Questionable claims, fines & nipples…it’s Union election scrutiny VERSA

SMART vs. #19IDEAS, Henna vs. Noah, hack vs. hack, you know the drill by now. After Michaelmas’ uncontested snoozefest, Union elections are back with a bang (well, a pop) with actual contests happening across the board. With 28 candidates running for Seccies, 10 for Standing and 2 for each officership, the ROs are going to have a late one counting the votes….

The election didn’t exactly start off well, with TEN candidates, including half of those running for standing and Tycho Onnasch, who is running for Treasurer, picking up fines for skipping mandatory candidate’s meetings with the Returning Officer. Naughty, naughty…

                                    ‘Cause, baby, now we’ve got bad blood…

Henna Dettani, current Secretary and Presidential candidate is claiming trustworthiness, the “T” in SMART, as one of the key reasons you should elect her tomorrow. Ignoring the fact the SMART campaign had to Google words to match the letter T, we’re not sure if relying on Henna is a great idea. Wednesday saw an Emergency Standing Committee meeting called to ratify her ball budget which was submitted late. Oops. 

Explaining her tardiness to VERSA, Henna said, “Extraordinary Standing Committee was regarding the ball accounts. This was held on Wednesday because I was awaiting invoices from suppliers, so could not present the accounts before they had arrived. Once the accounts were ready I presented them and they were passed successfully without any objections. It was the cheapest ball in years and everyone seemed to have had a great time so hopefully people see me as reliable for putting that on!

VERSA also got hold of the candidates’ unscrutinised manifestoes, the versions the candidates submit before officials make them back up their claims. Treasurer & other Presidential candidate Noah Lachs’ fundraising levels dropped by almost £800 after his claims were verified. Give or take, right? Speaking to VERSA, Noah said that the drop in amount was down to waiting on a contract having the ‘i’s dotted and the ‘t’s crossed, and so Union rules meant he had to scrap it from his manifesto.

We’re not quite sure what Henna means by making the buildings more ‘welcoming’. In her long manifesto she also wants to open up more working areas in the Union, so if she wants to share her office with the members, fair enough…

Henna explained these pledges when speaking to VERSA “Opening rooms for work is about encouraging Union members to use the rooms we have. Often the rooms upstairs are locked while the buildings are still open, so it is opening these rooms which I am referring to, in particular for work which cannot be done in a library due to noise restrictions such as students discussing ideas or working together. As for a more welcoming environment in the Union buildings, I have heard from many members that the Union feels intimidating and it feels like the buildings are only for the use of committee members. I hope that as more members are able to use the buildings, it will feel more comfortable and welcoming for others who wish to.”

She also better check with the members to see if they share her distaste of inviting “celebrity for celebrity’s sake” when inviting speakers, because Morgan Freeman, Stephen Fry and Eva Longoria were huge events, even if their talks didn’t hit on hot button issues.

Maybe members reading the manifestoes quickly in the walk from their pidges to the recycling bin wouldn’t have noticed this, but the semi-colon in the list of Noah’s socials,  at first glance reads like he arranged the first ever Brookes & International drinks, even though they’ve been going on for years. Cheeky.

A body blow was dealt to Lachs’ campaign when his poor membership drive was revealed to the members by sections of the ‘student media’ (lol), especially with this election deciding who will be in the wooden throne for the next membership drive. The exquisite timing of the revelations leaves some questions to be answered about just who leaked the figures, with sources at Cherwell dropping coy hints about the associations of the people alerting the student press to the story.

Noah defended his membership drive to VERSA however, saying that in light of the scandals of last Trinity term, as well as student newspaper articles and even a leaflet urging freshers not to join the Union, his membership drive is something he is proud of, especially now amended figures (released after the story initially hit the student press) meant his membership drive was better than the year before.


Both of the people running for Librarian had claims bumped down following scrutiny by the Union’s RO and DROs. Fran Varley (#19IDEAS) had to weaken her claim of confirming Sir Tim Rice to “helped confirm“, and Ellen Milligan (SMART) had to make a similar climbdown over her claims to have confirm Dame Zaha Hadid. Much like a toddler “helps” Daddy in the kitchen, they both “helped” invite these two speakers.

Ellen defended the claim climbdown, telling VERSA, “I confirmed Dame Zaha Hadid to speak on a date prior to the one on which she attended, which is why the claim was altered. “

Quite how written interviews of Owen Jones, Len McCluskey & Paul Mason qualify you to be Librarian of the Union, we’re not sure, but Ellen Milligan seems to be proud of her record. From that logic, the interviewers for the CherStu would be better candidates than Ellen, but unfortunately the Union doesn’t allow write ins. Opposing rent-a-gob Katie Hopkins, as Fran reminds us she did in her long manifesto, isn’t the best of qualifications either. All that requires is a couple of brain cells to rub together…

At hustings, the candidates spoke for 11 entire seconds about the Union’s library between them, all from Fran Varley, leading VERSA to wonder how central a role books and the library really have in this campaign.

SMART can’t really judge Noah’s membership drive as too shabby if you look at their Treasurer candidate Michael Li, who proudly claims to have helped raise over £350,000 in this year’s recruitment effort. That said, hypocrisy is the mark of a decent hack so maybe that’s an extra point for Li in his fight for the purse-strings. Chairing the Union’s largest committee isn’t the strongest claim though, the Consultative Committee has little actual power. We will give him credit where it’s due though, for wanting to carry on pushing for Living Wage Accreditation for the Union’s staff.

Li distanced himself & his slate from the leaks to the student press about the membership drive, saying that:“We have not criticised Noah for a poor membership drive, and I did help with many aspects of it, such as term card delivery, and facilitating events.”

Tycho Onnasch, #19IDEAS’ candidate for Treasurer, seems to be keener on inviting speakers than raising cash – remember that’s the LIBRARIAN’S job, Tycho. When questioned at hustings, the two candidates revealed they had brought £85 into the Union’s coffers between them, Michael with a whopping £35 and Tycho with a staggering fifty quid. Every penny counts, right guys?

Mia Smith’s (#19IDEAS) thesp-world experience might come in use if she wins her election and becomes Secretary. Pretending to look interested when minuting two-hour debates or long standing committee meetings is bloody hard, if she taps into her acting talents she might be able to feign interest better than some past Secretaries. We’re not sure about her pledge for an open-mic night though, after hearing OUCA hacks sing following 8th Week P&P, we’re certain nobody wants to hear Union hacks screech along to Celine Dion.

In our experience, bigger & better events usually require more money (i.e more expensive tickets). So, how Callum Tipple, (SMART) will bring bigger & better socials at a lower cost to the Union is beyond us.  Oh and we still remember THAT mooted tagline for Callum’s election to Secretary’s Committee, the unfortunately-binned “I’ll lick your nipple: vote Tipple,“, we’re not forgiving or forgetting that one just yet…

If Callum & Mia split the role, here’s our horrifying artist’s impression of the outcome…

Self-proclaimed “Saviour of SubFusc” and OUCA Prez-Elect Harrison Edmonds is giving it another go for Standing Committee, after last term’s damp squib. He’s pledging to save the Union, but we’re not sure if he’ll have time to manage saving the Union and OUCA next term.

Two split colleges will make the election doubly hard for Aalia Hulf, Alice Eva (both St John’s), Stephan Jensen and Ira Banerjee (both Lincoln). Turning out the famed St John’s machine will be key for the hopes of Aalia & Alice, whilst Ira can probably ask older brother, ex-President Mayank Banerjee for advice. We’d suggest matching Mayank’s notable beard, it’d probably win our vote.

                              That beard…

Seccies is the big one, at least in terms of candidates, even if the result won’t really have much of an impact on ordinary members of the Union. Notably, William Rees-Mogg is running (despite his £10 fine for skipping meetings) on the merit of his Uncle’s seat in Parliament…and we thought meritocracy was dead! Still, Will Taylor is running on the fact he took his top off in Coriolanus and Christian Zabilowicz is claiming a threesome in Vietnam qualifies him for election (we feel for the DRO who had to collect the evidence for that claim!) Well, as long as they can move chairs, we’re sure they’d all do swimmingly on committee.

There you have it, a run down of the funny, the bad and the downright dodgy of the Union candidates. The question is can you be arsed to get out of bed to vote for any of them?