Toni Pearce as my #1 choice, and here is why;
I first met Toni back in 2009 when she was President of Cornwall College SU, and had come up to Manchester for the (brand new) zone conferences. I was the VP Welfare at Manchester Met and my union was hosting the evening entertainment (ie, was the bar).
Toni, keen as she is, was attending all of the zone conferences (except HE) on her union's behalf, and was one of the first to arrive at the entertainment one evening, and I was there anyway after finishing up my work in the office. We got talking about NUS and union stuff, as you do, and I probably gave her some sort of useless advice about NUS events and - being a Devonian - ribbed her about needing a passport to get into England from Cornwall.
What I realised very quickly was Toni is very on the ball, and absolutely knows her stuff. Frankly, and no disrespect to FE unions, it was made even more impressive because of the lack of staff support that Further Education unions suffer from - through funding if nothing else - meaning she would have had limited guidance of the complex issues that students go through, basically meaning Toni would have researched the whole sector herself from scratch. I also learned she likes Cricket (music to my ears) and is an Arsenal fan (nobody's perfect).
From that day I knew that Toni was destined to be one of the movers and shakers, one of the big names if you will. I was a fan of her within the time it took to drink a pint, as well as you can whilst talking to someone, and she was so personable it meant I was never bored throughout the conversation. The fact I vividly remember that conversation three and a half years later speaks volumes.
The thing is, I haven't actually seen much of her since then; quite rightly too, I've been in Higher Education whereas Toni's focus has been on Further Education. When I have seen her at an NUS event she's always said hello to me, but we've also had the odd conversation on twitter (odd being the operative word) - more often than not about something not related to student politics. Some gems from the twittersphere include; not being able to hear anything in one ear except for blood, and how 0.999 recurring is equal to 1. I'm happy to say that we've had some more sane conversations too!
Why am I telling you this? Surely I should be talking about Toni's record, or perhaps what she would do if she was elected as National President next week? Well, I didn't want to simply regurgitate her manifesto; I wanted you to know why she is the right choice, not just as an incredibly intelligent and versatile young woman, but as an amazing person and brilliant friend.
If you're a delegate to NUS conference then please make Toni Pearce your number 1 choice for President. You won't regret it!