BULS Supporting Michael Chessum to be VPHE of NUS

Following careful consideration, BULS has decided to support Michael Chessum’s campaign to be VPHE of NUS and we ask Birmingham delegates and Labour students nationally to do the same. We believe that Michael is the most competent candidate, and will achieve the most for students now, and in the future.

He has been the only candidate to continuously fight against the Tories’ fee regime and its further marketisation of our education system. Michael has been instrumental inthe organising of two national demonstrations, mobilising thousands of students across the country. Such demonstrations proved highly successful, gaining the support of Labour Students, and the general student population, nationally.

As Labour students we should be fighting against the current coalition government’s outrageous, and damaging, policies concerning higher education fees and their on-going commitment to severe austerity measures. Education is a public good and, at Birmingham, we believe that education should be universally accessible and publically funded. Michael Chessum is the only candidate for VPHE who we believe shares our values and will fight to defend them.

Furthermore, Michael is the only candidate committed to opposing Theresa May’s regressive and racist visa changes, which will have a detrimental effect on International Students who contribute so much to our higher education institutions and country as a whole.

Michael’s past record shows that he knows when and how to use direct action tactics, whilst his pivotal role in founding NCAFC proves his dedication to fighting the government’s austerity measures.

We need a VP Higher Education that will offer a robust defence against the coalition’s stark attacks on education. We wholeheartedly believe it is time to put factional divides behind us and unite in our support for Chessum, as the candidate most able to deliver.

Catie, Ed, Ellis, Areeq, Alex, Sam and Dan


The Death of the ‘Labour Sabb’

This year, in the Guild of Students Officer elections, for the first time in a very long time there were no ‘Labour’ candidates. Something which has become quite a regularity at students unions across the country is the domination of particular sabbatical officers that are there to simply ‘Bring Labour values of collectivism to campus’. This is not an attack on previous Sabbs who were party members, it’s a critique on the idea of the ‘Labour Sabb’. Which is something that has bugged me greatly since joining the party, so here is a blog to have a good old rant about it…

In November, I attended the annual Labour Students Political Weekend. I thought i’d give it a go. What I will say is that the message I got from NOLS was a very narrow minded one. A one of a one size fits way of thinking, which couldn’t have highlighted how out of touch they are any better. ‘Let’s campaign for Ken in London’ was high on the agenda, while absolutely no mention was made to campaigning locally in other key elections happening this May, including Birmingham. ‘Let’s get as many of you elected onto the NUS and in Unions so you can be our puppets’ was also another common theme of the talks. Or one of my personal favourites, ‘Lets all pretend to talk to our Vice Chancellor and tell them they should pay cleaners more money, which they will then amazingly easily agree to’. The weekend really could have been summarised into those three snippets.

I believe that Labour Students attempt to have too much involvement in Union politics. It’s a well known fact that they ship supporters around the country to illegitimately boost support for their candidates (http://abercourier.com/2012/03/labour-troubles-tarnish-election-campaign/). They also offer training to their candidates and successful elects before they take office, to… well I imagine to tell them the policies to push onto their students. This is not what they should be doing! And this is not what the student movement is all about. Edd Bauer, current VPE at the Guild wrote during his time as EEO about this very issue on his blog, and I think he got it spot on. I’d definitely recommend giving it a read (http://edwardbauereeo.blogspot.co.uk/2010/07/leaving-post.html)

I am currently a Labour member and supporter, and that’s fine. I have my ideological beliefs and i’ll never claim to not have them. There is no denying that we all have a position politically, because we all have an opinion. However, the problem arises when you push your party’s policies onto students. Abusing your position as an elected officer to ensure the party you support, and probably want to work for in future years gets a foot in with students on your campus. Sabbatical officers are not there to influence the students they represent. They are there to serve them. They are there to make the time that their students spend at their university as enjoyable as possible. I believe it is that simple.

As you may be aware, I was elected as Vice President (Activities & Development) in those very guild elections just a few short weeks ago. And next year, I will be tasked with helping every single student society at the Guild and I can’t wait to get started. Because it doesn’t matter what your political beliefs are, what matters is that you want to do something and celebrate what you love doing. That is why I ran for it and why I didn’t ever want to run as a ‘Labour Sabb’, because to do so would to betray what I believe is truly important in student politics. Yes, you guessed it, STUDENTS.

So this will be my 3rd and very last blog I post on BULSonline. My membership to the party expires in May and I will be letting it do so. I’m doing this because I simply have to be as neutral as possible. I represent BUCF as much as BULS and to do so whilst being a Labour party member I feel would be unprofessional. I have no idea if I will rejoin after my term in office, I guess it will depend on how the next year goes for the party and for Mr Miliband. And it will most certainly depend on whether the party (and it’s affiliated organisations) can stop being so narrow minded and unaware that a single solution will not solve all their problems.

The next year is crucial for us all, I’m just looking forward to the journey.

@OllieCosentino, Former BULS Secretary

Uni’s Not For Me


It took me a long time to decide which issue to discuss on my first blog for Birmingham University Labour Students, as there are a myriad of things to be angry and anxious about at the moment thanks to the Con-Dem coalition. I pondered the dismantling of the NHS; the upcoming AV referendum and the scrapping of EMA, however an article which popped up on the BBC News website meant it had to be the tuition fees rise and its ramifications – BULS is, after all, a university society.

The latest development in this sorry saga is today’s latest UCAS admissions figures for 2011 entry, the last year before the trebling of fees in many instances alongside the ten per cent rise in salary of our Vice Chancellor. They reveal the stark reality that – despite what the government assures us – people are being turned off the idea of higher education in large numbers, most of whom will undoubtedly be from less privileged backgrounds. In the year that was supposed to be the ‘boom’ year of applications to beat the raising of the threshold in 2012, the number of applications only rose by five per cent, which in comparison with recent years and predicted trends is a sharp decrease in interest in degree courses.

Most disturbing of all was the plummeting of applications to -2 per cent in December, as the protests raged in central London and the heir to the throne’s wife was nudged with a stick. A brief fillip this may have been, but it demonstrates clearly that sixth-formers and school-leavers are seriously reconsidering their futures, weighing up whether it is really worth that much in debt only to come out jobless at the end of it. Just like the growth statistics, the figures are shocking, but not surprising considering the coalition’s arrogance and dogged determination to see through their most regressive and unpopular policies – which affect the poorest hardest – before the public realise what has hit them.

By Luke Jones, Communications Officer-elect

Sam’s Voting Record

How I voted as the Campaigning and Political mini-forum representative on the Guild Council on the 18/11/2010

In the interest of transparency I have decided to publish how I voted in the motions at Guild Council on Thursday. All items listed below were the only ones which were starred, which means they got debated in council, the un- starred ones got passed automatically.

Motion: Cuts and Fees vs. Motion: Birmingham Students say NO to cuts and fees (later carried)

I voted for the 2nd motion, (Birmingham Students say NO to cuts and fees)

These two items were taken together, in the interest of sparking debate within Guild Council. This is the NUS line and keeps representatives of the Guild in University meetings and committees, which if we directly challenged the university on things like the Brown review, we would not have a voice in. Better to be inside the meeting arguing students case than being a fringe party on the other side of the door; shouting not being heard.

Motion: Changing the name of the HSBC room to the Harvey Milk room (carried)

I voted in favour

This motion got amended slightly to include the room being used for student purposes in the future and to withdraw the clause to denoting some kind of capitalist agenda with calling it the HSBC room in the first place. It was called the HSBC room because no one had put forward an alternative name. It seemed sensible and it allows a great man to be honoured in our Guild.

Motion: Ethical Investment (not carried)

I voted against this motion

This motion proposed to include tobacco, alcohol, gambling, arms manufactures, and pornography into the guilds ethical investment policy, excluding the Guild investing its surplus in these industries. I thought students would find it hypocritical of the Guild to sell a lot of these items within the union and then have an investment policy against that. With arms manufactures as well, some students with engineering degrees etc will be looking to work in these sorts of legitimate industries and the guild would then be hypocritical to let them on campus in the jobs fair for example.

Motion: Guild Council frequency

I voted against this motion.

This motion called for more Guild Council meetings in the term similar to what the Guild Council did before the referendum. I voted against this motion because it would be contradicting the referendum where nearly 2000 students voted in favour of changing the structure of Guild Council to have less formal meetings replaced by open forums where any student can come along and express their issues and concerns. This is to give the average student more of a voice in the Guild, in theory. I think students would like to let this policy bed in, no matter what there view on the referendum; seeing as there have only been one round of open forums as of yet, it would be premature in before changing anything.

Motion: Amendments to the suppliers list (carried)

I voted against this motion.

This motion called for the RA’s suppliers list to become a recommended list rather than a mandatory list of companies that they can work with. This is to drive down costs and make sure RA’s are not being manipulated by companies. I voted against this motion although it went through because it was evident there had been problems with the suppliers list previously but the officer team seemed to have reformed the list prior to the motion going to Guild Council. Reforms such as if a company can give a cheaper cost; they can be placed on the list instead of another etc. This motion might be subject to legal issues in the future due to the University demanding things like a mandatory suppliers list in financial audits.

Motion: Disability policy (carried)

I voted in favour.

This bill was amended and re-named the mobility and access policy. The motion calls for the Guild to establish a mobility and access policy working group, to monitor access to the Guild and its events and to ensure all disabled facilities are working.

If anyone has any issues with the way that I voted please get in touch at the committee e-mail address or my number 0752513519.

Full detailed minutes of the meeting will be published on the guild website soon.

Remember that know your world is next week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Sam Murphy

Rumblings in the NUS

Click photo for the source

The University of Kent has tonight voted down a suggestion to abolish the Men’s Officer on the Union’s strong team.

The official NUS women’s movement has a problem with this.

The point of liberation positions is that those who are normally under-represented get a chance to be heard. In the case of women’s officer it’s also about promoting sexual equality, disproving stereotypes and encouraging a post-structuralist view of gender. It’s an issue of mutual respect.

Men’s Unions formed within the NUS have typically been reactionary irreverent organisations, including one that included “playing pool and drinking beer” among its written aims.

With LGBTQ organisations doing a brilliant job at representing the gay, bisexual and transgender men out there, it seems unnecessary to require a separate men’s officer. All we can hope is that the elected man will work with the women’s officer to promote gender equality.


A great opportunity turned sour


There’s always someone who takes it too far. I do it far too often, but less said about that the better. The march against the proposed raise in tuition fees to £9000 a year was very well planned and timed for, DC was out of the country in China so Cleggy was taking questions at PMQs instead meaning he would be ridiculed for his U-turn on tuition fees. As for the vast majority of those who went there it was a very successful event, peaceful and making a very good point (would explain further but I’m back home up north and consequently not there, so I wouldn’t know the details).

But, someone always has to spoil the moment, someone has go too far. It is one of the cruel realities of life and the protest today in London was no exception. It was estimated by the NUS that 30k-40k students converged on London today, but it is estimated that mere 1k people were involved in the incident at the Millbank Tower.

Now don’t get me wrong, I can very much sympathise with the idea of smashing CCHQ. This is in very much the same way any Tory might sympathise with the idea of smashing up Labour’s HQ. But, it is certainly something neither side would condone. What happened here today was that a small number have completely ruined what would’ve been a peaceful demonstration, with even one ‘save EMA’ campaigner on the news giving the example of meeting an OAP who was out there on the behalf of her Grandchildren.

Unfortunately, what everyone will remember and what the headline papers will be tomorrow, is the grotesque violence seen at the Millbank Tower. In fact, it was widely regard that those at Millbank Tower, were not students per say but rather a hijacking by various groups such as Anarchists, far-left Socialists and the oh-so subtle SWP.

We all know that one person who doesn’t know the limits. And today, they did it again.


The End of the Affair

After a very long final session of Guild Council, in the immortal words of Fabian, I’ll try to keep this brief…

Each of the officers made a leaving speech looking back on the year and offering advice to the new team. These are some of the highlights.

VPSAD Emma “pacman” Packham has effectively showcased student groups to the Uni administration (the Vice Chancellor’s dad nows wants to join BUDS  dance soc) and worked hard to make herself known and approachable. She said that despite the Guild’s under resourcing, few staff and erstwhile joke status among the students it achieves incredible things. She made the point that professional relationships are crucial; and gratitude and banter are useful to grease the cogs.

VPEA Brigid “remarkable” Jones: widely regarded as a model representative of students due to her commitment and dedication she was yesterday awarded honorary life membership of the Guild. Fabian asserted that this “girl, sorry, woman” has been patronised by the bigwigs up at the Uni during her massive campaign against the closure of the sociology department.

VPHC Ed “the smallest man that I look up to” Sparkes has worked hard to calm the housing terrors among first years by making everyone feel included in halls and pushing back the housing rush til after Christmas. He thinks that fun is the most important element in life, and that we should all change something if we’re not having enough of it, and to that end he’s run for nearly every position possible within the Guild.

VPW Johnny “idiotic but popular” Davis is the first ever re-elected officer, he’s determined, innovative to the point of requesting a condom cannon and a penis-shaped bucking bronco for AIDS awareness, and wants to encourage anyone who doesn’t think they’re “political” enough to get involved anyway, because all you really need is the desire to make things better. He’s proud of U of B’s record of supporting student parents, the “hidden gems” of our community, and is excited about carrying on next year, reminding us all to protect our welfare with a Johnny.

VPS Katie “fordy fail” Ford had a hard time splitting commitments and was initially a guild outsider, but has managed to conquer the laddish element of the Sports teams with tact and skill and embed the Guild in the minds of our sportspeople. The Lion sports pull-out in RedBrick, a successful healthy living campaign, a brilliant Sports Ball, increased involvement in Sports Forums and inclusion of Sports RAs are just some of her many achievements.

VPDR Tom “comrade” Guise has come a long way but never forgotten his BULS roots, wearing a rose on his lanyard at all times. He’s delivered Joe’s Bar, not on time but on budget, and been a supportive friend to the rest of the team. He also had a serious message of support for everyone involved in student politics and a warning for the naysayers who ignore the historic importance of our institutions.

President Fabian “that geeky Austrian guy” Neuner has managed to develop from an inexperienced cynical outsider into a positive, passionate, diplomatic, reliable and genuine leader. Following a jibe from Lynne Jones he’s been spending a lot of time convincing outsiders that students do care about politics, has been active in the Vote4Students campaign and wishes to further reform the Guild Council procedure to improve transparency. Among his many other achievements he recently won a game of Lash of the Titans, wearing Johnny Davis’ underwear on his head in victory.

The motion to express GC support for wheelchair ramps in the law library was passed unanimously, which is apparently a first!


Everyone decried the lack of recognition given to the non-sabb team and then carried on ignoring them…shout outs and praise were given to the guild staff, housemates and girlfriends, Carnival Rag, RedBrick, the notorious Ed Bauer, Tom Marley and Wes Streeting as well as all of the new officers…there used to be an official bar crawl called “Chamberlain Chunderfest”… that once you’ve been elected you have to do your best both for those who elected you but also for your rivals…the library WILL be open longer next year…Ed Sparkes is the best person to bring you tea when you’ve fallen asleep on your desk…