Today’s Union impeachment vote: what you need to know

The Chief of Staff and the Senior Access Officer have resigned over the reintroduction of slates

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

Today Union members will be able to vote to impeach the Librarian, Brendan McGrath. The poll will be open until 8.30pm.

The ballot reads: “We the undersigned hereby wish to impeach the Officer, Brendan McGrath (Librarian, Oriel College) on the following grounds: abuse of office, and the deliberate subversion of the expressed will of the Membership and the Rules of the Society, for his own electoral benefit and contrary to the fundamental principles of democracy upon which the Oxford Union was founded.”

The motion to impeach McGrath, which was brought following the resignation of Ray Williams as the Union’s Chief of Staff last Thursday, concerns McGrath’s decision to ask the Returning Officer, Liam Frahm, to review the validity of last term’s “Trial Slate Ban”. Frahm subsequently ruled the ban invalid, triggering Williams’ resignation.

In his resignation speech, given at the end of the debate “This House Believes that Margaret Thatcher was a Hero to the Working Class”, Williams said: “it had shocked me that our Librarian had seeked [sic] to subvert the express will of the membership, conning potentially dozens of other candidates to satisfy his desire for the presidency. I cannot continue to serve as Chief of Staff in these circumstances.

“I thus support the impeachment of the Librarian which is being brought before the Standing Committee as I speak.”

This triggered the impeachment process, beginning with a petition requiring the signatures of 150 members to move forward to a vote of the Union’s membership. The petition received the requisite number of signatures amongst allegations by McGrath that a number of signatures had been acquired through improper means.

McGrath now stands accused of having both abused his office in order to further his own ambitions within the society and of having sought to subvert the will of the membership in overturning the trial slate ban.  

The Union’s Senior Access Officer, Brian Wong, resigned earlier today on the grounds that the overturning of the slate ban was “yet another attempt to subvert the expressed will of the Members.”

In his resignation letter, he wrote: “Today, Members will be going to the Poll to reject the self-serving and undemocratic behaviours that have characterised the Society’s Elections for too long. They are our constituents, and should always have the final say. That’s the only fair solution. That’s the only fair procedure in line with the ethos of the Union – but perhaps incongruent with the zeitgeist of our times.”

In an open letter posted on Facebook, McGrath said: “Last term, a motion was debated to impose a trial ban on slates. Some rules, however, such as those governing slates, are entrenched such that they need to be debated at greater length and with more publicity than usual. The motion didn’t do this, so was procedurally invalid.

“This issue first came to my attention when one of last term’s Officers bragged to me about knowing that the slate ban was invalid, and, after significant research, I approached the Returning Officer, Liam Frahm, to request clarification.

“After his own independent investigation, the Returning Officer deemed the ban to be invalid, thereby overturning it.

“I have been shocked by the tactics the supporters of the motion have employed over this last week. I have seen a lot in my time at the Union, but never imagined that I would be subjected to personal attacks, humiliation and abuse for the sake of a student society.”

The entirety of the letter can be viewed on Facebook.

Students have come out in support of Brendan on Facebook, asking peers to “Stand up to Toxic Politics: Vote No.”

The results of the poll are expected to be announced this evening.

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