Purves & Donnell front centre
4 May 2017: Newly Elected Kinross Councillor Guilty of AGM Election Foul Play
Callum Purves (Society President) and Ian Donnell, (Ulsterman: believer in Faith, Flag and Family and Society Chairman) were investigated and found guilty of serious electoral foul play.
The odious behaviour of senior officers of the Society, many since promoted to senior positions within the Scottish Conservative Party is symptomatic of a failure on the part of Ruth Davidson and her colleagues to provide good leadership and guidance to younger members of her Party.
It is conjectured that, had the information contained in this article been made available to the Kinross electorate it is doubtful Purves would have been elected to serve as a councillor. Might be he will do the right thing. Stand down and submit himself for re-election. Full report follows.
Society Chairman: Ian Donnell Ulsterman – believer in Faith, Flag and Family
May 2016: Ruthie the Moothie: Help! We have a Problem
Senior Office Holders of the St Andrews University Conservative and Unionist Association, or Society are Under Investigation Following Allegations of Foul Play. Members of the committee stand accused of “rigging” a recent election.
The charges expose long standing and bitter divides within the Society. Among the allegations (denied by the officers concerned) levelled against current Society president Callum Purves and chairman Ian Donnell are:
(a). Influencing the results of the AGM by having new members signed up to the society in order to vote for Purves and against his opponent, Marcus Buist.
(b). Not requiring that said new members pay membership fees.
(c). Denying Mr Buist access to the membership list.
(d). Creating a hostile society environment based on political divides and with anti-Roman Catholic sentiments.
Explanation of Allegations
Donnell and Purves, outgoing and incoming presidents of the Society, are accused of attempting to manipulate the results of the AGM aided by senior figures in the Society.
Donnell and Purves also hold the positions of National chair and National secretary, respectively, of Conservative Future Scotland (the youth section of the Conservative party in Scotland.)
Michael Green, outgoing vice-president, who also served as returning officer for the election said that he believed both Donnell and Purves had abused their positions in order to ensure the election of Purves as president, whom Donnell had endorsed.
He also said that their actions could be characterised as “rigging” the election in their favour.
Another separate allegation of tampering was lodged by another student who said that he had been asked to join the Conservative Society (having had no prior affiliation.
He further confirmed he had been approached by members of Purves’ campaign team for the sole purpose of voting for him and against the other presidential candidate, Marcus Buist.
A second student, Ludo Stewart said that he had been contacted by a member of Purves’ campaign team a week before the election asking him to join the Society and vote against Mr Buist.
He said: “A member of Callum’s team sent me a message asking if I would do them a favour and sign up for the Tory Society so that I could submit a postal vote. He told me that Marcus Buist was very undesirable, that he would bring the Society into disrepute and that he held very unorthodox views.
They went on to say that the Society would arrange to terminate my membership after (the AGM) so that I wouldn’t have to be a part of a Society whose views I didn’t agree with.”
Mr Stewart then confirmed that he had “never been involved in the Society or been to any of their events” and that “no mention of money was made” during his interactions with the member of Purves’ team, despite the Conservative Society generally requiring a membership fee to become a voting member.
They said I had to vote because of extreme circumstances, but it turned out to be completely normal circumstances. Additionally, I didn’t pay my membership fee. I didn’t realise there was one.”
Adding to his statement Mr Stewart said that at the time he had been approached by Purves’ team they had referred to Purves challenger for office, Mr Buist as being at as a “fascist” who would bring the Society into disrepute.
Yet another student, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that they had been signed up without their knowledge and without having to pay a fee, with the singular purpose of voting for Purves.
He went on to say: “I did not sign up to be a member of the society this year and it was disturbing to be told by a member of Purve’s team, on Sunday 17 April that I was a registered member and that my membership fee had been paid for.”
He also said that he was instructed many times throughout the following day, by a member of the Purves’ team to vote for Purves over Marcus Buist.
Donnell, asked to respond said: “All members who joined the association through the year have joined knowing the aims of the society. We did see an increase in members joining as the AGM approached.
A number of people asked to become members as they were worried that the behaviour of some candidates would damage the association.
As far as membership fees are concerned they will have been received by our treasurer, either directly from new members or representatives who collected membership fees from them. Our accounts are tightly audited by the Union.”
Purves also denied signing up people solely to vote for certain positions.
Mr Buist, attributed the actions taken by other members of the Society to a divide that emerged within the group prior to and as a result of the AGM.
He said: “At the end of first year, it was clear who the two candidates were probably going to be, as was the presence of a largely healthy rivalry that occasionally had nastier spots, but which would always calm down and return to normal.”
He then said that “problems” started within the Society at the beginning of the second semester and intensified through February and March and expanded on the foregoing saying that there began to be “a hostile environment as both sides [began] to think about the AGM.” The Society was soon divided along ideological grounds, between liberal and non-liberal members of the Society.
Another student, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said, “Before the AGM, we were a very happy Society. There was a mix of people who had quite strong conservative views and then people with more liberal views, but there was a place for everyone, and it was a place where you could feel safe, where you could feel like you had friends.
In March it became obvious that support for Callum Purves over Marcus Buist had been taken beyond endorsement. Electioneering turned into a public hate campaign to settle private matters.
I think this was unbelievably selfish and hostile, to use the AGM as a means to settle personal scores. He also observed that it was his view that some in the Society: “wanted to make it their own club and fill it with their friends and that they [didn’t] care about what was best for the Society.”
Donnell refuted accusations of a hostile environment in the group.
He said, “I respect each member of the association I lead, regardless of their views. I have enjoyed our debates and have tried to build an association which holds a wide range of events and speakers to accommodate every ideological persuasion. Our wide-scope of opinions is something of which I am proud.”
Purves as expected, agreed with Donnell, saying, “I have always encouraged debate and discussion within the Association from people across the conservative political spectrum.
We have had many passionate debates over the past year but are fundamentally united in our desire to see greater Conservative representation in Scotland. The key theme of my presidential speech at the AGM was my hope for us to be a more inclusive Society that celebrated difference of opinion.”
Mr Green, standing by his earlier statement confirmed that he believed tension had been created within the group, particularly by Donnell, “It became all about Donnell and what his vision of the Society was.”
A Revised Constitution
Another divide in the Society came as the result of the decision to propose a new constitution.
The new constitution created a second vice-president, added the role of chairman, (which Donnell now holds) and increased his powers and those of the other executive officers.
Mr Buist challenged the changes to the constitution (without success) saying that they represented an unnecessary “centralisation of power” within the Society.
Mr Green said that he believed the new constitution had only been proposed to create additional executive positions on the committee for rewarding selected persons.
He said: “The goal from the very start was to get rid of certain committee members. Donnell didn’t really have a role going forward, so he created the new post of ‘chairman’ for himself.
So the entire purpose of re-jigging the constitution was simply a job creation scheme for approved people.”
Donnell is also accused of illegally viewing the email ballots of individual members then using the information gained to canvass members.
Mr Green said: “The major thing for me was the fact that Donnell retained personal access to the (official Conservative Society) email account.
This provided him access the email ballots as they were sent in. This meant that he was able to “chase up people that he thought were potentially going to vote for Purves but hadn’t voted yet.”
He added, “Mr Buist was not afforded the same access to the email account and this was a huge disadvantage.”
Mr Stewart, who had been approached to sign up for the Society by a member of the Purves’ campaign team, said that he was later asked if he had sent in his email ballot.
After he confirmed that he had voted, the member of Mr Purves’ team said, “but for Marcus Buist.” He said, “I assumed that (votes for) AGMs were meant to be anonymous, but the Purves team knew how I had voted.
In regard to the member of Mr Purves’ team that had approached him before the election, he said, “We haven’t spoken since.”
A further dispute that arose during the campaigning period for the AGM was over access to a full list of members for canvassing purposes.
Mr Buist said that he had asked to be provided with a list of members.
Donnell and Purves, who had access to a full membership list in their capacity as president and secretary of the Society respectively refused, stating: “Given that the membership list contains details extending to email and residential addresses of all members, a decision was made that in the interest of data protection the list would not be distributed beyond those who would ordinarily hold it.
Donnell and Purves denied making use of the membership list for the purpose of canvassing members on behalf of Purves.
But Mr Buist and Mr Green accused Donnell of using the list to influence members who Mr Buist may not have known about and was therefore unable to contact.
In support of their allegation they cited an email sent by Donnell to a large number, though not all, members saying:
“Dear All, As the outgoing President of the society I recommend to you the following committee to be elected at our AGM……………………………………… ..If you are minded to agree with my recommendation, then please feel free to copy and paste this list of nominations and also to include the sentence following, “in regards to the constitution I support everything in red”. Please send in an email to email@example.com.”
Donnell’s email then endorsed Purves for president and other people for the committee’s roles.
Donnell said that the email was only sent to people he personally knew to be members.
Mr Stewart refuted this confirming he had received the email but had not known Donnell personally.
Accusations were also made that some members of the Society had contributed towards an anti-Roman Catholic sentiment within the Society.
Stephan Maier, (member) said that at times there was a “general sentiment” of anti-Roman Catholic feeling in the Society stating that, anti-Roman Catholic remarks were made.
He said: “I’m not someone who feels very uncomfortably easily myself, but I believe others would. People would easily be put off by that immediately, I completely agree with that.
Certain people would feel their presence was unwanted, and their opinion carried little or no value because they were Roman Catholic. It put off people from joining or attending.”
A spokesperson for the Societies Committee said, “The committee is currently reviewing the election and allegations and will take action as found appropriate.”
Given the Returning Officer’s observations, Purves and Donnell should do the honourable thing, put the reputation of the University (and Conservative Party) before their own, resign and stand again through a new election next term.
If Purves and Donnell bluster their way through a full tenure, their authority and status will be badly tarnished and unfortunately, smell regardless of what actually did or did not happen
I think its absolutely dreadful that Donnell acts in this way. It raises questions regarding Conservative Future Scotland ( the youth wing of the conservatives).
He seems to be lacking in the character and stature to be an honourable politician.
If the St Andrews University Returning Officer has declared major concerns about this Young Conservative election process, it would be right and proper to declare the election void and simply repeat it next term. What is the point of nominating a returning officer for the victors to then ignore his critical assessment of this election process?
Can’t imagine anyone in that photo went to a particularly rough school.
Dodgy Dave would be proud of these Bullingdon club wannabes
An interesting and substantiated story. I’m both shocked and unsurprised that something like this could occur.
From Start to Finish: A Timeline
18 April 2016 – Fraudulent AGM held.
19 May – Allegations of election foul play published; Students’ Association launch investigation into the AGM.
15 September – University Union confirms allegations of election fraud.
19 September – Conservative Society committee informed of results of investigation.
20 September – Meeting between committee and Students’ Association officials to “rectify lack of communication.”
20 September – Notice to Cure (a formal request to rectify the situation) issued to The Conservative Society, with the understanding that the Societies Committee would oversee the upcoming election.
23 September – Several people attempt to purchase membership through the Union, claiming to be members from the year previous. The Students’ Association authorised this under Standing Order 7.3.1 which states that, “Should any person dispute their membership in a society prior to a general meeting of the society, the Societies Committee shall have exclusive jurisdiction to adjudicate membership status.”
23 September – Students’ Association attempt to contact Conservative Society to discuss the option of selling membership through the Cash Office, No reply.
23 September – Conservative Society issued with a second “a notice to cure” asking that the location of the reconvened AGM be released publicly and in a timely manner so that all who wanted to attend would have equal access. Disaffiliation was threatened by the Students’ Association by Monday 26 September – 12PM if the society did not respond.
26 September – St Andrews Conservative and Unionist Society choose to disaffiliate from the Students’ Association.
24 September 2016: Association investigation confirms Conservative Society “election fraud”
An investigation conducted by the Students Association has found that allegations of “election fraud” against the St Andrews Conservative and Unionist Society committee, first revealed in a report by The Saint earlier this year, were in fact true.
The investigation, conducted mainly by last year’s Director of Student Development and Activities, Kyle Blain, confirmed many of the allegations made against the committee regarding the society’s Annual General Meeting (AGM).
The Students Association’s Societies Officer Pia Szabo said, “There were accusations of election fraud and they proved to be true. In short, people were… stacking candidates, having people vote for candidates – and those people hadn’t been members (of the society).”
Elaborating further, Ms Szabo described how the Association found, “blatant evidence of people telling non-members to vote.”
Expanding, Ms Szabo said, “there was evidence of people being invited to the (AGM) who were not paid members and were not even being charged membership fees. This was wrong.”
Ms Szabo also confirmed that the society had been told to re-hold the AGM, this time under closer scrutiny from the Students’ Association.
Ms Szabo also described steps the committee had taken to prevent fraud in the future, “We have advised committees that they must keep track of their members and at any date and time, if we request a member list, they must be able to present it to us.”
Ms Szabo also praised the members of the Society who came forward with the allegations in the first place, saying: “It was the members of the society who said ‘obviously something’s not right here’ which is great because as Societies Committee we’re not actually a governing body, we’re not above societies in any way we’re kind of a resource for them so it was good that the members were the ones who were able to seek out help. And we were then able to help them.”
Commenting, Marcus Buist, the losing candidate for president in the AGM said: “I am deeply saddened by the unfortunate events of last year. It is some relief to be vindicated by the Union, and that our claims that the election had been unpleasant and corrupted have been confirmed.
26 September 2016: St Andrews Conservative and Unionist Society disaffiliation from the Students’ Association.
Marcus Buist, (the illegally defeated candidate) said, “It’s very sad that, in truth, the society chose to be disaffiliated. Despite the fact that the constitution binds the committee to respect the standing orders of the Union, despite the fact that the current constitution binds them not to be discriminatory and to accept all members properly signed up, including members signed up through the union.
They chose not to accept certain members, sometimes on personal grounds. In truth, they recognised that in a free and fair election that they wouldn’t have the [support of] membership with them.
They chose to take this action, which they are not legally entitled to take without consulting the membership.
The Union was obviously probably quite content to disassociate itself from the society being as it is in current state.
He also dismissed accusations that the committee had wanted to fairly exclude members who were making others feel uncomfortable, saying, “Undoubtedly in my mind it was to make excuses.
Now I’m sure some of them genuinely believe some of the things that have been said, I think that those things are largely ungrounded. Obviously I reject certain accusations accusations that have been made anonymously by certain people. Many of the people they chose to reject were members of the Conservative Party or in any case were members last year.
Obviously they’re not allowed to do that according to Union rules, and I think that’s where the focus should be, on the fact that they refused to abide by fair Union rules because they thought that it would lose them an election.”
He also spoke of his hope that there might be some form of Conservative society restored to affiliation with the Students’ Association at some point, “There are a large number of members, Conservative supporters, people interested in politics, who want to see a more honest and a more fun student politics which cuts out all of this political infighting and all that nonsense, and who want to have a connection with the Union, at the moment there is no society for them which is a significant shame.
The current committee of the disaffiliated society should think very carefully about what they’ve done to deny those people a chance to connect their politics or political interest with their studies and membership of the union.
The society grew from having less than 10 regular members at the start of last year to having an official membership of just under 80 people, when we sung together we sung with one voice.
We debated ideas together and I want it to go back to that, and with some people that’s not going to be possible because they’ve allowed it to get tied up with their own personal views.
But I believe that we can have a future, but that it must be based around a society that remembers that we’re all students and that it should be for students, that maybe puts egos to one side for a little bit, including my own.”
29 December 2016: Ultra Right Wing – St Andrews Students Join Ruthie the Moothie’s intelligentsia Vanguard
Members of the disaffiliated St Andrews Conservative & Unionist Society have been promoted to top positions in the official Conservative Party youth organisation. The Society is a tightly knit group of students. Many committee members are room-mates and close friends.
James Bundy, Stephen Caulfield and Elliot Jordan have been respectively elected National Chair, National Secretary and East of Scotland Chairman of Conservative Future Scotland,(CFS) representing all members of the Scottish Conservative Party under the age of 30.
The successful candidates believe this is to be no coincidence. Caulfield, a second year studying Economics and IR, said that the Society had a large membership, meaning it carried a greater weight within (CFS) than any of the other university associations.
He added: “Coming from Glasgow and being a great admirer of our greatest PM, Baroness Thatcher, I already know what it feels like to get criticised for my politics – and that’s putting it mildly! St Andrews has been a safe-haven in comparison.”
Bundy, Secretary of the Society, when asked to comment on the disaffiliation from the Student Union said he did not believe that this would be a liability for his tenure as chair of (CFS). Stating: “thankfully the issue is now behind us and we are now in a position to move forward from this as the issue has been entirely resolved.”
He elaborated on his statement claiming that: “with an ever more left-leaning and liberal agenda being promoted around universities in Scotland, we need a strong centre-right voice. In the upcoming year, I want to see Conservative associations standing up and making our voice heard throughout Scotland.
Achieving this by taking a lead role in the campaign against a second independence referendum and the campaign against useless (NUS) ‘policies.’”
Jordan said, “I see no reason why acting to preserve ourselves as a truly Conservative group should cause anything other than congratulation from the rest of (CFS). Conservative students are “an endangered species but this has a hidden benefit of motivating us to get together in tighter-knit, more organised groups.”
A spokesperson for The Scottish Conservatives said it had not taken a stance on the disaffiliation, stating it was a private matter between the Society and the Students’ Association, adding: “the new (CFS) office bearers have to contend with the usual issues faced by Conservative students in liberal-leaning universities.”
3 May 2017: St Andrews University Conservative Society Students in Hostile Confrontation with Visiting Lib Dem Leader
Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron, joined by Willie Rennie and a group of Liberal Democrat activists, walked to the Purdie Building on the North Haugh, with the intention of speaking to locals and students of St Andrews.
Some of those he spoke to seemed impressed by the Liberal Democrat Leader. Others seemed less appreciative of his message. One local woman, who preferred to remain nameless, said that the Liberal Democrats: “have denigrated local politics, have denigrated national politics, and don’t care about Scotland.” She attributed this to the decision of the Liberal Democrats to go into coalition with David Cameron’s Conservative Government in 2010.
A group of St Andrews students, members of the St Andrews University Conservative Society were much more hostile towards Farron’s messages.
One member, Drew Liquerman brandished a sign which read: “Be Lib and Dem, support the will of the people, 52% voted Leave.” The sign was a protest against the Liberal Democrat’s call for a second referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.
Liquerman’s protest was speedily blocked by Liberal Democrat members who displayed their own posters. One student, Lavie Rabinowitz, stood next to Liquerman carrying a homemade sign reading: “Don’t listen to him, he voted Trump.”
Minutes later, Farron was drawn into an angry debate with three St Andrews University Conservative Society members in the middle of Market Street The sharp exchange of views was picked up and broadcast live by ITV News as part of their General Election Coverage.
Ian Donnell, St Andrews University Conservative Society, President (leader of the trio that had confronted Barron on market Street) said: “I took an opportunity to ask Tim Farron why he felt he had a mandate to derail the democratic will of the people in the Brexit process when he only had 8 MPs and the choice was so clearly set out on the ballot paper. Leave means leave, but Tim Farron didn’t think so. Despite Britain self governing for centuries, he felt we needed a dossier to describe how this would look prior to the EU referendum. Mr Farron thinks more referenda are necessary, rather than strong and stable leadership to lead us out of the EU.”