Controversy as York Tories endorse election candidate
Controversy has been sparked after The University of York Conservatives have broken YUSU election rules to endorse LGBT Officer candidate Leon Morris.
The York Tories’ press secretary Thomas Smith has also resigned from the society, saying that the entirety of the membership was not asked whether it supported the endorsement.
This contravenes the York Tories’ own constitution, which states that “Association backing can and only will be given to SU candidates who have the support of the membership at a General Meeting”.
Smith revealed that no general meeting was held but only a committee meeting with 15 out of the 60plus members took place.
While the York Tories constitution further states that “the Association shall encourage its members to stand for election to the SU and its committees”, it does not mention whether such backing can include endorsement of a candidate.
Any endorsement of candidates is, however, against YUSU election rules, which state that: “Candidates may not be publicly endorsed by any third party groups or organisations (including but not limited to political parties, Union committees, societies, sports clubs, etc.).“
YUSU rules add that: “YUSU societies, sports clubs, committees and Networks may distribute messages encouraging their members to take part in the elections, but such messages must not show any bias towards particular candidates,” as indicated also in the York Tories’ constitution.
YUSU rules also forbid candidates from using opportunities to disseminate information about their campaign that are not available to all candidates, and it is also against YUSU rules to campaign through a social media page owned by a society.
The YUSU rules document which is readily available on the YUSU website also states that candidates are responsible for reading the rules and ensuring that their supporters abide by them.
The society, since speaking to The Yorker has altered the post, but it still carries an official endorsement from the society’s committee, breaking up to four YUSU election rules.
The Facebook post included “Leon’s the buy guy for the job” and “Vote Leon for LGBT Officer”, with a link to Morris’ election page.
Morris, who is the current secretary of the York Tories, is only opposed by RON in the LGBT Officer election.
The York Tories said: “The declaration of support I posted in the Facebook group and on Twitter was inappropriately worded and sounded like an official endorsement. This would have indeed required a General Meeting and a majority vote from the membership.
“The aforementioned posts have been corrected accordingly. However we were not aware that YUSU rules prohibit official endorsements, clearly this was not the case in the past,” adding, “If the rules have changed neither we nor Leon were made aware of it.”
In his resignation letter to the society, Smith said that he was “utterly appalled” as “the society should not be backing candidates publicly” but was keen to add that “I have nothing against Leon as a person”.
He said that “to declare that we all support him when not all do is wrong, plain and simple”, adding that “the fact I wasn’t told before you publicly announced we ‘all’ supported Leon is what upset me”.
Smith also said “I am a creature of principle” and felt he had to step down from his position with the society after being disappointed by their actions.
Leon Morris added: “We have not enforced an endorsement from all in the society. That would require a general meeting on our part and it's against YUSU election rules anyway.
“Please be aware that it is only a few members of the current committee endorsing me as a friend and nothing more. The rest of the society and some of the committee have not been forced into anything. I have not purposefully tried to break election rules."
The York Tories have since deleted the post from their Facebook group and an email was sent around to all societies by YUSU reminding them of the election rules.