Is this the end for UEA’s most controversial politician?

Who is Jo Swo, and why might Jo go?

On Thursday night, a request for ‘a Motion of No Confidence in the Welfare, Community and Diversity Office’ was officially submitted for next Thursday’s Union Council.

The motion seeks to trigger a Union protocol that, if put to vote, could see the student body of UEA removing Swo from her £17, 703 per annum position, as the whirlwind saga of Swo’s recent controversies reaches a nail-biting peak.

Yep. There’s the obligatory pun over and done with. Now, let’s try and actually figure this all out.

How did we get here?

Last weekend at the LCR, Jo Swo was involved in a series of incidents, each one more bizarre than the last. A minor assault on security’(she bit a security guard); a minor theft (of a packet of crisps – reportedly Ready Salted) and, finally, the use of the cloakroom without paying.   

For the uninitiated, this has not been the first time Swo has been the centre of controversy. In April she found herself under fire after voting against commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day. Swo was re-elected Welfare Officer the previous month and was a polarising figure even back then, gaining 63.6 per cent of the vote in a race in which she was the only candidate. She also found mild success in The Tab’s ‘favourite Union Officer’ poll, emerging in first place with an impressive total of minus four votes.


How would this motion actually work

If the motion is approved, the decision regarding Swo’s fate will be placed in the hands of the 200+ student representatives who make up the Union Council, the result decided by the choice of three buttons on a dopey looking lecture clicker. Each representative will be given three options: yes for the motion, no for the motion and abstain. Within a single minute, the result will be decided and revealed.

In voting yes, representatives will be agreeing with several significant statements within its writing. First, that the seriousness of Swo’s breaches of the Union’s Code of Conduct has not been reflected by the Union’s actual response so far. Second, that Swo’s actions have “badly damaged” both the reputation of UEA and the Union. As a result, the Council’s confidence in Swo has been “irreparably damaged”.

If the yes vote wins, the motion would resolve that the Council has No Confidence in our wayward Welfare Officer. Unlike typical motions, this vote would require a two thirds majority.

What happens if the motion is passed?

According to the Union’s Bye-Laws, the motion’s success would see Jo Swo removed of her office on the Student Officer Committee “with immediate effect”.

Things seem a little murky, however, as this is a completely unprecedented situation for the Union. We reached the Union for comment and they confirmed that, as far as they can find, there is no record of a Motion of No Confidence in UEA’s history. They did confirm, however, that a Motion of No Confidence is the “most serious” form of punishment at the Council’s disposal, with the only alternative being a censure – a polite but firm expression of moderate disapproval.  

How might the vote go? 

There are two main variables to consider when trying to predict how this vote might swing.

The first variable is how the other 18 elected Student Officers may choose to vote. To outsiders, the Union task force has always appeared as a hardworking group of close friends at best; a group of cliquey would-be Machiavellians at worse. The future of Swo’s career may depend on just how loyal her coworkers and friends remain in the moment of voting, and may be decided by how many of them decide to politely, but tactfully, abstain their votes.

The second far more influential variable is the votes of the 200+ representatives for the Union’s Sports Clubs, Societies and Peer Support Groups. With most of these voters existing outside the darkly-lit chambers of student politics, those who do vote will likely ask themselves what choice serves as most loyal to the students they individually represent.

“Assault and theft are serious offences and should not be taken lightly,” Theo Smith, LDC Representative, told us. “Jo Swo’s actions should not be tolerated at any union event – even an LCR night.

“That being said, we all do things we regret on drunken nights out and Jo is evidently no different. As an employed representative of Union Council, the incident should definitely be looked into and appropriate action taken, whether that means she has her contract terminated or not.”

Theo concluded: “As a student I believe she should step down, but as a member of Union Council, I will ask those in the school I represent for their opinions before deciding on how I would vote.”

Another would-be voter, a Society Representative who wished to remain anonymous, stressed the important need for the vote. “Using your position to avoid charges, stealing from behind bar, and biting a member of the Security Team is completely unacceptable. Jo Swo’s actions reflect on both herself and the University as a whole.

“I think a debate on whether Jo Swo is still suitable for her position would be incredibly healthy for the student body in general. However, care needs to be taken to ensure that she is punished in line with how any other student or member of staff would be, and not over-punished out of spite, nor under-punished due to her personal links within the SU.”  

The proposal for the Motion of No Confidence remains unanswered at the time of writing. Regardless of the outcome, we can expect the topic of Jo Swo to dominate next Thursday’s Council Meeting. The events of this week, and the prospect of being forced to axe one of their own, will undoubtedly serve as a wake-up call for the Union, who have received frequent disdain from many students throughout the past year.