ULB Conference 2018

ULB Conference 2018

The stakes couldn’t be higher

I was asked at short notice to attend an ad hoc European Convention by Stand Up for Europe at Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) Brussels on 28th of April 2018 by kind permission of the two rival factions the City Teams and the Stand Up Board. Basically, the constellation was the same Laubists on one side and Zscockite’s and Dema’s on the other. My friend Hélène and Balint on one side putting in a good knock for the Laubists and my dear Thomas, the two lovely Anitas, my friend from Antwerp Uni Stefaan, David (Draco) Zülke, Alex Gunter and Alessandro who jumped ship on the other. This was to be the final showdown that would either mean galvanising the institution or splitting it permanently or both. One item on the agenda election of a new board and fundamental control of the organisation Stand Up for Europe and its internet brand.

King Laub’s email

A few days before I was sent a summons to Brussels from Richard (King) Laub to ULB Brussels for the meeting encouraging me to vote for his people Mr Benjamin Vanessay and his slimline team of four administrators as the executive with the city teams subordinate them below. From a purely structural point of view. Although old-fashioned what he was actually suggesting seemed sensible from a business point of view. They had a lot of experience to be fair to them of organising businesses and as a former owner of a business and business English teacher myself it seemed like a textbook approach of exactly what to do in how to organise something up until about five or six years ago before the technology improved. Because now they have split the City Teams seem to organise themselves extremely well anyway. Naivety and being naturally charismatic leaders cost them the split because it went against all traditions of business organisation. It’s just that David can organise everything at a moment’s notice with his laptop anyway now and it doesn’t matter.
They were just slightly more old-fashioned and they meant well.

Thomas Zschocke’s Emails

Thomas Zschocke’s group the city teams of which he was the Munich leader were basically sidelined for arguing and causing a split. So, if they didn’t win the leadership they made it very plain that they would walk because they weren’t offered anything within the current organisation of Stand Up for Europe at all. They are more spontaneous, more fun and improvisatory jazzers of political genius even if their presentation isn’t always as polished they make up with it with their talent. I can’t leave them even if there are quite a few people that would rather I left their group. Though Thomas himself is for me. They are really good fun but can be quite critical if you aren’t careful. That said I’ve got a lot of friends as well as enemies in that group like Stefaan who is one of my best friends in European politics. I’ve gone a little OTT with them I know but if you step off the gas with them a bit they come back to you. The thing is they were the life and soul workhorses of the Stand Up movement before the split and they were criticised a little too much in particular the former deputy president and leader of that set Pietro Dema. He was as clever as Richard and Richard is by no means used to that. He finds that difficult even though he’s stepped to one side at the moment Pietro. Nice guy. Such a great looking guy too. What they lacked for in experience they more than made up for in talent.

How I was to afford it?

There was only way I could afford the trip at such short notice. That was to take the Flixbus out to Brussels North Station on the Friday evening and arrive Saturday morning at 06:30 go to the meeting at 14:30 and have a beer with afterwards and then take the last Flixbus back to London at five to midnight. So that’s basically what I did. I’d take the train down to Victoria and save a few pennies by waiting or the National Express coach back to Colchester in Essex at 11am on Sunday to arrive at 13:30.

Victoria again

I took the train down to London first class because there was a special deal on where you could travel first class for just a £2 supplement. I arrived within plenty of time at Victoria and chatted to an older man of West Indian origin who was so delighted to be travelling out to Rotterdam to visit his son for the weekend.

The Bus

The bus left more or less on time with the same driver as before. He is a real character and I always enjoyed his explanations in broken English of how we “could going to ze toilet in ze backside of the bus”. This time he was trying to explain that we had to take the ferry rather than the train at Dover and we had to fill out a form with our name nationality and sex on. “Erm, You must filling form name, nationality, man / woman, yes, otherwise we not allowed on ze Fäherry!”. He stopped several times on the trip to explain this.

My travelling companion from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.

I sat next to a very intelligent man on the way out there who needed a seat. He had been a student at Gonville and Caius college, Cambridge and then got a job at Tescos doing the stock. I liked him a lot. He was just popping over to Brugges for the weekend to take a look. I told him I was going to a Euro conference and he mentioned that he’d voted remain, but some of the other girly students had been more upset about Brexit than him and he’d had to give them a hug. It was him that I learned the Cambridge expression for high Church which I thought was quite witty and clever “Bells and Smells”.

The Bus Crash

He wasn’t too impressed when we came out of passport control at the ferry and the character of the century crashed the bloody bus into some bollards trying to drive around a corner. He had to get out and kick it back into shape, so we could drive on.

Getting the paperwork wrong

That driver normally gets all the paperwork wrong and the port authorities and boarder guards loath him. He also leaves people in the terminal and drives off. So we were just about the last people on in the ferry queue having argued for over P&O about the amount of people on the bus. Apparently, we were plus seven people apart from those on the list, but he just insisted we were plus two.

The Ferry from Dover

We took the ferry from Dover to Calais. It was humid and too dark to really see a thing and on the Pride of France there are no cabins available to rent for a short sleep. So, I just tried to save a bit of money. I only had sixty pounds to go with in Euros which I’d changed at Liverpool Street Station, a cooked breakfast was no less than £8 per head, so I opted eventually for the meal deal sandwich and drink for six pounds without a snack included! Extortionately expensive P+O and it was full of French school children being hyperactive and playing hide and seek all around you a 4:30 am. We arrived in Calais safely but there was a little bit a of a bundle down the central staircase with people arriving there too early. The Ferry is sometimes on late at night on Flixbus trips when they are doing engineering on the tunnel.


My colleague sitting next to me from Gonville and Cauis college Cambridge bode me farewell and left the bus at Brugges at 5 am.

Arrival at 6:30

About an hour and a half later we arrived once again in the European capital of Brussels North Station at 6:30 am, again rather too early for my liking round there. So, I scuttled off half running half walking until I’d made it down to Rogier underground station. I decided to save money because I didn’t have a lot. So, I decided to walk up down the street adjacent to the Grande Place and then left up to the Palace through the park and up onto Waterloo Avenue and then down to Avenue Lousie, past Stefanie and all the way to the little bakery where I like to have breakfast called Le Petit Quotidien and bought myself a lovely breakfast for 10 euros with a coffee croissants, bread and a glass of OJ included. I noticed that the customers that went in there every day were served with their usual order without them even having to ask for it. Very good service in there a great bakery and coffee shop!

Walking from Avenue Louise to ULB

It was still only about half past nine in the morning when I asked the staff in the café exactly where the university was and how far away it was. All I knew was that it was in our direction. We looked it up online and the lady wrote out some tram numbers for me on a hanky, but I was so short of money I said I’d walk the whole distance. I’d already walked a decent 2 miles and it was at least another mile-and-a-half to where I was eventually going. So, I walked the rest of the way down Avenue Lousie right to the bottom and then turned to the left past the abbey and monastary. I took a good look but there was an African guy freaking out in there so I swiftly moved on. It was very beautiful to take a shot of the Abbey. I must have arrived at ULB (Université Libre de Bruxelles) at 11:15 or thereabouts and the meeting was at 2:30 so I tried to find out the room where it was for later on. At first, I was so tired I couldn’t find it for a long while. I tried the door to the canteen and a guy showed me to where he thought it was and some security guys pinpointed it for me.

Waiting and reading a bit of Sahra Wagenknecht with the students

I waited outside with some of Helene’s friends and started to read a page or two of Sahra Wagenknecht’s book Prosperity Without Greed again. That lasted about fifteen to twenty minutes. I felt at home with them there again, with them surrounding me and nattering about all things to do with love and relationships. After a while they went so I moved on.

Waiting in the bar. Clean out of cash

I decided to spend my last 5 euros on a beer and the lovely old fashioned bar on the corner that served good Jupiter Pils. I managed to get online there again and connect with Alessandro who had said a few of us were meeting up somewhere for a beer in a nearby street around 12 but he wouldn’t be there until later. I tried to find out where that was but the area was too big and I just ended up giving out all my loose change on a can of nice sugar coke to keep me going and heading off back to the ULB campus itself.

Université Libre de Bruxelles

The Free Univeristy of Bruxelles ranks at about 168 in the world. Around the same as the Univeristy of Cologne. It has boasted a number of nobel prizewinners in the past. It has a smallish campus, very compact with one seminar block dedicated to Allende showing a quite obvious affection for the left side of politics. There is not a computer in sight. They really are all still students how God made them with pen and paper and the campus really does smells of old drains particularly in the zoology dept, but it’s a campus how it should be with pretty affectionate girls and plenty of heart as is depicted in their student song the Hymne des étudiants de ULB.

ULB Student Hymn

Brave semesters of dreaming
Of work, of pleasure
For us its just like waking up
To the dreams of tomorrow
Friends of knowledge,
Easy and carefree,
The foolishness of independence
It's all in being a student

Brothers sing to your glasses
And sing to your merriment
The girl that we cherish
And to the fraternity
To the other greats of wisdom,
That we love, truth,
But the only one true woman of power,
Ah, that's your Liberty!

The dreams of our age,
broadness, ambitions,
They will find fulfillment In the sheer audacity of leaving the rest behind at the station
As one dares to put
The wow into life
The liberty to defend your rights
You will get there!

The aurora
On a grand new horizon
Of immortal scientific knowledge
Explanation of reason
Rome trembles and falters
Before the truth
As we intend to write her
Against the teachings of the papacy.

Talking to the members of the board

The members of the new board were available for talking to prior to the convention starting at 2pm; I helped them mark out the way to the hall with arrows printed on paper. Benjamin, Luca and Balint were on hand to talk to. I got to really get to know and like Balint for the first time.

Meeting Alain Deneef

Alain Deneef talked to me about his plans for a four-man streamlined board to deal with the administration and then subordinate to that a group of new candidates for city teams. Having a hierarchical organisation in his opinion would strengthen it in a traditional way. Even if it meant cutting many of my friends on the existing city teams out. From a business theoretical point of view. From what I learned from my business English textbooks it seemed as if his plans for the business were viable and sensible. He had a natural charisma and was quite obviously a leader in his personality. The trouble is he was not just an advisor to the proceedings but was has since proved to be a bit of a dictator. He has been parachuted in by Richard Laub and had vast amounts of experience in Belgacom and Belgian Trains as a chief executive. The trouble is he didn’t trust me he didn’t think I was bright enough as I will detail later and he’s made an enemy of me within the organisation. Whereas at the start I had absolutely nothing to complain about. He’s a shifty little manipulator and a liar and I have the experience to know it. He miscalculated that big time. He believes secretly that Brexit means Brexit I’m certain of that and he doesn’t like the Brits being a part of the EU in any way. I have loved being a part of it since the age of three and he’s trying to bully me out of it with his Faragist style of politics blocking emails and saying I’m too old to make a difference and so on. I wanted to vote for him because he said the best way was not to vote for both the current city teams and the new board but one or the other or abstain depending on whether I slightly preferred one side or the other. He wanted an end to the arguments ad nonsense and to save the organisation which I did admit I found initially positive.

Being touted for Proxies

Unfortunately, both sides were so at loggerheads with each other that I simply wasn’t allowed to vote for Deneef. Out of politeness I’d covered up my voting intention towards City Teams and Felix Sproll cleverly asked me to take 2 proxies for him to check whether I was going to vote for them. If I refused he knew I was voting Deneef and if I took them he knew he could count on my vote. He ruined my whole day. I had to refuse to take proxies from both sides unless I took one from each and from that it was virtually obvious I was intending to vote Deneef. He was so clever Richard Laub offered him a 4 million to stay with Stand Up. He mentioned that at the meal afterwards.

City Teams Leader Felix Sproll telling me to vote for both sides

Contrary to Deneef Sproll told me to vote for both sides as is possible under the Belgian voting system because he wanted to keep Stand Up together apparently. He and his mates worked on me for the next 45 minutes until I voted against the people I liked the most because they said they loved me more and said they had my best interests at heart and I was more friendly with them than the others’ They said they knew the people on the other board and said they’d been stabbed in the back by them and they knew them better than meant unfortunately I fell for it when they claimed that the old ladies Hélène Decottigny had invited in to vote for her side didn’t even know who they were voting for or could even recognise their faces personally they just wanted to vote for Richard Laub who was no longer on the ballot paper. So there were some pretty evil electoral practices going on on both sides. I just wanted my beloved movement to survive and I was torn to shreds between my love for a sweetheart and love for my new found friends. I took a fifty fifty punt and lost big time.

Fiasco number 1: After registration the impartial police invigilator told everyone they could vote right away and go without the presentations.

The impartial Belgian police invigilator told everyone they all knew who they were voting for and they had waited so long to register that if they didn’t have time to stay for the presentations they could vote now and leave. This provoked outrage on part of the city teams and they threatened to walk immediately.

I cast my vote for City Teams on the basis of Alain’s dodgy handshake when I was going to vote for him.

After asking Hélène and her friends opinion on which way to vote, I went to shake Alain Deneef’s hand but I don’t know why with all the manipulation and touting for my vote, he was nervous shaking my hand and I thought he was going to be dishonest so I changed my mind and cast my one vote without proxies for the city teams it was the wrong decision. I was very weak, because I didn’t know Richard and Hélène’s lot well enough. My instinct was to like them more but I simply didn’t know them and Thomas and he is friends got the better of my as a result. They simply didn’t lay down their hand with me in time despite me trying to communicate with them and get to know them. In that way I had no reason to doubt the City Teams good intentions towards me and they were the one’s who ultimately betrayed me and threw me out of the movement simply using sleaze.
The real reason is that if they didn’t win Deneef would have replaced the entire city teams leaders with his own people and they already held those positions and he wasn’t prepared to work with them. They could have lost their careers and that’s the only reason why they were defending their position with hindsight. It really wasn’t in my best interests to vote against Hélène and I’d come overnight on the bus with no sleep and having not stayed in a hotel and I was knackered enough to fall for it, but in all fairness if their people had been able to turn up there would have been significantly more support Europe-wide for their side. It's that the location favoured Deneef.

The Presentations

At first Hélène couldn’t get her presentation to work and the invigilator got all up tight with her and wanted to get them all to vote right away whilst the City Teams threatened to walk straight away if their presentation wasn’t heard despite the invigilator inciting they all knew which way they personally were going to vote. The Stand Up Board’s presentation was very slick and well presented and the City Teams was more spontaneous with a jazz like flair if a little less succinct. The City Teams claimed they wanted Stand Up to have a Europe wide equal emphasis and not just a Brussels based focus on the pool of talent at ULB and wanted to utilise video conferencing and other forms of social media to achieve it whereas the Brussels based team of four rather was to form a core administrative unit and then the new city team leaders would by in the level of management beneath that. A more traditional and potential more stable hierarchical structure.

Being torn to shreds between Helene, Balint, Luca and the others

I was torn to shreds between both sides of the debate, my political sweetheart on one side and her friends and boyfriend and my allies and friends in London and Antwerp one the other. This was more than a recipe for disaster, isolation and ultimately rejection from both sides of the debate. As I said I did vote city teams as I felt Stefaan was closer to me than Hélène despite me wanting to be involved with their set. Many of my side like Pietro especially felt rejected by them.

I felt completely raped and bullied all round.

I felt caught up in the messy business of political breakup as the European City Teams later to be allied with Alliance Europa which both factions would eventually join announced that they were leaving SuFE on the account of illegal electoral practice. In fact, they had little choice as they would have lost their jobs to Deneef’s lot. They were my friends but it was the beginning of my sticky end in the organisation being caught up in this bitter rivalry between Laub and Dema that destroyed what was a very promising organisation.

Wanting to stay with Stand Up and City Teams

I wanted to stay with stand up and felt annoyed at having been bullied into voting for what I felt was the wrong side for me to be a part of.

Now not allowed to if I want to be part of Alliance Europa

Furthermore, I was uncertain whether Alliance Europa would have me on account of their association with Volt Europa who didn’t like me at all.

Oh, Hélène how did end?

Well, it ended with us crying and walking out waving a massive EU flag and singing the anthem together reluctantly and sadly in a procession one behind the other and the others walking on by proudly in mock triumph. Only for us to smash the power of our own organisation and join under together again under the umbrella of another. I never saw Hélène again or Balint, but in principle we are still on the same side.

Having that photo as a reluctant rebel

I had this photo as a reluctant rebel at ULB together. I thought my side did it for the power and to be the best politicians and win money from the EU event though significant amounts of money, millions even were offered to key players in the revolution to stay with SUFE, but why would they when they cut me out completely and destroyed the power of their rival faction and took everything for themselves. You see it’s often the power of entrepreneurs people like Thomas Zschocke and I that get the better of these big hierarchical structures for having better lines of communication. This was down partly to the excellent It infrastructure provided by Zühlke. Who later completely double crossed them just months later by stealing the whole of the followers on their website and thus forcing SUFE into insignificance having to star from an internet fan base of zero. I decreased in significance was pushed to one side and ejected from the new organisation so have not seen many of these friends since. They really fancy themselves as being better than me too. We had a meal together anyway with all the professional activists earning a mint for their troubles with me self funding myself on the dole and not even being able to afford the tram to north station and having to beg for the money from Alex Gunter. I actually gave the barriers the slip where they had been kicked in and managed to get out the other end without presenting my ticket so was able to buy a coke to keep my sugar levels up and that was all I was to receive before I got home.

Flixbussing it back to Victoria via the Chunnel

I Fliuxbussed it back to London for 8 hrs and with a bloody Long wait at Coquelles and a double passport and baggage check it was not nice when I arrived very early in the morning at Victoria. I had a four hour wait until my National Express bus home to colchester and I couldn’t afford to go on the train. So, I wandered around Chelsea and had a dead sandwich from my bag so as not to get into trouble in a very beautiful looking Sloane Square. It was then I discovered that St John’s sMith Square was open for a holy communion at eight o clock so I killed an hour taking a very unwanted communion as a stranger with the older folk of Chelsea, who, despite me being a West Londoner were very snobby about me being their visitor from St Leonard’s, Lexden choir indeed. I prayed for the love of my life and the future of my organisation SuFE tearfully and the people in it and that we would get a positive outcome to Brexit. By this time I felt and looked and smelt like a down and out having been nearly 48 hrs with no sleep.

I arrived home gracefully after an insignificant sleepy trip back to Colchester on National Express about 2:50 in the afternoon.