Flavour of the month…

22 02 2008

So, we are at that time of year again. The constant heckling by people who really, really, really want me to vote for them, or their chosen candidates in the Guild’s oh-so-great elections. Buoyed by the recent surprising success, those in the Guild will, maybe justifiably think that this year representation of the voters in the elections will be at an all time high. Without wishing to burst any bubbles, I’m inclined to disagree. These elections are so much different to the previous vote. Then there was a simple yes or no (or abstain, but only a comparative handful of people chose this route).

Now there is selection. And this is a huge problem. No longer have you got every member of the guild campaigning for their political futures. Instead you have a contest. And their challenge is to attract voters with their (not so) witty slogans as well as a colourful poster and maybe, if you are lucky, some form of policy. And there are, at least for the bigger roles, a few different candidates.

Asking people to make a decision based on policy is something much harder than asking them to save something I believe. The people of the university have shown themselves to be apathetic time and again, and the one anomalous result was the last vote. I think (but am willing to be corrected) there are about 28-29000 students at UoB. Those in the Guild celebrated like it was 1999 when they achieved over 10% of the students turning up to vote. There were 4010 votes cast for the referendum. That’s (according to Redbrick figures and my maths) just about 14% of the population.

Great.

I cannot see them matching that again. Which is why I agree in part with this article. But only in part. I agree that students are a-political. And I agree that it is nice to see refreshing policy politics take the stage rather than party politics which so frequently dogs our systems. However, I’m not so sure that this apathy can constitute a jump to being “not that radical”.

To me that is like saying that the tribes of the Amazon dislike football. How do you know? Has anyone asked them? I very much doubt it. The argument that those who are ‘radical’ (this term is something which gets thrown around too much) would have made themselves heard already is something which I do not buy into. Put simply I believe that those whose political outlook is ‘radical’ are afraid. They are afraid of being typecast by ignorant members of the higher authorities.

“Oh you have a view which is similar to the BNP’s? You must therefore want to eradicate everybody who isn’t white, and gas all the jews…We aren’t going to let you do this, we will stamp you down first!” (disclaimer: I do not condone the BNP and it’s racial policies at all).

These higher authorities came out in force last night to watch the public debate. About free speech. I won’t enter this argument again, but will note that common sense won. The higher authorities are dead set against people who hold radical views. I maintain that whilst there is ‘too extreme’, someone with a slightly more radical view prevents our increasingly centre-ist society from becoming sterile. Boring. Personality based. Radicalism is a good thing in society in general.

Having completely wandered from my initial thinking, I will make a swift return to the point. For the next few weeks I am expecting invites to 2oo or so different facebook groups. I am expecting to be given a small rainforest of paper explaining why it is so simple to vote for x or y, and I really should do it. I am expecting student politics to suddenly become the most important thing in the world, and I am expecting hardly anybody will care.

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