Two of Lincoln Students’ Union’s leading figures have publicly endorsed Labour and Gillian Merron ahead of the general election on May 6th – despite her failing to sign up for the NUS’ Vote for Students campaign.
Dan Derricott, the SU’s vice-president for academic affairs elect, and Chris Charnley, SU president, have both announced their support of the Labour party and that they will be voting for Merron on May 6th. The pair will also be doorstep campaigning around Lincoln with Merron.
This is not the SU endorsing Merron, as a Union must remain impartial according to NUS rules. Both officers are operating in a personal capacity. However, as prominent figureheads within the Union, there are concerns that it will appear as an endorsement of Labour and Merron by the institution. This could even lead to a link between the university and Merron’s campaign, as the SU is directly funded by it.
The SU has heavily promoted the Vote for Students campaign, where PPCs up and down the country have signed to promise they will oppose any increase in tuition fees if elected. Gillian Merron has refused to sign up to the campaign, saying “a rise in student fees is not a foregone conclusion and that it “would be wrong for any of us to pre-empt the findings of [the forthcoming] independent review.”
Charnley declared on his Twitter account: “[Charnley] strongly believes @gillianmerron is the best candidate for Lincoln. Great values, the right attitude and a strong voice! #votelabour”.
Derricott has written on his blog: “For some time now I have been trying to align myself to a political party, taking note of their policies, messages and of course, the leaders’ debates.
“It is with pride that I joined a political party yesterday, The Labour Party and I would like to explain to you why I did that and why, on Thursday, I will be voting Labour and in Lincoln for Gillian Merron.”
He also had strong words for Lincoln’s Tory candidate, Karl McCartney: “The race between Gillian Merron (Lab), Karl McCartney (Con) and Reg Shore (Lib) – whilst Reg Shore is a nice guy, a teacher and local council leader, I don’t see him fighting for us in Westminster.
“So that leaves Gillian and Karl, which makes it simple for me – Gillan Merron, trade unionist from a council estate in Dagenham and first in the family to go to university or Karl McCartney, upper class toff with interests in business over people and not willing to turn up to debates on key issues such as the environment.”
The pejorative tone against Karl McCartney could harm chances of a functioning relationship between him the SU, should he be elected as Lincoln’s MP.
Merron has courted controversy for her voting decisions during her 13 years as Lincoln’s MP. Having rebelled against her government just nine times in 3,063 votes since being elected in 1997, she has been criticised as careerist.
She voted for the Iraq invasion, which was declared a “supreme international crime” by Robert Jackson, the American
prosecutor at the Nuremberg tribunals. Merron also voted to introduce ID cards, control orders, and the draconian 90 day terror laws, among other controversial bills.
Reg Shore, the only member of Lincoln’s main-three PPCs to sign the Vote for Students pledge, said: “I do feel that it is inappropriate for student leaders to effectively ‘advise’ others how to vote by declaring in this way.”
He added: “[Merron] is also a member of a party who will increase tuition fees instead of getting rid of them as we propose.”
In response to Derricott’s claim that he couldn’t see Shore “fighting for us in Westminster”, Shore said: “[He] clearly [is] not taking in to account my effectiveness as a community leader which has brought far more to Lincolnshire than Gillian will ever bring.”
Derricott and Charnley issued a joint response: “While the Union must legally remain impartial during elections, individual officers retain the right to personally express preference and align themselves as they see fit.
“Rather than simply preaching about the importance of democracy, we prefer to also engage in the process and have no problem sharing our support for a party whose policies are based on fairness for all.”
Karl McCartney is yet to respond to The Linc‘s requests for comment.