Ukrainian Albino Tortoise: my Cambridge Union manifesto

Harry Goodwin 11 March 2021
Image Credits: Creative Commons

It’s that special time of year when strangers keep texting me to request my vote for their CUSU or Cambridge Union candidacy. I mean, fair play to them. As far as unsolicited messages go, they’re an improvement on ‘Hello am Ukrainian looking for sexy sex’ and ‘Your recent article contains a number of misleading claims’. But I can’t quite get on board with the caucus-race.

Maybe it’s the way the candidates earnestly express their hope that I’m ‘doing well’, as if it’s common knowledge that I’ve been helicoptered to an Austrian detox clinic. (I haven’t, yet.) Cambridge being Cambridge, I’m obliged to reply that I’m ‘doing my best to keep sane’, that I hope they’re also ‘doing well’ and that I wish them good luck with their campaign – each successive lie slipping oh-so-sweetly off my tongue. It’s anyone’s guess whether people actually believe in this   therapeutic love-bombing routine or whether I’m just a special kind of jerk.

A point in my favour: if I was the fully-leaded life-hating bastard I aspire to be, then I would curtly inform them that I’m not a member of the Cambridge Union, for the simple reason that I’m an incurious cheapskate. So here’s a proposal for ‘how to make the Union even better’, seeing as you’re asking: if you expect me to sit through an hour of Joe Wicks’ shower thoughts about early-years education, it should really be you paying me 150 quid.

To be fair to the Unionist paramilitaries, I’m grateful for their efforts to defend the universal right to spout obnoxious bilge in public – not that I’d ever exercise it myself. The Cambridge SU is another matter. Now, for a TCS writer to make fun of our good-humoured CUSU officers-elect would be like a Sun editorial comparing Rupert Murdoch to an albino tortoise who’s lost his shell. So no, I won’t make fun of their Lego-minifigure haircuts, their pubey colourless beards, their North Korean electoral mandates or their Tooper-scooper genuflections. He who biteth the hand that feeds can expect to get slapped in the comments section.

After all, CUSU elections are consistently transparent, competitive and fair. Like German humour, they are no laughing matter. But I can’t help feeling that what both CUSU and the Cambridge Union really need is… me. In the five terms I’ve spent at Cambridge, I’ve never ceased to be amazed by my commitment, dedication, competence, kindness, vision, work ethic, passion and humility. I also have a lot of drive: Google, four-wheel, USB. (Once you’ve passed that sick-bag of yours, observe how I have the requisite corniness to write a CUSU acceptance speech.) I even have a bit of ‘resolve’, though I can’t decide what that actually means.

I’m so grateful for my endorsement: my supply of Cambridge Union verbal lube is bottomless, and I rank alongside Jane Austen wallflowers and Mossad alumni as one of the very few human beings possessing the capability to use the word ‘capability’ with a straight face. I’m more diligent than a Ukrainian looking for sexy sex. In fact, I should run everything. I picture myself as a contrarian wit but I’m really just a lonely drunk who’s scared of girls – which makes me perfectly suited to chair CUCA. But I also love Sir Keir Starmer QC and the Duchess of Sussex, so am well-placed to lead the Labour Club’s fight for equality. I would say something rude about the Lib Dems for the sake of impartiality, but they’re used to being ignored by the media.

Don’t think for a moment that I’m a bland consensus candidate. For starters, most Union hacks publish their ‘policy posts’ and circle-jerk endorsements with midlife-crisis fonts and a background colour taken from Farrow and Ball’s swollen-prostate range. I’d shake things up. Taking inspiration from Ling’s Cars, I’d give my manifesto the same pointless headache-inducing clunkiness as the TCS website. Which reminds me: as a regular TCS contributor, I’m used to sharing my cranky tosspot opinions with an audience of zero – so who better to organise the Rent Strike?

When all’s said and done, my mastery of every detail and demand of Cambridge life could give rise to complaints that I’m a stuck-up ponce who won’t last a second in the real world. (I’m only quoting my parents.) To be sure, I have little knowledge of the world beyond Trumpington Street. If there’s one Cambridge job I’m not qualified to do, it’s editing the Travel section of TCS.