Here is the text of the speeches I made at Hustings tonight. To be more accurate, the opening speech is a slightly longer version, as I had to make a number of cuts as I went along so as to keep within the time limit.
Good evening. It’s nice to see so many people here tonight! Whether you’ve come to the Union for some cutting-edge political debate, or just to get hammered on the two sixty-five double shots, welcome to the Hustings.
So who am I? Benny Spooner, standing for President. Talking about some big issues, such as the University’s attempts to make the Union a Devolved Department of the University. I was somewhat bemused by the Union’s Financial Report for the year 2003–2004 which stated, “Relationships with the University continue to go from strength to strength.” And this was in a year when the University announced that it was taking over the Student Shop and insisted that the Union started negotiations about losing its independence. Of course, since then history has been rewritten and we are now told that it was always in the Union’s interest to give up the student shop space. But Alek Maxwell clearly didn’t think so at the time. On the 9th June 2004 he said on the Union forums, “As to Student Shop re-naming, the rationale has come from consultation with retail experts who have informed us of the importance of a transparent name.” However by the 23rd of June, fourteen days later, we’d gone from re-name the shop to scrap the shop, as the University threatened to withhold the block grant if the Union didn’t hand the shop over. I will end the Devolved Department negotiations immediately, and campaign for the University to properly fund the Union with no strings attached.
We must also take a stand and give students a voice on bigger issues facing the country. For example, people often say that there is no link between students and the war in Iraq, but even if you don’t feel affected by the masses killed in the dreadful massacre of Falluja, you are at least affected by revenue and expenditure issues. The Government is forever saying that we don’t have enough money for this or enough money for that, but as one Labour MP pointed out, for all that money we have spent on that disastrous war in Iraq, we could have had, say, a dozen Scottish Parliament buildings.
We also need to focus on top-up fees. There is a strange idea floating around which is that just because a law has been passed bringing in top-up fees, we should immediately stop campaigning against them. If we applied that rule more liberally, we’d have scrapped the campaign against Section 28 in 1988, the poll tax campaign would have ended before it started, and the Countryside Alliance would have stopped its campaign against the fox-hunting ban two months ago. The NUS’s letter writing fees campaign has been upstaged by the Countryside Alliance, so it’s clear that there is a problem!
I also think it is we should give the all members of the Union’s Executive Committee a significant say in the Union’s budgeting decisions. Currently, something called the ‘Finance Sub-Committee’, (also known as ‘the Sabbaticals’) decide on the budgets and present them to the Executive Committee for approval. In reality, this amounts to the Executive Committee approving the budgets exactly as the Sabbaticals wanted them. All members of the Executive Committee are responsible for the Union’s financial stability, they should have a real say in how the Union’s money is spent.
My campaign is based on the big issues. The Union needs some unthinkable solutions, I am the unthinkable solution.
It’s commonly held that if you become a Sabbatical Officer you’ll be very powerful, but this is a complete misconception. The reality is that the real power lies elsewhere – some years it lies with the Third Senate Rep, some years with the Chair of Union Council, it all depends really. So I am under no illusions about becoming powerful if I win, but nonetheless I promise to implement my policies the best I can.
I’d like to conclude by thanking everyone who has made my campaign possible. My agent, my policy advisor, my campaigns manager, my press secretary, my pollster, my spin-doctor, my lobbyist, my nutritionist, my public relations manager, my life-style guru…
It’s like a dream come true really.
Benny Spooner (unthinkable solution)