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


Gove Could Learn A Lesson or Two

The papers today report that Education Secretary Michael Gove is asking school leaders to recruit members of the “wider school community” to take over the job of teachers striking on Thursday, the implication being that it is better for parents and governors to take classes for one day then see the school close. Aside from the bad logic that if the main aim is keeping the school open so as not to incovenience working parents, then there won’t be any parents available to teach Henry VIII’s six wives, this policy demonstrates the Big Society is a means of undermining unionised labour as well as a cover for cuts. The only positive thing that could come of this ludicrous suggestion is that parents who do act as supply teacher on 30th June may get some idea of just how difficult a profession teaching really is.

Further to my blog a few weeks back, “Unite Behind the Unions”, Ed Miliband and Ed Balls are still pandering to the right-wing media by warning the unions that striking would be unwise and counter-productive, while Tony Blair on the BBC’s Politics Show today refused to be drawn on any domestic policy issues, except to say that the unions are small ‘c’ conservatives who should learn to ‘modernise’, whatever that means. But then Blair never pretended to be on their side.

I do not dispute the fact that pensions need to be reformed in line with the ageing population and gender equality, while many in the private sector would be dancing all the way to the bank if they had pension schemes like those of some public servants; nevertheless what is going on at present smacks of the 1980s, and the threats of changes to union legislation mooted by Gove are deeply worrying.

Unite Behind The Unions

This week, the ominously-titled Business Secretary, Vince Cable, quickstepped down to Brighton to address the conference of the GMB Union, and calmly warned delegates, in no uncertain terms, that they can either lay back and take the savage cuts from the coalition government or face the consequences, which will take the form of more draconian anti-union legislation than even Maggie could dream of.

The coalition’s plans to pre-empt any upcoming Seasons of Discontent include only allowing official strike action to be valid where over 50 percent of members vote to withdraw their labour. This despite the fact that turnout in May’s AV referendum was only 42 percent; if the rules being drawn up for the unions were applied to that particular plebiscite we would now be going through that shambles of a campaign all over again. Perish the thought.

However over the last twelve months we have come to expect this sort of hypocritical posturing from the government, aimed at punishing the ordinary working man and woman for the 30-year poker game that took place in the City of London. We have even got used to the fact the the Liberal Democrats are happy to do all the dirty work while the Tories get on with the more important matters of screwing up the NHS, the Royal Mail, higher education and so on.

What is most worrying is the deafening silence coming from the Labour party over the last week.

It seems Ed Miliband, frightened by the response of the reactionary media after his speech at the March for the Alternative in Hyde Park earlier this year, has taken cover in the vain hope that all will blow over and the coalition will make itself so unpopular by 2015 that he will be swept to number 10 to save the day. It is not going to blow over. The Con-Dems will continue on their crusade against the public sector in the coming years, and can be forgiven for believing they have no effective opposition – when the only public figure speaking up for public sector workers is the Archbishop of Canterbury, you know Labour is in a bit of a pickle.

It’s time we got over the 1983, defeatist attitude and spoke up for ordinary working people who face falling wages, living standards and an uncertain future. This does not mean retreating into an unelectable, hard-left cocoon; it means not forgetting those who founded the Labour party in the first place over a century ago.

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

More political opportunism

BA plane

 It was revealed yesterday that the Tories have seized on strikes by British Airways and on the railways to claim Britain is facing a “spring of discontent” because of Labour. Now I’m sorry, whatever your views on the individual strikes taking place at the moment, you can hardly compare this to the ‘winter of discontent’, the circumstances are entirely different, for a start Unions are nowhere near as powerful and influential as they once were. It just seems to me that Dave’s using this opportunity to 1. Distract media attention from his Lord Ashcroft scandal, 2. Try and give Brown another blow and 3. Similarly, trying to take a swipe at the Unions because of his party’s dogmatic view. Political opportunism at its best.


What is a Union for?

Disclaimer:   This post is all about trade unions, not student unions you guild lovers!

TUs have been pretty much screwed over the last 30 years.  In 1979 their numbers were at a peak of 13.5 million.  Remember this is during the winter of discontent so lots of union activity.  They now have about 7 million.  So a small proportion of workers.  Unions, to survive, have been forced to merge.  We have had the first ‘super-union’ in Unite come into existence.

Ok so the purpose of this is a simple discussion for unionists and non-unionists alike.  There are two options for Unions to survive;

1) Become more conciliatory and offer a much better individualised service for members in focussing their efforts on one-to-one negotiations on a case by case procedure.


2) Become more overt and aggressive in highlighting the growing gap in power between employers and employees.  Organise more active participation and start posing a real threat to employers in the hope they start acting on concerns on a large scale.



It was right to help the Tories…

A few people have expressed disdain at my decision to lend a helping hand to the Conservative Future Society on campus.  You will know that they faced de-recognition in the Guild.  A week has passed and hopefully tempers have calmed down a little, so I wanted to set out exactly why I did what I did.  Just to put at rest the minds of club members, this was a personal decision, and in no way does it affect how the club operates. ie: we’re not becoming the Tory society.

There are three fundamental reasons;

Firstly, I believe it is essential that the Guild represents a political plurality, a cross-section of opinion on matters relating to the students we represent.  Anyone who argues against that is not fit for reasoned democratic discussion.  Surely, we make much stronger policy by listening and taking into account all sides of the argument.  When I argue, on these pages or in person, with the Tories I find my own beliefs become much more asserted.  What they stand for is exactly what I try to fight against.  That kind of zest from a debate is what I would like all our members to experience.

Secondly, I believe, from what I’ve been told, that BUCF has been let down consistently by the Guild and their own past committees.  I’m confident that the current chair will do all he can to ensure that his successors continue a close working relationship in the Guild for the benefit of the whole society.  The blame does not rest on one person, or one organisation, but now BUCF have been given a final chance to make amends and I believe they will try and do that.

Thirdly, losing the Tories does BULS no favours.  At the moment, many people believe Labour own the Guild, a view I find ridiculous.  But if we had stood by and let BUCF slip away then that view would have been further cemented.

BUCF, represent a special case, a strong and active society that has been left to drop out of the Guild inner-sanctum.  I would have done the same for other societies, had I known the details of their circumstances and had they been like BUCF’s.  But I didn’t, and like I said this was a purely personal decision.  Ofcourse, I informed our committee and let them aware of what I was planning, but this was in no way a BULS effort to rescue the Tories.  So members of our club fear not, it’ll be a long time yet before I seek to sign BULS up to the Thatcher doctrine, or allow BULS to be part of the Cameron Marketing Department.