Time for an Election!

As I write it is now one week until nominations close for the Union of Brunel Students elections and over 3 weeks from learning who will have the keys to the place next year.

Sadly, while our elections use AV (STV if you care), they aren’t a patch on the rollercoaster of the local and general elections. This is because: A. Students are feckless, lazy and apathetic to the point of frustration and B. Because if you listened to the candidates talk you can see why A exists.

All too often candidates are nominated (for ‘nominated’, see ‘housemate signed a piece of paper’) who have no real idea for the job. When was the last time you heard of someone who wished to run for President asking to shadow the incumbent? Or a candidate making sense on an issue in their intended remit.

Years ago, there was a role on the UBS Exec titled ‘VP Commercial Services’ which did what it said on the tin: You were an overseer of the Commercial Services (i.e. Union Bars and the like). Overseer mind you, not Tsar. In filling the role you had bugger all power, but at least one candidate a year would campaign under the title ‘Pound a Pint!’. Not only was this playing to the stereotype that a student’s raison d’etre was to get blind drunk as quickly and as cheaply as possible, but was also shocking poor management of a commercial industry. In commerce, the customer is there to be fleeced. They walk in the door, jangling with cash and need to held by their ankles (metaphorically) and shaken until all the money falls out and then they can toddle off again. I would vote against anyone who thinks that lowering the price by over 50% makes sensible business accumen. I would point that out from the get-go.

But those candidates in the know? Well they can’t say squat. As laid out in the Bye Law B of the Constitution: “8.1 – Candidates shall not make defamatory, unsubstantiated or inaccurate statements concerning other candidates”. So if you were to run against a man who promised gold plated lecture halls and pole-dancers for cleaners, you couldn’t even begin to point out why that man is a dunderhead and should be removed from the election for taking the piss for that would be deemed as defamatory.

This rounds off to the main issue I have with these elections: the lack of teeth. In America, during the Presidential Election of 2008, Fox News (followed by John McCain) accused Obama of having a close friendship with a man named Bill Ayers. Ayers was part of a group in the seventies called ‘The Weather Underground’ who wished to violently overthrow the US government. This rumbled on for many months including getting into the televised debates and caused Obama many days of angst but ultimately the truth was found – that Obama knew him as a neighbour and nothing more.

While I don’t wish to endorse mud-slinging I think more should be done to test a candidate. The two reasons I listed as my hatred of the Union elections could both be removed if a candidate was allowed to even acknowledge the existance of their opponent. If, during hustings, a candidate was allowed to say “I would improve your tutor’s feedback and my opponent has said nothing on the issue!”. If, on a poster, a candidate was able to say “my opponent has no experience to run for Sports Fed, I have 3 years managed a club for 2 years”. It is said that sunlight is the best disinfectant after all.

Every year, you hear candidates running to the Election and Referenda Committee (the panel for the elections) saying, ‘he said I’m no good”, “she stole my teddy”, “it’s not fair!”. Wouldn’t this time be better spent campaigning? If these people have any interest in politics at a later life (or in fact doing anything in business) then do they really think there is a committee to run to then? Do you think Nick Clegg went and ‘told teacher’ when ‘that meanie Gordon stole all his ideas’? How about, instead of whining, the candidates were to campaign around the roadblock!

You got accused of being lacking in experience? Say that it means you bring fresh ideas to the table!

Someone said that you can’t fulfil your manifesto in 1 year? Say that you are laying the groundwork for the future of the UBS and then accuse them of being ‘short-sighted’ and ‘a bad choice for the students’

Some moron tried to imply that you have done a poor job as the incum
bent? Hit them with the weight of your on-the-job knowledge, crush them by saying you will be better than ever next year and move on with your day.

The elections would be better, if not as a democratic tool then as an entertainment form, if candidates were allowed to argue. To upstage. To demand answers. There would be far less oxygen-thieves and empty shirts in the Union if they had to run the gauntlet and get bloodied a little before being elected.

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