Spoiling the ballot

28 February 2013

Voting has opened for this year’s CUSU and GU elections. But how to choose a candidate? The candidates manifestos are identical, their answers in debates are evasive, and Varsity’s pontifications are unreadably dull. Luckily, Auntie is here to give you the real story on this year’s candidates.

CUSU President: Yesterday’s presidential debate saw a sudden U-turn in policy from George the BANGHAM, over the issue of the CUSU autonomous campaigns. Despite calling for a “depoliticised women’s officer” in his manifesto, the BANGHAM has backtracked, explaining that he respects the campaign’s autonomy and realising that his promise isn’t one he has the power to follow through. After being torn apart for this policy at Monday’s hustings, it seems Bangham slinked back home with his tail between his legs, and re-thought his position.

But the question of “political” action reared its head throughout the CUSU presidential debate. Bangham, relentlessly driving home the idea of being “a president for every student”, was challenged directly on whether this policy means CUSU will never campaign on any divisive issues. Despite banging on (so to speak) about the importance of campaigning (“It’s our bread and butter” quoth the BANGHAM), he failed to properly answer the question. Flick Osborne and Greg Hill coped a lot better. Hill argued that a President should follow their moral compass, rather than relying on endless survey-monkeying of the student body before launching any campaign. Osborne, despite enjoying surveying the hell out of students in John’s, proved herself in a convincing defence of the autonomous campaigns. Osborne spoke engagingly on the importance of increased communication, suggesting the Sabs might start blogs to show what they do each day (exciting stuff!). But given the fact that she hasn’t updated her JCR presidential blog in months, her enthusiasm might prove short-lived.

Meanwhile, Hill has achieved a hell of a lot over the last year. Admittedly, he had an unfair advantage: uniquely, the Homerton JCR presidency is a sabbatical role, so unlike everyone else he doesn’t have to juggle JCR work with a degree. But his gloating over a new JCR, new gym, and successful living wage campaign is deserved. In his own words, he has “experience of actually making things happen.” Homerton is also the biggest college – that’s a lot of small-minded, parochial voters to rely on.

Auntie predicts: GREG HILL, by a landslide.

GU President: Last week, Auntie was stumped. I asked: “Who could possibly fill the shoes of Arsalan ‘Call-me-Honourable-President’ Ghani?” Following the grotesque, mind-boggling train-wreck of Ghani’s presidency, it seemed inevitable that the next GU Prez would be considerably more boring. But Auntie may have been wrong. Xin ‘Bruno’ Jin has thrown his hat into the ring – a man currently under investigation by the police for violent assault. He certainly has experience on his side – his term as GU International Officer has been marked by a tendency towards incompetence, madness and maniacal bureaucracy. A strong foundation to build on for next year.Jin claims his presidency will be “friendly,” and that he’ll “work closely with fellow GU members.” In case anyone’s forgotten typo-gate, a few months back Xin lashed out against GU secretary Kirstine Szifris for making a typo on an email (adding the wrong date). He wanted to put a ‘motion of displeasure’ on the agenda for the next GU Council meeting, publically shaming Szifris for “destroying the image of the GU.” A ‘motion of displeasure’, as one graduate student pointed out, “isn’t even a thing.” Auntie like typos. TCS is fulll of typOs, always has been and always will be. Auntie is worried that – should Xin gain power – the lives of the TCS team may well be in danger.

Auntie predicts: A win for Richard Jones, if there’s any sanity left in the world.

CUSU Coordinator: Here, Auntie backs the underdog. Mathmo Julianna Yau has come out of nowhere (or ‘Peterhouse’ to use its other name) to run for Coordinator. Running against the incumbent is always difficult. Many expected current Coordinator Dom Weldon to demolish Yau in Monday’s hustings and Wednesday’s debate. But Yau has held her own surprisingly well, and her confident appearance on Monday seems to have changed a lot of minds. She may not have Weldon’s experience, but she has a lot of fresh ideas on Ents and community support (though Auntie found Yau’s proposed ‘CUSU app’ more than a little amusing). Weldon, however, appears to have re-hashed an idea from last year’s manifesto. 12 months ago, he promised a “new online shop” for CUSU. A year later, this shop has still not appeared… except, of course, on Weldon’s ‘new’ list of manifesto promises. Credit where credit’s due – when the ‘where the hell is your shop?’ issue was raised in the debate, Weldon handled the issue smoothly, explaining that it would have been wrong to rush into opening the shop as a “quick fix,” and that by waiting for a new CUSU website first, he should be able to have the shop open “in the next few months.” As Sir Humphrey Appleby might put it, “doing things quickly takes time.” Coming from the University’s smallest college, Yau is at a severe disadvantage – normally, the only way to take on an incumbent is to rely on strong college support, and Peterhouse alone simply doesn’t have the voters.

Auntie predicts: A win for DOM WELDON, unless the University mobilises in support of a fresh face.

Access Officer: A much closer contest. Sam Ruiz and Jacob Conalty are both strong candidates. Ruiz was far more confident and composed than Conalty on Monday, but Conalty’s performance was perhaps more heartfelt. He’s a far more traditional candidate, focussing on improving access arrangements in schools, and extending the shadowing scheme. Ruiz, however, shows a wider scope, highlighting the importance of access arrangements within the University. Ruiz wants to work with the Newton Trust, pay more attention to the bursaries system, and eliminate inequalities between colleges.

Auntie predicts: SAM RUIZ, if the voters are wooed by Monday’s fluency.

Womens Officer, Education Officer: Both uncontested. Lauren Steele and Jia Hiu Lee both have a solid track record in campaigning. Why not give the kids a chance?

Welfare & Rights: Arguably the most important position (straddling CUSU and the GU). Luckily, Charlie Bindels and Helen Hoogewerf-McComb (‘Comby,’ hereafter) are both exceptionally strong candidates. Word on the grapevine is that the current CUSU sabs hoped either Bindels or Comby would run for Prez. Comby fared better in Wednesday’s debate, showing a thorough understanding of inter-college welfare differences, and clearly having benefited from her experience with the current welfare team.

Auntie predicts: COMBY, but potentially too close to call.

NUS Delegates: Yawn, squawk. Does anyone really care? Predicatably, Osborn, Hill and Bangham have all applied. But the outsiders are deeply weird. “Fred” makes up for his lack of a surname with some pretty shapes and colours, and lots of sans serif fonts. Meanwhile, James’ White’s zero-effort manifesto has to be seen to be believed. “I am Classics fresher”, he begins, before explaning “I want to pay an especial interest in the zones.” I’m sure the zones are grateful. He’s not a totalitarian, though. Nobly, he explains “I want to represent other’s opinions, as well as my own.” Actually, that last bit’s not so weird, given that the BANGHAM claims to be “standing for everyone, not just those who voted for me.” The message seems to be – “don’t vote for me, as it won’t help.” At least the BANGHAM is honest.

Auntie predicts: The usual suspects.

University Council: Again, yawn. Despite Auntie having slagged off Ros Old in the past, she’s actually been pretty good at her job. On Monday, she tore apart rival candidate Vincent Scully. No-one’s quite sure if Scully’s candidacy is a joke, or meant in earnest. Not even Scully.

Auntie predicts: A graceful post-Prez career for ROS OLD.

The views of Auntie the TCS Eagle of Truth & Justice – are not those of The Cambridge Student, CUSU, Cambridge University, or anybody else at all. The Cambridge Student cannot guarantee that Auntie’s comments are reliable, informed, or even correctly spelt. Please don’t try to sue Auntie. Auntie doesn’t have pockets, let alone money to fill them with. Auntie is a stuffed toy bird. Squawk!