The fall of party power?

The University goes to the polls on Thursday, and students will decide the future of an organisation that has drawn equal amounts of applause and criticism in the last twelve months. Oxford’s wildest political animals are roaring in the pit, scratching and clawing with all the bitterness and envy that only two years of hard hacking can produce. And in this final battle for the ambitious with a social conscience, the fight to be OUSU President, only one can make it to the top.
Olivia Bailey should, if recent history is anything to go by, be strolling into the President’s office. The last three Presidents had the Labour Club machine of campaign directors and determined activists rolling behind them, and faced ineffectual opposition that never posed any real threat. But Bailey does not look or sound like a future President. Her rhetoric is empty, bland, and refuses to commit itself to any clear political position, with the exception of improving welfare, which no student could possibly object to. Without the excitement or passion necessary to win an election, and with no ideas that diverge from the orthodox Labourite policy line feeding into her ear, she is the young New Labour fogey of her generation.
Dean Robson stands as the antidote to Bailey’s vacuousness. Wearing a superhero’s cape and mask, he pitches himself as the accidental anarchist who will bring down central power and return it to the masses. Whether Robson stands a chance of winning is irrelevant (he doesn’t) but at least his looning will give us something to be merry about. He may go too far in calling for OUSU’s abolition, but his surprisingly pertinent points are likely to strike a chord with isolated voters in more independently minded colleges like Trinity and Oriel. Do not underestimate the grin: this time, Robson has policy, and he will attract more votes than the serious-minded expect.
Tom Lowe is one of the more credible candidates. No-one in the University has done more highlighting and campaigning for students on the complex issues of unfair college financing. He is genuine in his desire to make OUSU  less dominated by individuals or organised groups like the Labour Club, and is right to choose top-up fees as the most important issue facing students in the coming year. Nevertheless, he lacks the spark and media-friendly personality necessary to lead OUSU in what will inevitably be a national student fight. His most admirable political qualities – methodical diligence, a sense of reserved dignity and understanding – may also mean he seems dull and out-of-touch to the majority of students.
Lewis Iwu, however, is a charismatic and independently minded candidate. Never mind that he is regarded by some as one of Oxford’s biggest networking hacks: like Tom Lowe, he stands up for what he believes in and is explicit in what he will and won’t want to do. There is no party line that tries not to offend anyone: he is the only candidate who has strongly called for a sensible end to the no-platform policy, for a central student venue and, like Lowe, to take on increasing top-up fees. He is a figure that most students can unite behind, unlike Bailey who will inevitably grate with the majority. In a time when OUSU suffers from disillusioned criticism, Iwu seems like someone who could make the Student Union credible to the unbeliever.
Perhaps the greatest fear is that a division of votes between Lowe and Iwu will split the vote. Considering this, our staff urge students to support Iwu even though Lowe is also a good candidate, if only to prevent bland New Labour orthodoxy reaching Bonn Square again.
By Editorial Team