‘He has voted against my right to adopt’: LUSU President condemns Pro-Chancellor
‘Failing that, I will be calling for Mr Burt’s immediate resignation, as I owe it to no-one to support someone who doesn’t see me as a human being worthy of respect’
Lancaster University Students’ Union President, Oliver Robinson, has called for Lancaster University’s new Pro-Chancellor, Alistair Burt, to resign if steps are not taken to redress his parliamentary voting record.
In information leaked to The Tab Lancaster, we can confirm that members of Lancaster University Students’ Union’s Full-Time Officer (FTO) team did not oppose to Alistair Burt’s appointment as Pro-Chancellor of Lancaster University when the motion was tabled at a session of the university council.
Burt’s appointment was controversial on account of his record as a Member of Parliament being in favour of tuition fees, and against LGBTQ+ rights and against environmental protection policies – though Burt did consistently vote in favour of same-sex marriage.
LUSU did release a statement in full support of LGBTQ+ Part-Time Officer, Jesse Phillips’ open letter to university management calling on the university to reaffirm its position as being open to everyone regardless of sexual orientation, and to denounce Mr Burt’s record as an MP.
One source told The Tab that LUSU President, Oliver Robinson, and VP Education, Bee Morgan – both are members of the university council – did not oppose Mr Burt’s appointment, despite his chequered past; this was not denied by the Union’s President.
Speaking to The Tab, Robinson initially said: “There wasn’t a formal recorded vote on the matter, given that it was a virtual meeting.”
Following this, the LUSU President released this statement to The Tab Lancaster: “It’s been a personally upsetting process for me learning the less wholesome side of Alistair Burt’s record, especially given that he has voted against my right to adopt, against anti-discrimination laws aimed at protecting people like me and against removing the infamous Section 28 amongst many other things.
“I am deeply disappointed and do not understand how the University’s due diligence failed to pick up these elements of his record. It’s alarming to me that these were not highlighted during my engagement with the selection process or by the Executive Search consultancy used by the University. I trusted that the University’s processes would have filtered out something so obvious as this, so subsequently only did light background research of my own. I therefore didn’t see some of the earlier parts of his record, so was not aware of this when the appointment was put to Council for approval. Had I been aware of this, the Union would have been far more proactive in its response.
“The values that Mr Burt held are not the values of Lancaster, and I expect him to take immediate, active steps to redress this deficit and prove that he is not still that person.
“Failing that, I will be calling for Mr Burt’s immediate resignation, as I owe it to no-one to support someone who doesn’t see me as a human being worthy of respect.”
Alistair Burt’s response to the SU’s caution said: “I make no claim to have been in the vanguard of the changes for equality and diversity, but the MP of 2019 would not have made the choices and votes of the MP years before. I doubt if I am alone in that. I now think to have voted in relation to the retention of Section 28 was wrong. In relation to adoption, as Minister of Health and Social Care I came to recognise and promote the care of children in any adopted family, seeing the love with which they were surrounded.
“No one is free of their past, and no political figure expects to be. It is not unreasonable that you question and raise such matters of record. But just as my politics are in some respects different to those that I held in 1983, and so am I as a person. Life changes you.
“I have no difficulty either in denouncing discrimination, nor in supporting efforts to prevent it, and in doing all I can to support LGBTQ+ students and staff to make the very most of their time at the University. I hope by the time I left Parliament and Government, that was the reputation I had acquired.”
Andy Schofield, university Vice-Chancellor, also denounced Burt’s problematic record, and sought to reassure Lancaster students and staff that the university is still as open as it always has been.
In response, Oliver Robinson added: “Alistair Burt’s response is a welcome first step in reassuring the student body that he has moved on from some of the most problematic elements of his record. I don’t believe that anyone is beyond redemption, and my fellow officers and I will be sure to hold him to account on his future actions. We will be watching the situation extremely closely in the hope and expectation that he will follow through.
“I also welcome the unequivocal denunciation on the part of the Vice-Chancellor of the past actions and views that Mr Burt has expressed. I hope that the university will take further steps to make LGBT+ students and staff feel safe and welcome, and I have extended an offer of help in that matter if the VC wishes to call upon it.”
VP Education, Bee Morgan, has also been contacted for comment. Andy Schofield and Alistair Burt’s responses can be read in full here.