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Democracy on campus has been altered, and many of us will never know. The changes were simple – firstly that candidates may now run as a group instead of individuals and that incumbent officers at any level of LUSU may now actively campaign on behalf of those running in elections.
To allow candidates to run as groups is in direct conflict with the very central philosophies of elections on campus, that each and every candidate be judged solely on their own merit and ability, instead of their perceived popularity or because of support from college teams. Running as a group confers a huge advantage over those campaigning as individuals; let’s say 3 candidates decide to run together, this means that they can, as a unit, go on 3 times as many block runs, hand out three times as many leaflets and put up 3 times as many posters. Furthermore, they could further stack the odds by dividing costs between the three campaigns, thus allowing for even more coverage compared to other candidates. The debate in the council sessions seemed to revolve around two key arguments, firstly that it is impossible to enforce the current rule effectively, and therefore it should be removed. Furthermore, using statistics derived from a study conducted by the NUS, they suggested that running as a set confers no advantage. Yet both of these opinions are completely unfounded. Surely our time would be better spent debating more effective and creative ways of policing such issues instead of opening the flood gates entirely. As for the debate as to whether or not running as a group is effective, although persuasive, it presented one key inconsistency. The opposition spent almost the entirety of the debate playing down the effectiveness of group campaigning, yet if this were true, then why were they so desperate to see this change enacted? Once again the belief that running as a trio as opposed to a lone candidate has nothing but a negative impact on your campaign flies in the face of common sense.
As for current LUSU officers being able to campaign on behalf of incoming candidates, very little needs to be said about the advantage this would provide to those having support from, let’s say, the president of the students union. Though many of the current officers attempted to downplay their influence, for many voters, just being able to recognise a candidate on the ballot may play a role in who they vote for, and such endorsements as this would only fuel this superficial method of voting. Many argued that this amendment should be passed on the back of protecting free speech, but if that were true, then why not stop at allowing officers to say who they support only, instead of adding the clause that they too may actively campaign alongside them, including handing out posters, talking to voters and even appearing on block runs. Furthermore, another clause was added which meant that all of the new rules were enforced at the discretion of the elections sub-committee. This means that the very people to whom this by-law effects also get to decide its parameters and how beneficial it could be to their campaigns. We can no longer call our elections free or fair.