Analysis: The weirdest Cambridge Union Society election ever?

22 November 2012

The election for President of the Cambridge Union Society, taking place this Friday, looks likely to be nothing short of bizarre. The two candidates, Joel Fenster and Harry Prance, have shown a remarkable difference in their approach to campaigning. Prance, a third-year Queensian, is the more unorthodox candidate. His campaign poster – which appears to have been designed in Microsoft Paint – represents the candidate as a stickman with his middle finger raised towards the viewer, and bears the slogan “Try him, you’ll like him” in large pink letters. Prance’s “promises” include the introduction of an “all-you-can-eat petting zoo”, a “non-denominational mass led by Rowan Williams” before all emergency debates, and the introduction of Union-based glamour modelling classes “following the success of pole-dancing “.

Union rules mean that neither Prance nor Fenster is allowed to speak to the press in the run-up to the election, but sources close to the Union have suggested that Prance plans to step down if elected as president, as his ‘campaign’ is primarily intended as a satire of the Union’s alleged “sensationalism” and misogyny.

Fenster, who has acted as the Union’s Debating Officer for the past two terms, represents a more conventional choice. His Facebook campaign page emphasises his Union experience: “As a member of the Financial Resources committee, in addition to Standing Committee, the Building and Development Committee, and the Debating Sub-Committee, I have shown a commitment to the Society’s future.”

However, in a recent piece of negative campaigning, Prance has suggested that Fenster’s Standing Committee position is a reason not to vote for him: “We cannot stand for a committee and a president who believes in inviting those of Assange’s ilk and we must continue to stand up to them.”

Prance has certainly been quicker to make his ‘policies’ known than Fenster. Tommy Shane, writing on Prance’s campaign page, notes that “Prance’s opposition has yet to detail any specific change he would implement, when Prance himself has been explicit and specific.” However, Fenster has since published several proposals which appear likely to win over many of this week’s anti-Assange protesters. His policies include a “comprehensive review of Speaker Invitations”, and a promise to “strengthen members’ voices” by reforming the termly Members’ Business Meetings into “a forum to discuss real issues.”

Harry Prance will be available in Wetherspoons this Thursday night to discuss his policies. Fenster was unavailable for comment.

Tristram Fane-Saunders -Deputy News Editor

Photo: Rob Palmer