There has been contention this week over a UGM motion for YUSU to advocate reform of the Westminster electoral system.
Chairman of the University of the York Conservatives, Felix Bungay, opposed the motion at last Thursday’s UGM, claiming that such a move would politicise the Union and risk its independence. “Voting reform is not an issue specific to students, but a party political one,” he said. “The Union is there to represent students regardless of their political affiliation, and a move such as this would mean the Union was advocating a narrow party political issue instead of concerning itself with the welfare of students.”
Lewis Bretts, Democracy and Services Officer, has rejected Bungay’s claim that YUSU could not remain politically independent. “If this motion contravened YUSU’s legal duty to stay out of partisan politics then it would have been blocked by Rules and Revisions Committee,” he said, adding that “whether or not the motion is a good or a bad thing is completely up to students to decide.”
This follows the high publicity around demonstrations held in York city centre two weeks ago by the organisation York for Voting Reform. Ieuan Ferrer, co-organiser of the group, with Jamie Fisher and Caleb Wooding, dismissed Bungay’s complaints, saying that: “It’s a bit of a silly claim that appears to be born of desperation.” Ferrer says that the reforms York for Voting Reform and its umbrella-group, Take Back Parliament, seek support fairness and the functioning of democracy, and aim to create a much more level playing field for all parties.
“The suggestions that it would ‘politicise’ YUSU are irrelevant,” he added. “YUSU is already an overtly political body, both in terms of resolving power struggles, and in terms of sometimes backing issues (especially foreign affairs ones) that are politically incendiary, even.”
Ferrer continued: “Their claims are spurious, and represent a fundamental misunderstanding of what supporting particular policies means. It’s a shame that they feel they should resort to such an argument so as to protect their interests.”
“In the next few weeks, York for Voting Reform will increase its campaign on campus, starting petitions and inviting academics to hold lectures relating to the different types of voting system.”
“We want to get people involved,” Ferrer said. “We want get people thinking. It all depends on whether people are mobilised. Our campaign’s about educating and mobilising people.”