Statement from members of the NCAFC Women’s Committee on the behaviour of Fiona Edwards at NCAFC Conference

The following is a statement from members of the NCAFC Women’s Committee on the behaviour of Committee member Fiona Edwards at NCAFC Conference (Liverpool, 28-28 January). If you were at the conference and wish to add your name to the statement please leave a comment below. As this is a statement from NCAFC women, only self-identifying women will be added to the official supporters list, but if you are not a self-identifying woman you are welcome to leave a message of support on the site.

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We, the undersigned members of NCAFC Women’s Committee, are writing in protest at the behaviour of Committee member Fiona Edwards at last week’s NCAFC conference (Liverpool, 28-29 January), which we believe calls into question her position as a Committee member and indeed as part of the campaign.

Throughout the conference Fiona engaged in hectoring, abusive, bullying behaviour towards everyone who publicly disagreed with her. This included repeatedly shouting to heckle speakers; shouting at and bullying conference chairs; and aggressively denouncing those who disagreed with her and her faction (Student Broad Left / Socialist Action) with terms including “racist”, “fascist” and “imperialist”. On one occasion on Saturday evening, Fiona called another Women’s Committee member a “fascist imperialist” because she said she supported the uprising against the Qaddafi regime in Libya. In the conference she also denounced those who supported amending an anti-war resolution to make clear our solidarity with students, workers and women fighting state repression in Iran as “imperialists”.

Fiona’s behaviour throughout the weekend, including repeated violation of NCAFC’s safe space policy (despite repeated warnings on the conference floor), served to alienate committed activists who have worked hard to build the NCAFC and people just being drawn into the campaign alike. A number of people, for whom the conference was their first NCAFC event, have stated that they feel unable to continue to be involved with the campaign. It seems that this was all part of a deliberate attempt to wreck the conference, for factional reasons, by Fiona and her associates.

Fiona should be embarrassed and ashamed of her behaviour; not least of all, for her attempts to cover her tracks by cynically and opportunistically appealing to feminist principles and to the safe spaces policy to silence criticism against her and against Socialist Action. Fiona seems to have no respect for activists in the campaign or for feminist ideas. She may claim to be a socialist and feminist, but her behaviour at the conference was the antithesis of what we understand by those terms. It was much, much worse than what left-wing student activists commonly experience from our Blairite and Tory opponents in the movement.

Fiona’s behaviour causes us to seriously question her position as part of the NCAFC Women’s Committee. It should cause her to question it too. Does she seriously think such behaviour is acceptable in a campaign she claims to be part of? Does she, in fact, support the NCAFC at all?

We condemn Fiona’s actions and put her on warning that further behaviour of this sort will not be tolerated in the NCAFC Women’s Campaign. We call on her to apologise publicly – a clear, unconditional, straightforward apology, with no sectarian statement attached. We feel that this is essential for us to be able to build a campaign where women can work together, share ideas, tolerate disagreements with respect, engage in honest political debate and build a healthy, inclusive movement. If Fiona is unwilling to apologise, we call on her to resign from the Committee immediately.

(In her report on NCAFC conference on the Student Broad Left website, Fiona describes herself as “National Council jobshare”. Assuming she means the National Committee, this is not true. The Women’s Campaign has not yet elected its representative/s on the National Committee.)

Naomi Beecroft, Edinburgh University (Also NC member)
Martha Gillespie, Royal Holloway University
Rebecca Mallowan, Sheffield Hallam University
Lucy Eskell, Edinburgh University (Also Scotland Region job-share NC representative, women’s place)
Esther Townsend, University of East London
Abigail Barr, Edinburgh University
Philippa Faulkner, Edinburgh University
Aimee Kent-Payne, Hull University (outgoing Women’s Officer)
Beti Scott, Edinburgh University
Tali Janner-Klausner, University College London (Also Co-Chair of the NCAFC Communications and Inclusiveness Working Group)
(10 out of 12 committee members present at the conference)

Supported by:
Claire Lister, Birmingam University (outgoing NC member and chair of conference)
Sarah Weston, Merseyside (NC member)

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