UPDATE: Following speeches from each of the candidates, votes have now been cast. We await the result, expected to be announced from 14:00 onwards.
Delegates gear up for a full day of proceedings; a day sure to be defined by the election results for NUS National President.
While the outcome of this four-horse race is certain to dominate headlines, today sees the conference also discuss motions concerning Union Development, Society and Citizenship, and Welfare. Interspersed throughout the main proceedings shall be the fringe events –workshop sessions on a specific topic of debate. And lest we forget the Vice-President elections.
The battle to become Aaron Porter’s predecessor, a race dubbed “too close to call,” became a little clearer yesterday as the four Presidential candidates were brought before delegates in a one-hour debate. Chaired by SkyNews presenter, Sophie Rich, the ‘informal hustings’ showcased a broad range of views, cementing rivalries and demarcating difference.
As loyal supporters donned T-Shirts emblazoned with their candidate affiliation, the candidates competed for cheers from the lively crowd. The hall, with an arrangement somewhat akin to the globe theatre, towering three stories high to encompass the central stage was a far cry from the formal proceedings of the day.
The four-candidates affirmed their positions, each demarcating themselves from their rivals. SURHUL NUS Delegate, Beth Bridewell, said: “this is the crucial time to make a decision. You have one against another for all to see their strengths and weaknesses. The informal hustings definitely provided a better environment to pass judgment than the formal speeches did.”
Thomas Byrne, the self-confessed “fourth candidate” stood as the most timid of candidates, sticking to his unpopular line of sympathising with the government. “David Willets has got a lot right, he has some good policies,” he said. Byrne was defined by a focus on the need to be at the negotiating table at “every possible chance.”
Mark Bergfeld, by contrast, denounced the possibility of negotiating with the government. “If you do then you have given in,” he said. Why should we be begging on our knees, begging to these Tory millionaire scumbags?” Standing as the most radical of the four candidates, his campaign is marked out with the socialist red raised fist and he endorses a ‘slate’ of far-left candidates for the other positions.
Shane Chowen, the only candidate not to be from a HE background, called for a “fresh start” for the student movement as he highlighted the errors that he believes the NUS have made. “I will send shockwaves through the NUS and the education sectors as there has never before been a credible FE candidate,” he said.
Liam Burns executed what has been described as the “most articulate” performance of the evening. He calmly and assertively impressed many of the undecided. The candidate from NUS Scotland had the final word of the evening: “We have to be proud of our strengths and honest about our weaknesses, if you want an honest president then that’s me.”
By Ben Parfitt