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City Councillor for the University ward, Jack Filmore, has apologised for a burn-book which he wrote within the minutes of a Lancaster University Anti-Capitalist (LUAC) meeting in June. The burn-book labelled members of this year’s and last year’s LUSU Council with insulting descriptions, labelled by members of the Union as “disgusting” and “appalling.”
Filmore, the Green Party City Councillor for the University, described his own comments in the document as “intentionally stupid” and took entire responsibility for the slanderous document. Filmore was, however, criticised for his apology, in which he began by describing LUSU’s discussion on the document as “petty”, as well as quoting Bilbo Baggins.
LUSU VP (Welfare) Mia Scott proclaimed her own personal disgust towards Filmore’s actions in writing the document and the effect this had upon other students. “This probably highlights an overriding issue that we have in LUSU and outside of LUSU in terms of being personal about each other and not actually focusing on what we do as officers, which I think is absolutely disgusting and I don’t want to see anything like this again.
“People have the right to bitch about LUSU, but don’t be silly enough to write it down. I just wanted to point out that some people have told me today that they don’t feel able to attend LUSU Council because of this document and think that it is absolutely disgusting. And I just never want to see a document like this again.”
The burn-book details LUSU members in terms of physical appearance and whether their personal politics aligned with that of LUAC. Filmore actively described students in insulting terms, who he is in fact paid to represent on Lancaster City Council.
In the document, Filmore stated that current VP (Campaigns and Communication) Ronnie Rowlands “needed taking down a peg.” Furthermore, students were analysed in the context of LUAC politics, with Filmore noting that some members “could be friendly”, “could be an ally” and were “way too Labourite”.
LUSU Councillor Andrew Gierke took personal offence to the document written by Filmore and his inadequate apology. “He can say [it’s] stupid all he wants but some sections of this sound frankly blatantly sinister. It says our Chair Ronnie Rowlands needs ‘taking down a peg’. I mean I’m slightly worried. And when it says Andrew Gierke, ‘possibly some common ground’, I would like this put on minutes, I would never have any common ground with someone who uses that sort of language as a democratically elected official.”
In his apology Filmore apportions the blame for the document upon himself, yet also tries to dampen the importance of the issue at hand. He begins, “it is with a heavy heart that I see LUSU discuss petty comments when there are so many serious and important issues to talk about and take action over. It is with an even heavier heart that I admit that this is in fact my fault.”
Numerous members of Union Council, who are themselves affiliated with the anti-capitalist group, agreed that Filmore was entirely responsible for the document. Polly Davis CCO (Environment and Ethics) said she felt misrepresented by Filmore’s minutes but also that the discussion raised ought not have an entirely negative outcome.
“I want to put it forward that a lot of the opinions expressed were not the opinions of everybody at this meeting, just for clarification for everyone, which was a meeting organized by members of LUAC and some other groups on campus as a means of looking at how activist groups, particularly LUAC, could work alongside or against LUSU. And it was always supposed to be something very constructive.
“I personally regret that these minutes were made, I had nothing to with them, but I do think it is massive, massive shame. But also instead of using them as a means to perhaps name and shame people it would be better to maybe look at some of the issues that have been raised in these things.”
This was a sentiment shared by other union members who attended the meeting, such as Caitlin Shentall, CCO (Women’s Liberation) and Anna Lee, CCO (LGBTQ*). Shentall said that although these were LUAC minutes, the only member of the group guilty for the offence caused was Filmore, and thus only he should apologsze for these actions. “I’d just like to put it out there that everything that I’m quoted as saying there I didn’t actually say. So, actually, the minutes are the views only expressed by Jack and not by myself so I don’t need to apologise, because I didn’t say anything it said on there.”
However, LUSU VP (Education) Joe O’Neill commented that Filmore’s apology itself was not adequate. “I know that something has been circulated over the past few days saying apologies have been made, especially towards the last FTOs, but I can confirm that not a single one of us has received an apology about this. There was a tweet, a general tweet. There was also an apology made by somebody else, not the person who wrote this, to one of the the FTOs, but not the rest of us.”
Moreover, O’Neill was appalled by the behaviour of this elected official. He described Filmore’s comments: “ I think that there are mentions about people’s disabilities, people’s appearance, that sort of thing. That’s completely unacceptable. People can sit in a room and talk about LUSU all they like, I don’t care. But when you start talking about people personally that’s where the problem begins.
“I think that if I ever see anything like this again, and I am still a full-time officer, then I will use my power as given in the constitution to suspend that person’s membership of this union and they will face disciplinary actions for bullying and harassment.”