Our less liberal counterparts, Birmingham University Conservative Future, announced today that they plan to leave the Guild of Students. Since they have decied to disable comments on this issue, I have decided to write a blog on it here. I hope they won’t be too offended.
Their decision to leave saddens me, although it does not surprise me. Conservatism does not lend itself naturally to unionism, but the decision to disaffiliate seems to me unfortunate as it is based on what I believe to be a severe misconception of the nature of the Guild.
The first reason given is
Last week the previous chairman Theo Lomas informed me that BUCF had been given a stark ultimatum: play a more active role in farcical Guild politics or be de-recognised.
Every student group at the Guild is required to send one representative to each meeting of Guild Council. This is a body of elected students which meets eight times a year to debate and create Guild policy and to scrutinise the work of the executive committee. The complaint to BUCF would have been made on account of their failure to send either a representative or apologies to a significant number of meetings. While there is a debate to be had over whether societies should be required to do this, if BUCF had a problem they could have very easily proposed a motion to change it. Or they could have taken the BULS route- we have simply sent apologies to the last few meetings.
The next assertion made in the post is
It is my opinion and the opinion of much of the student body that the Guild is far too cliquey and is filled with power hungry and self righteous individuals who claim mandates of a pitiful portion of the University electorate.
This debate has been had many times on both blogs, and I doubt this will be the last. My question: if BUCF is as involved in Guild politics as they previously asserted, how on earth would they have been around enough to discover this? There is a perception amoungst many of a clique, and this is a real shame. The reality is that a lot of us who attend Guild Council get along. We have similar interests, we are all there for the same reason and naturally, we are friendly people who chat to the people next to us in meetings and in Joe’s afterwards. We tend to get along. Whatever people may perceive, the existance of a closed circle is a lie. People come, people go, people get involved, that’s it. It’s a really sad misconception and it always makes me sad that people are put off by it; and that some are too stubborn to come along and see what it’s really like.
I’m not going to go over any of the same old tired arguments again. But today I went along to Guild Council training. I’ve been on it two years now, but I thought I’d pop my head in to see what they were getting up to. There were loads of first time Guild Councillors there. The ones I spoke to were all enthusiastic, all wanted to learn how to get things done, and all had things they wanted to change. Many complained about the Guild in many ways, be it lack of communication from the Guild and their Guild Councillors, a lack of information on how the Guild operates or a specific issue, like fairtrade food or better facilities for students. They learnt how to write and propose motions, how to communicate with their constituents and how to engage in debate at a Guild Council meeting. They learnt how to scrutinise the Executive committee on what they’d been up to and how to change things. It was really positive and I left early, feeling really enthusiastic about the new intake of Councillors.
It’s a shame BUCF have decided not to be part of this new wave and to jump ship. I have always believed you have to be in something to change it. BUCF will acheive very little by disaffiliating, expecially not the change they long to see- nor will they be able to redress their prejudices from the outside. They will also lose their Fresher’s Fair stall, grant money, the right to use rooms and Guild facilities, and any right to vote to change the things they so despise. So long, guys. And good luck.