Breaking down the slates

qm elections banner 1Slates

Awkward puns, cheesy mugshots, and a catastrophic failure to exhibit anything amounting to basic design skills are all symptomatic of the burgeoning political infection spreading across campus; into every crack, crevice and letterbox.

Slates comprise seemingly like-minded students who band together to promote one unified, positive public image. These bandings also serve a convenient form of distraction, allowing candidates to push up a barrier of superficiality between the voter, and the policy (or lack thereof). These groups may seem completely different. But underneath the painful design, nonsensical buzzwords, and slogan abuse, slates tend to regurgitate minor variations of the exact same notion.

“The students’ union is broken. But we can change things. And we know how to.”

And who can fault their optimism? Slate-based student politicians brim with a bizarre form of perpetual bliss only achieved by securing a free-flowing supply of morphine to the cephalic vein. And, such is the strength of the PR effort, and the sickening quality of team spirit on show, you would be forgiven for believing these ‘slatemates’ are willing to take a bullet for one another – a hypothesis I haven’t ruled out testing.

So how would you differentiate between our five competing propaganda machines? Hopefully the following guide, in which I mostly ignore policy to somewhat hypocritically pass judgement on superficiality, may go some way towards helping.

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MAVERICK 2Propaganda: Website | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube

MAVER!CK, as it was known in 2013 (now pronounced without shouting), has ditched its exclamation mark and with it its militaristic overtones – presumably in a bid to appeal to the moderate voter. Though, having said that, their emblem does seem to allude to some form of fighter jet imagery, so I wouldn’t yet rule out Amir & Co storming the SU, wielding kalashnikovs, shoving their democracy in our faces whether we’d like it or not.

Maverick’s PR effort is extensive. Aside from the airbrushed one-sheet manifestos, they’ve built a dedicated website, printed T-shirts, ticked the conventional social media boxes, and are in the process of putting together a campaign video. Though this comes at the expense of making a late start (by two days) to real face-to-face campaigning.

Policy-wise they plan to “[take] our union to the next level” presumably in the same way you’d imagine a group of suicide cultists would go about trying to reach a sort of ‘spiritual transcendence’ conventionally attained by consuming vast quantities of hardcore hallucinogenic substances.

Yes, Maverick’s core principal is centred on instigating a democratic overhaul as to how the students’ union fundamentally runs, with its eight members concurrently developing their own custom-tailored policies underneath this single theme. While such sky-high ideals may seem optimistic, the vast and varied collective experience amongst the candidates suggests they have too developed a rare sense of pragmatism to match.

Candidates: Osamah ‘Ozzy’ Amir (President/NUS Delegate), Sarah Power (VP Education), Sam Doherty (VP Welfare/NUS Delegate), Emmeline Wilcox (Student Trustee), Ben Gray (Student Trustee/NUS Delegate), Jacquetta ‘Jacq’ Bridge (Welfare Rep), Bruno Cooke (Societies Officer), Colan Chin (Sports Officer)

In one word: Maverick don’t play by the rules.
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UniON

Propaganda: TumblrTwitter | Facebook | YouTube

One for the diehard punsters, UniON, centres its “keeping the union switched ON” mantra entirely upon the naive assumption that the students’ union was ever switched on in the first place. Unlike ordinary light switches, or bulbs, however the students’ union…

I’m not really sure what to say and I suppose this is where the analogy sort of breaks down… it makes you wonder to what extent exactly they’ve actually thought through their own metaphor?

If you ignore the clip art logo and bemusing slogan, you’ll find that Uni ON (it’s more fun if you pronounce it as two separate words) casts its focus on building a community spirit at the university via sports, societies, and volunteering. This includes trying to expand funding, streamlining the room booking system, and minimising the bureaucracy. Also volunteering. And sports.

Uni ON’s strengths lie in the fact its members do have a real understanding of what it means to be part of a community (most seem to have had experience in and around sports & societies), while their main weaknesses lie in their relative political naivety. While QM Sport is certainly a point of expertise, the slate doesn’t appear to have the required understanding to make the same sort of worthwhile change across the board.

Some of their policies are promising – standardising submission rules across departments for instance – while others aren’t so inspired – such as using monthly clusterfuck Hail Mary, three degrees short of a drunken orgy, to promote “inclusion”. I suppose orgies are, by their very nature, inclusive…

Candidates: Oyedola ‘Dola’ Osilaja (President), Carolina Mantzalos (VP Education), Rokayah ‘Kayah’ Abulmajed (VP Welfare), Mika Schroder (Student Trustee), Matt Mahmoudi (Humanities & Social Science Rep), Imran Hussain (Science & Engineering Rep), Stella Tsantekidou (Societies Officer), Nuran Ozyurt (Sports Officer)

In one word: Community.
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Your Union

Propaganda: Absolutely sod all*

There’s an art in playing ‘hard to get’. Employing this strategy in the middle of an elections campaign, if you’re on a hopeless slate desperate to claw as many votes as you can, isn’t really the smartest time or place.

Such is Your Union’s anonymity, the only logical assumption I can make is that its members are participating in making a vague, ironic and rather elaborate political statement; perhaps subtly indicating that the only road to success lies with selling yourself out like you’re some sort of faulty product without a warranty.

If, however, the above isn’t true (which is most likely the case) then it seems – and I could be wrong – that neglecting to release anything is more a move along the lines of committing political suicide.

I mean, I could write some fluff about how these minor interest candidates will absolutely endeavour to improve the conditions for the particular subsection of the students’ union they’re individually campaigning to represent. But that would be more or less pointless considering they haven’t really released any material for me to parrot back to you.

Candidates: Sarah Anderson (Science & Engineering Rep), Genevieve ‘Genna’ King (LGBT Rep), Simone Lopes Pereira (Multi-cultural Rep), Sean Richardson (NUS Delegate), Elle Daintree (NUS Delegate)

In one word: Er…

*Corrections: Sean Richardson and Elle Daintree have been added. They had not been included in the first edit. Slate members that have pulled out have been removed. Your Union also has a Facebook group, which can be found here
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UNITY

Propaganda: Facebook | YouTube

Orange is the new black – some (most notably former prison-dweller Piper Kerman) say with a sense of marginal irony that seems to have completely flown over Unity’s head. In reality, orange remains the most blindingly offensive colour found on the spectrum. So it’s just as well they’ve decided to lather themselves in it.

The name itself also rings alarm bells. Calling yourself ‘Unity’ and painting yourself like the sun comes across a bit overcompensatory. They had might as well be hanging big, bright neon signs over their heads saying “vote for us we’re all mates” as if the electorate wouldn’t have already assumed they were mates by the fact they formed a slate together. It raises a question as to why they felt the need to stress they’re so united in the first place?

By now I’ve dedicated two paragraphs to digging into these five people I’ve barely met – so let’s focus on the policy! And to its credit, Unity’s candidates also have a good level of experience within the students’ union to get that basic understanding of how things work.

Unity prioritises building a campaigning culture on Mile End – much-needed considering this has utterly stagnated in recent years. Its members are also committed to better representing the under-represented; via further campaigning, some lobbying, and (numerous, presumably expensive) audits. But aside from student activism, and welfare, it’s difficult to establish their policy on, well, everything else.

Candidates: Wanda Canton (President), Ellen Tansey (Women’s Rep/NUS Delegate), Sam Playle (NUS Delegate), Matilda Marcilio (Disabled Students Rep), Logan Afyouni (Societies Officer)

In one word: Orange.
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Act Now

Propaganda: Um…

Act now – advice I would give to the members of Act Now. They’ve lagged behind so far in terms of releasing or publicising any sort of unified promotional material that I’ve taken it upon myself to do it for them. Yeah, it’s not great, but I’m not running in the QMSU Elections. (I’ve since been made aware Courtney and Megan’s manifestos do have a form of ‘Act Now’ branding. But I’ll be sticking to my own design because simply put, I can’t stand the extent to which they’ve overused italics). 

Act Now bases itself on “student engagement” by listening, talking and acting (NOW), but the empirical language used comes across as a bit more forceful than perhaps they’d have hoped. That said, Act Now is commendably pro-active by nature, and its members offer a number of unique policies, such as running a ‘No more page 3’ campaign, and lobbying to pay student QMSU employees the London Living Wage. 

It’s a mixed bag. While their policies and plans appear to be relatively straight-forward and achievable, the promotional effort (bar tweeting with an #ACTNOW hashtag once or twice) has been completely absent.

Oh, well, apart from… this.

If anybody understands the joke – because I think they’re trying to make one – please please please do get in touch. I have no idea what the hell this is, and I’ve been trying to figure it out for days. 

CandidatesCourtney Cross (President), Megan Morrison-Sloan (VP Welfare)

In one word: Confusing.

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This was a brief and largely irrelevant guide which contained a lot of what many may describe as “comic fluff.” A more detailed analysis of the candidates competing for sabbatical positions will be released over the weekend, as will a Screenburn-like critique of the best and the worst campaign videos. 

Meanwhile, for candidates’ eye-gouging Twitter nonsense, follow the official #QMelections hashtag. More details about real-time hustings coverage and liveblogging will become available soon. But, in essence, I will be providing real-time hustings coverage.

If you are running for a position in the QMSU Student Elections 2014, and you have been offended by any of the content you have just read… well… you shouldn’t really be running then, should you?

One thought on “Breaking down the slates

  1. Pingback: Season in Review: We can laugh about it now, right? | Keumars Afifi-Sabet

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