When the candidates pack was passed by council and the budget cap was introduced, I half wish I was there. It went through without significant opposition, with nobody seemingly having any real thought about its connotations, or was simply too shy to give an opinion from a right-wing standpoint.
I have seen some pretty big changes whilst being at Loughborough and thus understand that a lot can happen in the space of four years. I have always been an avid fan of the Students Union, and its various ways of enabling students to get stuck into new and exciting things. Student politics has been a massive part of my life at Loughborough since I was a fresher. I came through the halls committee system like many others, however, I often found myself on a very lonely path when dealing with student politics at Loughborough.
One thing that sets me out form the rest on the path of student politics is that I am largely conservative in my outlook. I am and have always been a strong advocate of laissez faire capitalism. This was an obvious clash from the very first day, as a students’ union as an organisation, is effectively a left wing entity.
Below I have sought to establish why I think the new £100 budget for Executive Elections candidates is a bad idea and hope to perhaps analyse some of the effects it may have on our Union.
Weaker candidates may be produced.
With the old system, voters would often subscribe to the person more than their respective policies. The electorate would be attracted to the strength of the campaign of a person or the characteristics that that person exhibited.
Now, due to the fact that the campaigns will be less intense due to the budget cap and thus the election much less public, people will be drawn to the policy aspect of the election.
Whilst in theory this is fantastic, and probably exactly what certain people within the union are going for, the reality is far more sensitive. People will not know about the various personality traits of those candidates and will elect on policy.
Thus, you may elect someone with fantastic policy orientation but without the charisma or drive to be able to confront a senior member of the university with it.
Attempt to note the last time a policy was successful in its implementation, and left a legacy, and made a difference to the majority of students here at Loughborough and you may have a harder time than you think.
Many an executive officer come in and aspire to leave a legacy, then ironically the next candidate takes office and wishes to shake things up. Of course, there are times too when this is not the case, notably that of Chris Lloyd for Head of Media who was in many opinions far the stronger candidate and lost.
We then have the welfare policies of VP Welfare and Diversity Georgie Court, which have been outstanding to say the least in their speed and implementation and hopefully provide a lasting legacy.
However, I am particularly drawn to the outstanding nature of leadership displayed by Ellie Read and I just wonder if we will produce the same iron lady under the new system. I think that’s somewhat doubtful.
Removes the Hunger
For some candidates the challenge of running for an executive election is now diminished. However this reaches a point to which it too is obsolete.
Ironically, my last point, for certain candidates with a big name it is now easier to win than ever before. If the name is big enough on campus, the electorate will see a name they have heard of once before and will tick that box, perhaps on the recommendation of a friend or a casual meeting at a punch party.
Note, the majority are simply not interested in politics. Losing is not really as bad a blow as it used to be, meaning some may submit a candidacy on the off chance of a victory and most simply will not work as hard for the win as they would have under the old system, having staked less on it.
Removes student politics from the masses
The average student will be even less involved than ever before. The union has said that it will increase their advertising budget for the election. However, centralised power in the form of advertising here will seldom communicate the message a candidate will want to convey better than the candidate themselves.
Many think it was better having students involved, even if it is only a publicity stunt that has gained their votes, rather than not having them involved at all. The appeal of the democracy section of the union will no doubt fall and it will be even more a case of a far removed few dictating student policy for the masses than it is already.
It is my personal belief that voter turnout will also be lower than previous years. The election, if less intense and in the public eye, cannot realistically expect them to increase. Whilst some may state it is better to be selected on policy, less votes from the masses ultimately results in less legitimacy in the eyes of the average student and less executive appeal to those same people.
Should those who wish to spend their own hard earned money be penalised by those who are unwilling to work hard or to take a risk to match their opponents? People who believe money to be the sole driving force behind winning a campaign are missing the point entirely, in my opinion.
It isn’t how much you spend but the way in which you spend it. After all, you must spend money to make money. I do hear the lefties though. As with everything, there is a limit.
How much is too much? This limit is too low for a candidate to showcase their strengths. Perhaps even doubling the £100 to £200 or £250 would fit the balance between being enough of a monetary investment in ones future and enough one might be willing to sacrifice at the expense of being able to say I had a go. That I leave to you.
It is my sincerest hope that a candidate will be able to showcase their personality in other ways and I really hope that this policy hasn’t in actual fact made it harder for people to do so.
My conclusion is simple. The obvious positive of the budget cap is that more people are incentivised to run, because the intimidation of the amount of spending is now diminished.
However, this level playing field has its severe downsides in so far as the creativity through publicity stunts that would previously have been undertaken to raise awareness of people’s strengths are now virtually impossible without investment.
It’s like the old adage says, money does not buy you happiness, but it buys you freedom. Money will not buy you this election, but it brings about a means to publicizing your characteristics and personality in this election.
This election will be about just two things now, policies and names. In realistic terms, and as much certain people will hate it and probably disagree, names in Loughborough are, through my experience of elections, invaluable. And policies? Well, when I finally see a manifesto point implemented and then not crowded out by the next executive, I’ll believe this is what people are voted in on the basis of.