The Mile End Hustings are very much the climax to the season of bullshit; in that it’s uncomfortably placed either side of the Whitechapel Hustings’ foreplay, and the Drapers Results Party’s post-coital regret. Secondly, in that it’s all downhill from here.
Last night was our final chance to scrutinise the candidates on the rubbish they’ve been plastering all over trees, coffee shop windows, and Facebook feeds. But, for the candidates, the next couple of days represents the final hurdle before polls close on Thursday.
With that, a strong crowd gathered for the Mile End Hustings for a 6:30pm start time – or was that a 7pm start time? Um. Well, it was meant to start at 6:30pm, but it was pushed back to 6pm at the last minute after the students’ union rather spectacularly cocked up the room booking for the second time in five days.
Fortunately the Deities that be, over at the NUS, answered our prayers and sent forth a hustings chair with charm, wit, and political competence in the form of Raechel Mattey, who only made one RON joke. This minor miracle was the only blessing we were to receive, however, as the rest of the night’s proceedings involved a series of nonsense policies, hacky soundbites, and unforgivably mind-exploding bouts of whooping.
The minor Mile End positions began with a series of what passes for speeches these days. Those who impressed, included Matt Mahmoudi (HSS Rep), Sam Miles (Postgraduate Rep), and Evelina Gocheva (International Rep). The first slate-on-slate battle for the position of Societies Officer; Bruno Cooke (Maverick) versus Stella Tsantekidou (Uni ON); saw the latter edging it with an impressively rehearsed and coherent opening speech.
The contest was followed by the three Sports Officer contenders; Colan Chin (Maverick), Nuran Ozyurt (Uni ON), and Jack ‘the lad’ Hansford (Wearer of Shorts). Yes, the debate was dominated with comments about Jack’s suspicious attire; overly dressing himself in sporting gear as if to perpetuate the image that he was somehow involved with sports, as if standing for the role of ‘Sports Officer’ was not evidence enough. While the audience was more preoccupied with Jack’s exceedingly tight rowing shorts as opposed to his policies, the two competing slatists left the playing field on level terms.
They were followed by the uncontested Jacq Bridge (Maverick candidate for Welfare Rep) who delivered some cracking answers to questions about vegetarian food options, while the the two competing Women’s Officer candidates; Ellen Tansey (Unity), and Nell Burnham; raised a very high standard of debate. This wasn’t helped, of course, by stupid questions like ‘Why do we need a women’s officer?’ which were rightly blocked by the Hustings Chair.
Next up, two animatronic medicalistst took to the floor to explain how they won’t cut food prices next year. While Takashi, dressed like Men in Black reject, spoke at length about students’ union bye-laws (serving as a sort of trigger to which the crowd instantly melted), Ashton explained why he didn’t have a plan, recited the same policies which surfaced last year, and the year before.
And as the Student Council Chair segment came and went (not without some choice comments from the only present candidate, Samer Haque) the NUS Delegates free-for-all saw eight conference junkies step forwards, with the intention to prove why they weren’t “bullshit politician wannabe hacks.”
Yes, most of the “debate” was based, as you would expect, on obscenely ambitious ideals and self-gratification, so much so that declaring “I am not in Labour students” became a regular necessity before the candidates were allowed to say anything else. Nevertheless, the strongest speakers, again, were Katarina Nordanger and Ozzy Amir, followed by Ellen Tansley, and Sam Doherty – with Sam Playle (looking out for postgraduate students) knocking closely behind.
The Trustee segment was brief, again, as no questions were allowed – but was not without incident. Easily excitable Nathan Feldman screamed into the microphone with a stunning passion, misplaced, considering he’s competing to sit at a boardroom table while non-students make all the important decisions. Ali was flawless with his sales pitch, showcasing his experience, while Nathan definitely seemed most enthusiastic.
But the debate kick-started into life when VP Welfare candidate Sam Doherty unshackled himself from the ‘moderate Maverick’ public image he had been pushing all season, launching a full-on assault on rival Kayah Abdulmajed and rival slate Uni ON. The resurgent militant used his opening minute to criticise Kayah on her “ill-thought” kettle policy, and attacked Uni ON for stealing his own.
This set the tone for the rest of the debate, with topics ranging from Megan’s question about heteronormativity in the Mum’s & Dad’s scheme (or, Mummies and Daddies), to Mashalle’s bizarre ‘cops on campus’ policy, to the “underused” advice and counselling service.
Frances emerged the most eloquent, raising a number of important issues like the ‘Who Cares?’ campaign; while a few of her rivals jumped onto the Mum’s & Dad’s bandwagon. Mashalle, meanwhile, came out looking worse than when she entered, largely down to the fact she hadn’t given any real thought to any of her policies, and ended up awkwardly parroting back her manifesto.
They eventually gave way for the three VP Education hopefuls (Hassan, once more, was a no-show), as questions were asked about supporting the strikes, and the non-feasibility of library opening hours (according to evidence from the State of the Union address). Sarah Power re-iterated how she would focus on library resources, while both Saiam and Carolina failed to answer my library question; the former repeating the same vague pledge to extend hours, while the latter spoke about the unrelated space audit, which she somehow remembered this time around.
Similarly, neither Carolina nor Saiam conveyed an understanding of what the strike dispute was about, feigning support, and failing to understand how these disputes are even organised. Carolina spoke well at times but seemed muddled. And while Saiam had a certain energy about him, his students’ union inexperience cost him over his competitors. Power (despite fumbling on Saiam’s question about QReview) won the favour of the Hustings crowd for the second time, leaving the floor to a rendition of “Power, Power, Power.”
The debate for the position of VP Barts & The London was once again dominated by an electric opening speech by the master of puns, Daniel Ong, who began his minute with an apology for offending any of the candidates in his previous public appearance. Although making a few solid points, his opposition numbers Sam Rowels, and Claire Morris, both impressed. But Claire cited her previous experience in the students’ union as a point which differentiates her from the competition, showing her to be more understand than Sam “I’m president of the boat club” Rowles.
LIVEBLOG | RELIVE THE BULLSHIT AS IT HAPPENED
Finally, the presidential candidates broke past the second row ice barrier (as it was known) to take their starting positions at the front. Wanda was the most impressive during the early stages, effortlessly rattling off statistics and advocating her campus safety policy. Dola, on the other hand, though falling back onto his naturally bright personality on Thursday, crumbled beneath the spotlight, exposing his political frailties time and again – especially when pressed on his promise to bring costs down.
The debate lasted for more than half an hour, with such questions as transparency, cost of food, and strike support being voiced. Wanda and Ozzy were the only candidates to have shown any sort of understanding on the recent strikes, while their competition either feigned support or did not fully understand. Similarly, not one candidate was able to answer in full as to how food prices are determined and how exactly they would plan to reduce them. Ozzy came closest by mentioning the Commercial Services Committee, while the others fannied about with ‘markup,’ suggesting average students had some sort of say on pricing.
Sam, the most charismatic man in the room, finished the debate with the most scathing question of the entire campaign: ‘How do we know you are not just careerists, looking to springboard onto another job,” (or words to that effect), which most of the candidates did well to avoid. Courtney came across very well, using her ‘newcomer’ status as proof she wasn’t careerist, as did Ozzy, who cited his devotion to public service, and how he had been previously disengagement.
With that, we were told to go away with the news that 1,136 people had already voted, breaking 2012/13’s day one record, which could only be good news. Right?
Man of the match | Ozzy Amir (Maverick)
Though Frances Larke and Wanda Canton impressed with well-researched and meaningful policies, Ozzy was given a hard examination; many questions suspiciously specific (such as a questions on the student council sabbatical voting controversy); but the candidate delivered coherent answers at every hurdle. He ultimately fought his corner when scrutinised on both his motives, and his policies, keeping his cool in both debates.
Dick of the day | Mashalle Asim
The candidate for VP Welfare squandered her opportunity to impress tonight, after missing the first round of questioning in Whitechapel. Vague answers, and an over-reliance on reciting wishy-washy lines from her manifesto allowed her competitors to exploit gaps in her logic, and criticise her rationale. This rang especially true with her questionable (at best) policy to start police patrols on campus.
Most memorable moment | Lauren Cantillon fixing ‘library hours’
‘Extending library opening hours’ has become a total elections lie. Some candidates seem to think they would could perform this miracle despite Simon Gaskell ruling out any additional funding for this during the State of the Union address. While two of the three VP Education candidates tried to ‘wing it – Lauren announced a volunteering system (offering work experience placements) in order to make extending hours feasible.
Best Tweeter | @PresidentQMSU
The incumbent students’ union president Sarah Sarwar, consumed with contempt, took it upon herself to abandon the shackles of her role as the ‘voice of the union’; freely satirising and scrutinising the candidates in a refreshingly critical manner. From puns, to one-liners, to ‘Open Union’ callbacks, Sarah’s tweets drew the most laughs – and her analysis was spot on.
Best Quote | Sam Doherty (Maverick)
“I don’t want to stand here and mug you off, spouting ill-thought out policies about kettles. Empty populism is not my cup of tea.”
Sam Doherty, Maverick candidate for VP Welfare/NUS Delegate
During the VP Welfare debate
Alternative Sound Bites
“They’re all conference junkies,”
Issy Leach, serial tweeter, on the NUS delegates
“I am not in Labour students. I am more left than that”
Sam Doherty, Maverick candidate for VP Welfare/NUS Delegates
“If I can control a group of hockey players, I can run the students union.”
Sarah Power, Maverick candidate for VP Education
“Have you heard about hot potato? Or is it just another half-baked idea.”
Daniel Ong, candidate for VP Barts & The London
“I love free speech. God bless America.”
Courtney Cross, Act Now candidate for President
“I used to be disengaged. Then I voted Lib Dems. And I got pissed off.”
Ozzy Amir, Maverick candidate for President/NUS Delegate
This was the final chance for the electorate to question the candidates. Voting is now well under way. Best of luck to all the candidates. Coming soon: How to run a dirty campaign, the best and worst of elections promotion, and more ahead of the results on Thursday night.