Daniel Cooper, as acting President of the University of London Union (ULU), has brought shame on himself and the 120 000 students he is supposed to represent by refusing to place a wreath on their behalf at a remembrance service in London last Sunday. Cooper's decision to boycott the service was particularly poignant given the death of recent UCL graduate, Lieutenant Edward Drummond-Baxter, in Afghanistan last week.
Within hours of Cooper's decision going public, hundreds of University of London students under the newly formed group 'London Students for Remembrance' launched a social media campaign and pledged to force his resignation. Founder of the group Jonny Prince, who graduated from UCL this year and lost a family member - also a UCL alumnus - at Loos in the Great War, says he is 'absolutely incensed' by Cooper's decision.
Instead of attending the Remembrance Day service, Cooper announced on his blog that he would be holding an event this Thursday entitled 'Our remembrance: A working class history of war'. According to Cooper, the event aims to provide an 'alternative, socialist, account of the war and remembrance'. This event in itself is a deeply insulting message to the huge number of 'middle' and 'upper class' members of the armed forces who have perished and continue to perish with their 'working class' counterparts.
Indeed, it is most shocking that this unfortunate episode in the University of London's history smacks of political opportunism on the part of Cooper and the ULU leadership who have used the death of millions to publicly promote their own political beliefs. The whole point of Remembrance Day as we know it today is to cast politics aside and pay tribute to the courage, bravery and selflessness of those in uniform both past and present. It is for this reason we see politicians from the left and right of the political spectrum coming together to respect the fallen, as the vast majority of the British public expect.
As a recent UCL graduate, I am hugely disappointed that Cooper, as an elected representative of my former university's student population, made the decision to put his personal beliefs before those he represents. It was unprofessional, shortsighted and wrong. If Cooper wished to make such a profoundly powerful and controversial statement which runs so strongly against common decency and the values of our society, he should have held a referendum on the issue instead of acting without consent. It is for this reason that I, along with many other University of London students, strongly feel that he should resign from office.