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NUS Vice President Richard Brooks Caught In Undercover Sting Hits Out At 'Hatchet Job' Report

Exclusive: NUS officer exposed in plot to oust leader slams her presidency as 'damaging'.

13/01/2017 10:11 | Updated 13 January 2017

A vice-president of the National Union of Students caught in an undercover sting apparently offering to help oust the organisation’s president has attempted to dismiss the story as a “hatchet job”.

Richard Brooks featured in a documentary by news network Al Jazeera after telling an undercover reporter he could support moves to unseat controversial NUS boss Malia Bouattia.

The NUS VP for Union Development, told The Huffington Post UK he has “never hid” his disagreement with Bouattia and that it was “no secret” NUS officers engage in political organisation.

NUS/Flickr
Richard Brooks, NUS vice-president of union development, has spoken out after being caught in an undercover sting

“It is absolutely no secret that I believe that [Malia Bouattia’s] presidency has been a damaging one for students’ unions. I, like every other elected officer in the NUS, politically organise,” Brooks said.

“I don’t think either of those two things are controversies.”

Bouattia said it was “disappointing” there have been attempts to undermine her position as president and that the NUS should be “pulling together to focus on the issues that matter.”

NUS
Richard Brooks told an undercover reporter he could help oust Malia Bouattia, above, from power

The documentary, which focused on the links between the Israeli embassy in London and British politics, was published on Wednesday.

The film suggested Brooks, alongside fellow vice president Robbie Young, accepted funding from the Israeli government to travel to the country.

But Brooks has now said the documentary was a “hatchet job” and that its allegations over Israeli funding amounted to “lies”.

“The continued insistence, despite a lack of evidence, that I have somehow got links to the Israeli government or the Israeli embassy simply because I have worked with Jewish students and groups are as offensive as they are entirely incorrect,” he said.

Al Jazeera told HuffPost UK it stood by its journalism.

Al Jazeera
Brooks, captured in a still from Al Jazeera, said he 'never hid' his disagreement with Bouattia and that it was 'no secret' that NUS officers engage in political organisation

The Israel trip was organised by the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), which the documentary alleged was financed by the Israeli embassy in the UK.

Neither Brooks nor Young declared this funding to the NUS’s ruling national executive committee (NEC).

UJS said on Wednesday: “We are of course neither funded nor in any way directed by the Israeli Embassy.”

Brooks issued a statement a few hours after the documentary was released on Wednesday, and he has faced calls to resign.

He told HuffPost UK he plans to invite an independent probe into his conduct in the coming days.

Any review would need to be accepted by the NUS, which said on Wednesday it would conduct its own investigation into the documentary’s claims.

Brooks said: “I want to show to people and prove to people that those assertions are not correct and I want to draw a line under this and do what the NUS is meant to do and what I do as an NUS officer.

“This is a response to the lies and misinformation being spread on social media and to prove beyond a doubt [that] I do not have links to the Israeli embassy and that the undercover report was a hatchet job and then be able to move on.”

Asked about his earlier suggestion that Bouattia’s presidency had been “damaging”, Brooks said the NUS’s reputation had been “put through the gutter” since her election last April.

“You have to look at ministers and government criticising the NUS, the Home Affairs Select Committee report, to the numerous students’ unions who have called for referendums to disaffiliate from NUS,” he said. “All stemming from a national conference in April [2016, when Bouattia was elected], to see that NUS’s reputation has been put through the gutter unfortunately in a number of different ways.”

Al Jazeera
Brooks had earlier issued a statement a few hours after the documentary was released on Wednesday

He added: “It’s echo chambers, it is incredibly vitriolic social media commentary, it’s about shouting rather than persuading and we’ve had far more directly opposed and strong differences on the extremes of politics.”

Bouattia, 28, is the organisation’s first black Muslim woman president and has caused controversy in the past over her previous statements about large Jewish societies at universities.

She had also been criticised after footage emerged showing her condemning what she describes as “mainstream Zionist-led media outlets”.

Bouattia has since denied the comments amounted to anti-Semitism. She said she continues to fight racism “in all its forms”.

Malia Bouattia/Facebook
Bouattia is the organisation’s first black Muslim woman president and has caused controversy in the past

Bouattia said in a statement: “I was elected on a mandate to reinvigorate our union as a fighting force at a time of unprecedented attacks on students and education.

“It is disappointing that there is a refusal to accept that democratic mandate and an attempt to undermine my position instead of pulling together to focus on the issues that matter.

“Rising debt and fees, closing colleges, rising housing prices and international students fighting for their right to study and work in this country.

It is disappointing that there is a refusal to accept that democratic mandate and an attempt to undermine my position Malia Bouattia

She added: “These are all bigger than our internal differences in NUS and should be what our movement focuses on.

“NUS will be carrying out an investigation into the allegations, in the meantime I will continue to focus on leading our union and work alongside students across the country to bring about the change we so desperately need.”

Al Jazeera said: “Al Jazeera stands by the journalism of its Investigative Unit and the points made in its four-part documentary, The Lobby.”

The Huffington Post UK has approached Young for comment.

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