This week Oxford students will go to the polls to decide their representatives for the coming academic year. In our annual campus-wide nod to democracy, a handful of candidates will battle it out for the votes of the ~15 % who were going to vote anyway, and the few percentage points otherwise who can be persuaded via personal connections; while the other 80 % continue in blissful ignorance.
The problem is, I’m not even sure that pitiful proportion of people will bother to vote. This election has been interesting in only one way – that it is hard to predict what the result will be. Apart from that it seems to have been quite boring, or even worse, not even register on people’s radar.
We have fewer candidates than usual, and not many of them are doing anything overly interesting. Half the promises are just photocopies from previous years, and the hustings remain bland, with little criticism coming from the candidates themselves. If you haven’t even got the courage to call out your opponents on the policy proposals you know to be hollow and misplaced, how are you going to have the strength to take on a room full of Oxford Dons, and win for students?
So candidates, there’s a few days left – let’s take this up a gear. Call out the crap, support the superb, and give students a debate they can get interested in. Because all of you nodding along to how important extended library opening hours are, is not going to drive people to the ballot box.
On the other hand, Louis Trup may encourage more than usual to vote. His new, slimmed-down weekly email appears to be getting more traction that the fluff-filled electronic message sagas of recent Presidents. Hopefully this can be turned into electoral participation, and convert this affair, from what can at times be a glorified popularity contest, into an election about policy and proposals.
And don’t feel that you, as the reader of this, get to shirk you democratic responsibility to vote, just because I think everything’s not how I want it to be. There are still some excellent candidates out there, with some new and bold ideas. There are some new faces, who’ve made a few slip-ups in their promises, but I’m sure will come through to be good Officers in 6 months’ time. And then there’s some real dross, which needs weeding out and rejecting.
The fact is, this election is still all to play for. None of the slates have outperformed in the husts or manifestos, and all of them have failed to convert their wider team into the kind of people-power machine needed to dominate the election. This gives us a race where independent candidates, especially those with good society-based connections, can still prevail.
Intrepid reader, you’ve stuck with me this far. Now make it all worthwhile. There is no Labour Club mega-slate Goliath this year that everyone expects to win – that beast was slain last year by our modern day David, Mr Trup. So your vote genuinely matters and can make a real difference. Read their proposals, watch the videos, and if you’ve got a question, contact the candidate. If after all of that, there’s no-one good enough for you, then vote Re-Open Nominations (RON). It’s your way of telling the candidates “I like democracy, but I don’t like you”.
There’s one problem, however. In the contests for Student Trustee, and NUS Delegate, there is no RON. And there aren’t more candidates than positions – so they already know they’ve been elected. But there is still one way we can all make our voice at least heard. The elections use the Single Transferrable Vote system, where you give your top preference a ‘1’, and continue numbering candidates after that until you no longer have any preference. Don’t think someone’s good enough to be NUS Delegate of Student Trustee? Then don’t give them a preference. As I’ve said before, there’s some dodgy candidates out there – don’t give them the satisfaction of having as strong a mandate as their colleagues. It will show up in the results and make our feelings as clear as day.
A few years ago, a slate of OUSU candidates ran under the name ‘Another Education is Possible’. Our socialist chums failed to gain enough support to see that come into fruition. This year, my tagline has to be ‘Another Election is Possible’. I just need your help to make the possibility, a reality. So candidates, let’s see a little more passion and conviction. And voters – get out there and vote – this could be the closest election in years.