ULU Vice-President snubs remembrance day

Jenni Reid - Deputy News Editor 19 November 2012

Acting President of University of London Union (ULU), Daniel Cooper, has sparked controversy for refusing to lay a wreath at the University's Remembrance Day Service a week last Sunday.

Cooper was invited by Reverend Stephen Williams, University of London Chaplain, to lay the wreath, which in the past has been done by the ULU President.

Cooper took to his personal blog to write an open letter to Rev. Williams declining the offer. He wrote: "The war wasn't an act of liberation, or self defence from despotism, as our leaders today preach."

"Mourning the butchery of thousands of ordinary people through an act of remembrance side by side with the inheritors of an economic system which created the war is not something I wish to take part in." He referred to Remembrance Day as, "An insult to those sent to die, victims of the self-interested advancement of the British Empire."

Criticism of Cooper's actions has been substantial, most notably in the creation of a Facebook page calling for his resignation which at the time of writing has 770 ‘likes'.

One student commented on the London Tab's website: "We're all used to career socialists taking over our student's ‘representative' bodies and alienating more than 99% of the electorate, but now we see dead soldiers used as political capital by these extremely ignorant people during a time of remembrance and peace."

Param Lotay, a second-year Economist at ULU, claimed: "I do appreciate his arguments: I share many of them myself. However the fact of the matter is that as Acting President of the Union Cooper had a responsibility to put his personal issues with Remembrance Day aside and act on behalf of the student body at large, many of whom would have liked to see a representative for them at the service."

However this sentiment is not shared by all members of ULU. Matthew Reuben, a student at Royal Holloway, said, "I have never been prouder to be a ULU student. We elected a vice-president who chooses not to put his principles aside for an easy life and that's what we have."

Michael Chessum, who as of this weekend is ULU President to Cooper's Vice-President, also defended Cooper in a statement on Facebook: "People are wilfully misinterpreting Dan's political position as some kind of attack, or act of disrespect, to those who have died in war. As Dan has repeatedly, publicly and honestly outlined, it is nothing of the kind: it is a rejection of a form of an insufficient memorialisation.

"You may well love the simple official memorialisation of war and the carnage of the trenches and the vast acts of criminal and imperially motivated slaughter, and you may want everyone to conform to them. But Daniel's political position is a legitimate alternative one, and one which I share, and it deserves consideration and argument – not simple hysteria."

The Union of London has now made an official statement defending Cooper's right to choose not to attend the service, stating on their website that, "ULU has no policy on Remembrance Day events, and Daniel was under no formal or professional obligation to personally attend. Everyone has the right to remember, and to freely discuss, the personal and collective experience of war as they see fit."

Jenni Reid – Deputy News Editor