Johnston and Banwait debate nature of democracy at VP FEDS Hustings

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The hust for Vice-President (Finance, Events, Democracy and Societies) was fought out between the Union’s former Council Chair, Sandeep Banwait and Andrew Johnston, former President of County College JCR.

Banwait, a History student also from County, was first to put his case forward to the 70 or so people inside Minor Hall. Focusing mainly on the areas of finance and democracy, Banwait pointed to his time spent as General Secretary of County JCR as evidence that “from day one I can do the job”.

Johnston, who made the point at the start of his hust that he would not be reciting the 47 reason to vote for him, as seen on his posters, instead focused first on student participation within the Union. He pointed to the fact that simply through buying a purple card, students are “participating in the Union with paying attention to the fact that they actually do.”

For the most part the candidates took differing stances on the four sections which make up the VP (FEDS) remit. However on the subject of democracy both agreed that the way forward for the Union was through e-voting.

Banwait claimed: “Elections are the heart of this democracy.” He said it was time the Union began “utilising technologies that people understand”. He did not question whether the Union would move to e-voting, but said that instead the question was the Union would adapt the system to college elections.

Johnston, who studies International Relations and Strategic Studies, was also of the opinion that e-voting will be a “positive impact on the [Union’s] election process”. He proposal however focused the need for a trail run first, to ensure that the system was effective. If it was found to be so, Johnston would like to see it go “hand in hand” with a number of other electoral reviews.

On the subject of finance, Banwait’s argument was that as students have a stake in their Union they, “deserve to see the rewards”. Further, he spoke about how a successful Union can make a difference in the lives of students and therefore invest in LUSU was essential. Although he didn’t elaborate on any policy points as to how this investment in LUSU could be made, Banwait did day that he would make sure JCRs received “first class” financial training so that they could maximise their resources.

As each candidate was allowed to hust for five minutes, Banwait’s time was called before he had fully stated out his views on societies. All he had time to say was: “societies are the bedrock of this union.” He made no mention of events.

Johnston conversely talked of societies as being an “escape from academia” and an inspiration for individual students. He said that his “number one priority” would be to safe guard the opportunities societies provide students. This “safe guarding” extended to the issue of society space, something with Johnston felt “the Union must act on and act quickly”.

He also spoke of having more “practical” purplecard promotions, such as free pens and pencils in Weeks 1 & 2. He also promised to ensure that the Sugarhouse will “continue to provide something for everyone at a competitive price”.

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