Tory president fights vote of no confidence

October 20, 1995

A Conservative student union president is taking legal action against her union for unfair dismissal after she lost a motion of no confidence two weeks into her term of office.

The motion accused Mags Whelan, the first Conservative student union president at Oxford Brookes University and one of the few in the country, of allegedly misleading members of the executive council and allegedly lying to the student body. She was also accused of removing posters without permission.

Ms Whelan said: "I have not done anything wrong. The location of the general meeting that voted me out was changed at the last minute and my supporters were unable to attend. The process was undemocratic and unfair."

Richard Craven, acting president, said: "The union took legal advice and ensured that the motion was debated and voted on in a democratic manner."

He confirmed that the venue had been changed on the day of the meeting but said that this had been sufficiently advertised to avoid confusion. The meeting was quorate and an overwhelming majority voted for the motion.

Mr Craven said the motion was not politically motivated. "Many students were not aware that Mags votes Conservative," he said.

As president-elect Ms Whelan ran into trouble when she was accused of opposing plans for a nursery. She took out an injunction in June and successfully prevented the tabling of a motion of no confidence then.

A June letter to the student union from Brian Summers, deputy vice chancellor corporate services, pointed out that as Ms Whelan was not then president of the union she could not be dismissed.

The motion of no confidence was consequently delayed until the start of term.

Ms Whelan says she was misquoted on the issue of the nursery. "I voted in favour of the nursery, merely arguing that alternative sites should be considered as the proposed site had already had an application for a nursery refused."

* The National Union of Students executive has agreed to disband the union's London branch, which has debts of Pounds 60,000.

Alison Brown, NUS women's officer, said that the decision was an "anti-democratic stitch-up". She added: "The leadership of NUS are trying to close down an area organisation because it has been a leftwing thorn in their side.

"The Blairites suffered an embarrassing defeat over education funding policy earlier this year. They want to overturn that, not by winning the political arguments, but by using their bureaucratic powers to stifle dissenting voices."

Jim Murphy, president of the NUS, said: "The failure to accurately manage its finances led to a debt level greater than any area in NUS's history." He also said that the NUS London was increasingly becoming the "exclusive property of the ultra-Left".

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