Controversy as keynote speaker allegedly endorses Megan Dunn
June Sarpong has been accused of making biased comments
Outrage has erupted amongst NUS delegates after June Sarpong, TV presenter and Britain Stronger in Europe board member, made a comment about presidential candidate Megan Dunn which some interpreted as public endorsement.
— Gurmok sanghera (@Gurmok) April 19, 2016
Dunn, who was elected president at last year’s NUS national conference and is running for a second term, has been a vocal pro-EU campaigner and both keynote speakers – Sarpong, and Frances O’Grady of the TUC – praised her work for the “In” campaign. However, several delegates complained to the Democratic Procedures Committee over what some perceived to be unfair endorsement of Dunn over her rivals Malia Bouattia and Adil Waraich.
@sayedmdxsu An invited speaker June Sarpong endorsed Megan openly and unfairly. Other speakers prior to that also showed favouritism to her
— Robiu Salisu (@RobiuSalisu) April 19, 2016
After these concerns were raised the Chief Returning Officer, Jules Mason, delivered a statement to the conference floor regarding allegations of favouritism.
“I wasn’t on conference floor when the recent statement made by an external speaker was made, which by some delegates here were seen to imply favourable support for one full time officer candidate over another. Conference, I want to make it very clear, external speakers were asked not to make any statements which could be deemed to favour one candidate over another in any of the elections happening this week.”
He continued, “they know and trust that you, Conference, wont be swayed by an off the cuff remark by an external speaker. This is your national union, you decide and you elect your national leaders.”
This year’s conference has had a heavy focus on inclusivity, as at last year’s national conference there was a mass NUS-staff walk out due to harassment and heckling. However, heckling has remained an issue with the president of the NUS-USI (the NUS’ Northern Irish branch), Fergal McFerran having been a particular target during the discussion of motions pertaining to higher and further education.