people off for this, leading to yet another uncontested election elevating a candidate who doesn’t have to do anything to get in (Liam Barker, Chair of Council). Hardly democratic, is it?
There was also questions about the NUS’s hypocritical commercial services division, what the NUS actually does and the fan-favourite about transparency.
Subira Ismal, who is standing for the Women’s position, spoke about how it is her priority to ensure that the unions voice is heard at a national level, that she would not be afraid to challenge the NUS and how as the Black Students Officer she has, apparently, the tools needed to “scrutinise, legitimise and hold accountable the right people in the NUS”.
Setting aside the bulk buying of alcohol that apparently fuels ‘Lad Culture’ whilst simultaneously holding countless conferences about, funding reports about and generally disliking the apparent rise of ‘Lad Culture’ there could come a point where essentially forced Women-short lists become problematic for the organisation – recently the European Court of Human Rights issued guidance making it very clear that they are illegal. They then went to issue this statement,
“We do not believe that it is lawful to address under-representation by longlisting or shortlisting only female candidates to the detriment of male candidates”
MATURE STUDENTS OFFICER
The only candidate for mature students officer, Eithne Barker, had a solid performance throughout Hustings and clearly knew her brief and what her position entailed.
THE REAL STORY, THE SLOW LEGITIMISATION OF SLATES?
Unfortunately for this authors amusement, all of the candidates are of a passable standard this cycle, especially compared to their elected counterparts. There is still the usual tactics of trying to form vote-blocs, Sports and Societies deluding themselves into thinking they are important enough to be able to dictate elections and Sabbatical Officers trying to subvert Council because their fragile egos are terrified of criticism. Fortunately, however, they have not repeated the mistake of last election where they fronted candidates who mumbled into a microphone about how their experience of being able to swim qualified them for council.
The November elections are as boring as expected and the real headline at the end of it could be the slow legitimisation of slates. Surely, if two candidates are openly allowed to do it here how could Elections Committee then not allow it come May? If the Committee takes no action, when they are told to take action in the Sabbatical Officer elections it will look even more politically motivated, even more undemocratic and even more backhanded than it already is.
UPDATE: The elections are now closed.