The Union chamber has tonight voted 254-101 to cancel the vote on the motion “This House has no confidence in Ben Sullivan”.
The option not to vote on the no-con was proposed by Inigo Lapwood after a fiery debate over the record of Union President Ben Sullivan. Sullivan was arrested for rape and alleged rape last month but has been bailed without charge.
The RAG comedy debate, which was supposed to follow the no-con, was postponed.
Inigo Lapwood explained his rationale for stopping the no-con vote to The OxStu: “With the media scrutiny on this story, whichever way people voted would have had a non negligible effect on the ongoing criminal proceeding.
The debate is necessarily bigger than Ben’s inability to promptly answer emails. I would not risk having an innocent man declared guilty, or a guilty man evade justice due to union bullshit. Rape allegations are too serious to be hijacked and wielded as a weapon for student political agendas”
Lapwood continued: “The opposition argument was that we had to choose between the lesser of two evils: choose between seeming to publicly support a potential rapist, or seeming to publicly denounce an innocent man. We should never have been forced to make that choice. And it is right that we refused to make it.”
Sullivan greeted the news, saying: “I am pleased that the House has decided to defer to the appropriate procedures of the criminal justice system.”
Barnaby Raine, a fresher at Wadham, described the evening as “depressing”.
“I make absolutely no presumption of guilt, I believe in innocent before proven guilty, but what happened tonight can only be described as a denigration of the seriousness of rape and sexual assault allegations”.
Union sources differ as to whether the procedural motion was in accordance with Union rules.
During the debate, the supporters of the no-con argued that Sullivan should step aside while he is under police investigation and that he is currently incapable of performing the role of President. The debate was, unusually, chaired by ex-Secretary Alexander Trafford. Trafford started the no-con debate by reading out a prepared statement from Sullivan, stating:
“It is with regret that I am not able to participate in this evening’s debate. I have been advised it would be entirely inappropriate for me to do so, given the on-going police investigation. I am, therefore, unable to speak in my defence and will not be in the chamber tonight,” Sullivan’s statement read.
“The proposition will of course note that this debate has nothing to do with the allegations against me; however, I think it will be difficult to divorce my suitability to hold my office from the validity of the allegations against me. As I have said before, if I am charged, I will resign.
“But passing a vote of no confidence at a time when I am not even able to defend myself would, I believe, go against everything the greater society stands for.”
The proposer of the motion, St Benet’s 2nd year Aleksy Gaj, claimed that he did not intend to address the rape allegations against Ben Sullivan but argued that the President was “incompetent…failing to go to meetings and reply to emails”.
Gaj described it as “damning” that so many senior Union officials have resigned. Gaj sat down to applause as he declared that Sullivan “has failed in his duties as President”.
The first speaker, for the opposition, said that he was not a member of the Union nor friends with Sullivan and had been allowed to speak at special dispensation of the chair. He argued that the “fundamental rights of the individual” were at stake and that as Sullivan had not yet been charged it was wrong to judge him. The lawyer characterised the supporters of the no-con as “well meaning but confused” as “the outcome of this no-con will be deemed to be a judgement not on Sullivan’s competence as President but on Sullivan’s guilt or innocence”. After citing the example of ex-Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, he sat down to applause.
Joining the proposition was Annie Teriba, a Wadham fresher, who charged Sullivan with failing to fulfill his duties as President as he has to spend too much time defending himself. Teriba was applauded after stating “The Union will have failed you [the members] if this term finishes without a no-con being passed”.
President-Elect Mayank Banerjee, Dom Merchant, Joshua Burge and others weighed in to defend Sullivan while Ben Allen, Joe Miles and other members supported the non-con. In an emotional speech, one speaker told the chamber that he had been sexually assaulted but that he still strongly believes in the presumption of innocence.
Clarification: Last night we tweeted that David Allen Green spoke in favour of one side in this debate. He was not present at the debate, on which he has no view.