Nothing typifies ‘the season of bullshit’ more so than the Red Bull-fuelled soundbite-centric extravaganzas known as the Hustings, or as QMSU would rather label them (in a hopeless attempt to strip away the Jeremy Kyle connotations), the Candidates Debates.
Deep within the Barts heartland an array of nervous candidates, soulless Union hacks, and student reporters braved the journey across the great Whitechapel chasm to reach the Perrin lecture theatre. I say an array. A more realistic approximation would be one along the lines of the small group of wannabe activists who fannied about outside Vince Cable’s office last October.
The evening was hosted by NUS Society & Citizenship Sabb Dom Anderson, from Derby – a sort of political sponge with the mannerisms of a failed David Dimbleby impersonator. Watching Dom Anderson chair a debate was like watching a goldfish flounder in a pool of hydrochloric acid. When he wasn’t making “you in the chequered shirt” like attempts to engage the audience, he fell back to a comic routine so cringe worthy it made Phil Gilks’ effort at the Candidates Meeting look like a Russell Howard Wembley sell-out.
HIGHLIGHTS | WHITECHAPEL HUSTINGS STORIFIED
This was made worse by the Students’ Union’s eagerness to interfere with the questioning – mercilessly butchering the only biting questions; wrapping up the remains with red tape, all for the sake of the “student staff protocol” – a piece of legislation crafted by the most diabolical of antagonist soul-sucking lawyers.
The early moments were dominated with candidates running for minor Whitechapel positions, until a group of wannabe NUS Delegates were called upon make their cases as to why they’d be the best person to faff about at the upcoming NUS conference, fooling themselves into believing their presence in Liverpool would make any sort of impact on nationwide issues whatsoever.
The strongest speaker was Katarina Nordanger, the current VP Welfare, closely followed by union veterans Ellen Tansey, Ozzy Amir and Sam Doherty. But, as you’d expect, the “debate” was largely occupied with a bizarre series of exchanges centred on blind world-changing ideals.
This was sent crashing down when Ozzy Amir scathingly suggesting the NUS was run by “bullshit politician wannabe hacks,” unashamedly reflecting a London-wide consensus. Dicky Dom from Derby adopted a rather sheepish demeanour as he stood by twiddling his thumbs in Ozzy’s periphery.
Following a brief and pointless segment involving student trustees (questions weren’t allowed due to reasons of bullshittery) a huge sigh of relief was sounded from the steadily bolstering crowd – (many people were late, and yes, it was probably something to do with this) – as the Sabbatical candidates were finally summoned – starting with VP Welfare.
LIVEBLOG | RELIVE THE BULLSHIT AS IT HAPPENED
Queen Mary’s ‘Man of Destiny’ Sam Doherty was joined on the floor by pseudo-Australian Megan Morrison-Sloan, Hail Mary stage-occupier Kayah Abulmajed, and superhero impersonator Francis Larke. Mashalle Asim, who’s slowly being consumed by her hair, was a no-show.
But disaster struck. The SU failed to book the Perrin Lecture Theatre beyond 9pm, and as it was nearing 8:45, a scouting team was dispatched to hunt for a nearby lecture hall. Meanwhile Dicky Dom was having an existential crisis; internally debating whether or not he would allow any further questioning.
The candidates themselves seemed experts on spouting all manners of political fluff without saying anything meaningful. Housing, community spirit, housing, representation, and housing, were the primary talking points. Although Kayah spoke well to promote sports and societies to boost student engagement (highlighting her own experience), not a single candidate touched upon how they could better integrate commuting students, as Jade excellently pointed out.
Otherwise, Frances advocated better organisation of events (desperately needed) and an expansion the Mum’s and Dad’s scheme (although the ground work for this is already being laid out by the current VP Welfare). Issues on housing, the focus of Megan’s segment, were lost to the realm of blind idealism. But Sam Doherty offered the most pragmatic solution, reiterating plans to form a blacklist of untrusted landlords.
After the Q&A, proceedings were brought to a halt, and the crowd made a move. But not without some difficulty.
CRISIS. I AM LOST. #qmelections
— Keumars Afifi-Sabet (@Keumars) February 27, 2014
Next up were the VP Education candidates, including blackboard-artist Saiam Ahmed, part-time FBI agent Sarah Power, and person-who-I-don’t-know-enough-about-to-make-a-joke Carolina Mantzalos. The one absentee was Hassan Rashied, whose bizarre manifesto looked like it was put together by an inebriated four-year-old on a bad LSD trip.
While there was no clear winner among the previous set of candidates, Sarah Power emerged from the battle atop the savaged bodies of her competitors, clutching their decapitated heads in either hand. The QMessenger Editor spoke with the sort of straight-talking gusto you’d expect from a winning candidate (as premature as the idea sounds) winning over the crowd in the process.
Not before long, the five presidential heavy weights were summoned to the front: Ozzy Amir, Dola Osilaja, Wanda Canton, Courtney Cross, and Samuel Adu-gyamfi.
When it came to representing the the medical & dental students, most whittled off some vague form of political fluff as if they’d even fleetingly entertained the thought of representing Barts students for more than five seconds. But the two most astute were Sam, a biomedical sciences final year, and Barts’ favourite Ozzy, who bluntly told the audience to “no confidence [him]” if he ever “[pulled] a Nick Clegg” over promises not to interfere with Whitechapel.
Unfortunately, by this stage, the spreading hunger, and the impromptu venue change saw the debate descend into scenes such as these below…
…made worse by a small contingent of incessantly irritating Uni ON supporters who emitted a painful whooping every time one of their candidates bleated anything remotely populist.
Food and drink, saw smooth-talker Sam pledge to conduct a financial audit (something which has very much been done), hardcore punster Dola promise to ease the financial burden by encouraging clubs & societies to hold their socials on campus (which would seem almost unworkable) and quick-talking Ozzy to introduce a campus watchdog (unclear how this would affect the existing Commercial Services Committee).
Although Courtney, well-wishing newcomer, made a sterling effort; the strongest players were the two most experienced. Wanda Canton. who answered impressively throughout, and Ozzy, who gave with the strongest message on Barts. Dola, though eloquent on the subject ‘community’ proved he had the political awareness of a turnip; on one occasion declaring that he “[doesn’t] do politics” as something worth boasting about at a political debate, and on another advocating for cutting food & drink prices while pledging to install microwaves and kettles (which would arguably raise prices).
If you think about presidential debate as the main course, the VP Barts & The London debate was very much the desert; with the crowd being was treated to the one of the most unforgettable moments in QM Elections history. The enigmatic Daniel Ong, who wore a mask for most of the night, delivered the most elaborately bizarre opening speech of the night, declaring himself as “the joker of the pack.” He was joined by perpetually surprised thumb-twiddler Claire Morris, and animatronic artificial intelligence Sam Rowles.
Issues centred on the integration of the Life Sciences Institute, maintaining the Barts identity, the Griff Inn, and whatever vague satirical point Daniel was making whenever he was called upon to speak, (though to his credit he ended up the only candidate of the night to make a point about commuting students (he himself sharing he had to commute from Wembley), albeit in a sort of roundabout way).
Man of the match | Sarah Power (Maverick)
The candidate for VP Education made the biggest impact of the night, winning over the crowd and “wiping the floor with her opposition” according to one spectator. Although up against the artistic/rhyming force of Saiam, and the Carolina, Sarah’s policies were well articulated, and most importantly, were realistic and made sense.
Dick of the day | Dicky Dom from Derby, NUS Rep and Hustings Chair
The title would have been handed to Sam Playle (Unity) for his “ULU is probably closing” gaffe, if not for the antics of Hustings Chair Dom Anderson — maker of jokes, entertainer of nobody – whose comic routine was more embarrassing than George Osborne’s Olympics speech. His eagerness to interfere with, and rephrase questions, almost led to a Ryan Air-esque mutiny.
Most memorable moment | Daniel Ong’s opening speech
Arguably the greatest moment thus far during the season of bullshit, Daniel Ong stunned the audience with a roundabout speech so outlandish that absent live blog followers would be forgiven for thinking we had made first contact. The satirical wit was refreshing, if not borderline terrifying, as Daniel made a clear point about the twattishness of student politicians.
Best Tweeter | @QMessenger
Though there were some amusing contenders, namely VPBL candidate Daniel Ong, and Cub Editor Lauren Cantilon, the QMSU student newspaper delivered the most informative account of the evening’s proceedings by far. QMessenger persisted through the swathes of dross to report the facts, and the quotes, as and when they happened.
Best Quote | Ozzy Amir (Maverick)
The NUS is run by “bullshit politician wannabe hacks.”
Ozzy Amir, Maverick candidate for President/NUS Delegate.
During the NUS Delegates debate.
Alternative Sound Bites
“He’s like a less good Paddy McGuinness, if that’s even possible.”
Eleanor Doughty, on the hustings chair.
“I’ve got that power in education.”
Sarah Power, Maverick candidate for VP Education.
“I am not a politician. I don’t do politics.”
Dola, Uni ON candidate for President.
“How do you know I won’t screw over Barts? No confidence me. That’s how our democracy works.”
Ozzy Amir, Maverick candidate for President/NUS Delegate.
“I like to see myself as the joker of the pack.”
Daniel Ong, candidate for VP Barts & The London.
Coming soon, the definitive candidates’ breakdown by position, a Screenburn-like review of the numerous and mostly terrible campaign videos, and perhaps one or two other bits over the next two or three days.
Live coverage of the Mile End Hustings, Monday 3 March, 6:30pm will be provided on keumars.com.