VERSA | Scrutiny report: all the drama, deception and juicy detail of BOTH Union slates

The lines have been drawn. The starting-pistols have been fired. The vaguely snide comments in CherStu have been ignored. And now we’re here to reveal all.

And the snakers gonna snake, snake, snake…

Let’s start with Stuart ‘Snakey’ Webber, sly golden-boy of the centre-right. He’s kept oddly quiet this campaign – perhaps, given his record in the Union, a wise move…

Nonetheless, for once Stu has kept his nose clean, and there’s…devastatingly little to report. Honestly: we tried. Anyone with dirt is warmly invited to step forward.

What did prove interesting was this note, found affixed to Webber’s door in Somerville:

Oh, so literary. Oh, so profound…

More on him later.

For now, let’s look at the opposition. Named VERSA’s coolest student, Zuleyka Shahin is certainly a star: she’s appeared on Big Brother, she’s made her own music video, and now she’s (famously) Head Bitch of the Coins at the estimable Oxford Union.

We can’t even deny it: the photo’s superb.

“Dear Chief Secretary, I’m afraid there is no money”

And just for posterity, here’s that music video:

Perhaps, given the current arch-rivalry, Stuart ought to consider his own attempt at musical fame. Maybe a Bad Blood cover.

True to her pronouncements on BB, Zuleyka is certainly a diva. For one thing, her habit of swapping or sending back food at Union dinners has been raising eyebrows. Perhaps she’s just very particular. Or perhaps, as a little bird told an incredulous VERSA reporter, she really believes someone’s out to poison her…

Of course personal beliefs, however kooky they might seem, are just that. What really matters in the Union is competence (said no-one ever). So the fact that Zuleyka raised exactly £1,500 during her term as Treasurer is interesting. I mean, you know, if an extra £1.5k landed in our pockets, most of us would be pretty chuffed. The fact that her target – as disclosed to VERSA by the Union’s Bursar –  was £11,167, of which £1,500 is just 13%, doesn’t look great. But chill, it’s only 7th week, there’s still days.

We said our goal was scrutiny – and so it is. Unfortunately, someone beat us to it. Scrutiny committee absolutely devastated Zuleyka’s original long manifesto (yes, we’ve got a copy):

And her long manifesto as published on Union noticeboards, post-scrutiny?

Now. Everybody gets their manifestos diminished – some more than others, we might note – and at least some people in the Union get away with doing pretty much nothing. Not so everywhere else…

In news that sees hell freezing over, OUSU are barking up the same tree as VERSA. In this term’s report from the Scrutiny Committee, the committee announced that Zuleyka did not display “correct behaviour” for her failure to respond to their questions to her in her position as Grad Women’s Officer. Not only that, but she argued on the afternoon of the deadline that she would not be able to reply to them for another four days. In light of this, maybe VERSA should count themselves privileged that she felt she could have responded to us in 24 hours…

Now, to the juicy part. VERSA got hold of a few of Zuleyka’s slate’s WhatsApp screenshots, with the slate seemingly having bigger plans than election day. Our favourite minor hack Zac Spiro is very keen for Olivia to “crack” – not the nicest comments from NOW or NEVER’s self-appointed campaign manager (if OxStu are to be believed). Zuleyka takes pleasure in being listed first in our article about the contested election. Honey, it didn’t mean shit.

Identity politics – not one of VERSA’s favourite things. Brenda Njiru, NOW or NEVER’s Treasurer candidate would have agreed with us in March, slamming Zuleyka for her identity driven campaign for Standing Committee. Oh, how times have changed. VERSA’s screenshots show Brenda as a new convert to identity politics, and she’s even progressed to using her identity as a black woman to her advantage. All’s fair in love and Union politics war, eh?

Even her own slate has doubts about Zu’s campaign machine…

Accusations of irrationality and even mental illness were made by Zuleyka to some people who changed their minds about running on her slate in the election. VERSA has been told that more than one person was the victim of similar claims after deciding not to run. Not exactly the actions of a champion of access. Recent Union scandals have not involved intimidation, so despite our empathy with the victims, it’s nice for the Union membership to have diversity in their electoral scandals.

Moving on… Nobody is responsible for the actions of their fans. Really. But this was quite something: the NOW or NEVER Facebook page was visited by its very own ghost-troll.

In the below screenshots, ‘Rachel Jones’ is a Facebook account updated on the 9th of May. ‘Rachel Illuminati’, VERSA can reveal, is an account set up by a third party, whose suspicions ran along a similar route to our own: this all seemed a little too convenient…

Glaring transphobia and crude generalisations. Good question, Annie Teriba.

VERSA can confirm that the account is ‘fake’. Were the starkly blank profile and new profile picture not enough, the URL tells us that it was created within the last few days. Weird.

And – just like that – Rachel Illuminati’s comment disappeared.

Well, she didn’t take that lying down. Referring to the above:

To VERSA’s colossal surprise…the query has since vanished. Cui bono?

For the record, despite the obviously generic name, there’s only one Rachel Jones on Nexus. The real Rachel does Spanish and German, and she’s currently in Austria.

Of course, Zuleyka is the darling of the vocal left in Oxford, especially with the type of people Brendan O’Neill labelled ‘The Stepford Students’. So, we’d better not tell them she once claimed she was a fan of O’Neill and his magazine Spiked.

Changes to the infamous Rule 33 means candidates can use Facebook to campaign. Inevitably, half of Oxford’s inbox in 7th week consists of messages from hacks wanting votes for one thing or another…and Zuleyka is no different. Well, except that she forgot to put names in her messages, greeting potential voters as ‘XXXX’. Oops!

In amidst the rumour, the gossip, and the deceit, we didn’t know whom to believe. So VERSA asked an insider’s opinion. That’s all we can reveal, but safe to say we’re not doubting their evidence.

We pushed the issue of Zuleyka’s manifesto: “For what it’s worth, I think her slate’s pledges should be written in crayon.”

We noted that there’s a lot of sniping going around. Do people even feel safe in the Union? “Olivia Merrett has done multiple bug sweeps. She’s taken every book of the shelves in her office. She’s looked behind them all. [I’ve been told by another Union official to] ‘be careful what I say in [their office], it’s bugged.’”

Come on, seriously. Is there anything else on Stuart? “There is next to nothing on the STEP team. Meanwhile, Zuleyka is reducing the President to tears.” An angry stab at the table followed this comment. 

Actually, we lied. We did find something on Stuart’s slate. In fact…there were two things.

The first is an incredibly dubious allegation levelled at Noah, STEP’s candidate for Treasurer. He once told the bar that he was getting a drink for a speaker. It wasn’t for the speaker. It was for him. Noah, how could you?

Defending himself to VERSA, Noah said “I was parched, if my £200 membership cannot even encompass a dandelion and burdock on an arid December evening then I may as well withdraw from this election. “

The second allegation is even more damaging. Stuart wrote his manifesto for Secretary’s Committee last term, including most of the taglines. One tagline suggested at the time, since (sadly, in our opinion) left off the manifesto, was for Callum Tipple: “I’ll lick your nipple: vote Tipple.”

Stuart, that’s shocking.

VERSA can’t tell you who to vote for, and we wouldn’t if we could. But on one side you have censorship, comprehensive incompetence, and dubious identity politics. On the other, you have the most egregious pun we’ve ever seen. Do the right thing.