News comment: the CUSU presidential race

2 March 2008

Jonathan Laurence

Assistant editor

Current CUSU President Mark Fletcher’s decision to stand again will have surprised many. His experience will be both his greatest strength, and his biggest weakness. Fletcher has built up a good deal of momentum recently – his weekly meetings for JCR Presidents and External officers have been unprecedentedly well attended; student union heads at several colleges have said that they have found his guidance extremely useful.

This approval hasn’t necessarily trickled down to ordinary members of the student body though, as the question “So what do they actually do?” still seems to come up whenever CUSU gets talked about, which, in my experience, is rarely.

Although Fletcher has performed sterling work in areas such as rents campaigning, organising a negotiation training workshop for JCR presidents, my feeling is that he still has something to prove to the majority of students. With a second year, though, he could well build on his success and perform the seemingly impossible task of getting students more involved in CUSU.

Still, Fletcher will face stiff competition from Basit Kirmani, who greatly raised the profile of Cambridge’s Pakistan society during his spell as President. Kirmani has proven ability as a co-ordinator – he recently set up a national union of Pakistani students in Britain. He is energetic and passionate, and should garner support among students who are, rightly or wrongly, disillusioned with the student union.

Richard Braude and Hugo Hadlow promise to provide a radical shake-up of the way CUSU works. Both candidates would move CUSU away from the moderate line taken by the current exec – but in opposite directions. Unfortunately Braude’s talk of ‘solidarity’ will probably turn people off – this is a shame, as his thoughtful and impassioned policies have something to offer to students on both sides of the political spectrum.

The same cannot be said for Hugo Hadlow. This second year Johnian believes in gutting CUSU of some of its most vital services. He would axe the green and rents campaigns, and cut funding for the LBGT committee, and the Women’s union. Ethical Affairs and Anti-Racism would also go completely.

The candidate took a particularly cheap shot at the LBGT committee for having a CUSU-funded garden party. Well here’s a cheap shot in return: Hadlow himself attended the event, and drank some of the free alcohol there. I know this because I served him.

Access is not mentioned on his manifesto, but he hopes that James Robinson will fill the post of access officer as part of his slate. Now, we all know that Robinson went to a comprehensive school in Manchester. So, who knows, maybe he might be able to do a better job than Charlotte Richer, who has stood for re-election just after organising one of the most successful Shadowing Schemes in CUSU history.

Also standing is Guolong Li, a first year Maths student at Churchill. Li’s manifesto is not particularly detailed, but in his hustings speech he made it clear that international student integration is one of his top priorities. He’ll be an interesting addition to one of the most hotly contested election races in recent memory.