Cherwell

OUSU Elections: Policies and Politics

Having come under fire from all three slates for my first round of analysis, it’s time to step back and look at the policies and politics of the different slates that you can vote for in the 2013 OUSU elections.

Jane4Change

Jane4Change are the only slate to have gone with a really bold central policy. I use the word ‘bold’ because a centralised student hub hasn’t exactly been on people’s lips of late. Cahill’s manifesto talks of fostering a closer relationship with students – ‘something you can use, not just something that delivers services to you’ – but it remains to be seen whether the student body is sufficiently interested in this central policy. 

Cahill and James Blythe have also put a lot of emphasis on academic feedback, which seems to be a perennial promise that doesn’t get enacted. Ultimately, these policies require a president who will take a tough stance with the university, as well as sabbatical officers who are willing to be outspoken on their committees. Placating the points that get raised by the student barometer is probably more a matter of vote engineering than genuine policy concerns.

Jane4Change is the de facto OULC slate, though there are a number of Labour supporters on other teams. The last couple of years have seen mixed levels of success for the OULC teams: David Railton lost out to DJT’s grad campaign (which, for what is worth, was also ‘Labor’ in the Australian sense), but Tom Rutland swept to victory last year. Their politics don’t seem to particularly bleed into their policies, though their agents (Helena Dollimore, Henry Zeffman and Will Brown) will be banking on getting the OULC faithful out in numbers. That said, Jane4Change seems to be setting out as the most ‘centre’ of recent OULC campaigns.

Reclaim OUSU

Reclaim OUSU represent a fascinating departure from the standard far-left slate. For a campaign that has branded itself ‘for students, not student politicians’, the far-left campaign seems to, finally, be understanding student politics. Akehurst is a proper student politician and only sits outside of the perceived ‘OUSU elite’ because of his more radical political stance. You only need to look at the Reclaim OUSU website and its cheesily posed-for photos to realise that Akehurst, and his extremely dedicated team of supporters, are tying to make a proper go of this ‘student union’ thing.

The ‘big’ policy of Reclaim OUSU seems to be the redemocratization of OUSU. In a way, this is an even bolder policy than Jane4Change’s student hub, because it relies upon students actively desiring an even greater level of involvement with their student union. Given that only a handful of the Reclaim OUSU team are even OUSU council regulars, I do wonder why they think there is an appetite for more consistent involvement in student democracy. Still, at least there is a clear policy change at the heart of their movement, and it, to some extent, justifies the ‘reclaim’ tag.

The politics of the campaign sit in the classic far-left position. The slate last year was pretty minimal, though Emily Cousens managed to scoop up an NUS delegate position. This year, however, their organised and have put out three sabbatical candidates and a stack of part-time exec and NUS delegates. As a result, they’ve had to soften their hardline stance a bit because they now have to present realistic manifestos on the off chance that one of them is actually elected to a prominent position.

Team Alex

Of all the teams, in all the gin joints, in all the world, Team Alex is the one with the least discernible policy position. Bartram’s main policies seem to be ‘feedback’ (that old chestnut), ‘gym facilities’, and the general spiel about fees, accommodation charges and access. With Bartram, unlike Cahill and Akehurst, there seems to be some confusion about his motives for running- he’s a very able and popular JCR President, but there’s little in terms of policy or track record that suggests a particular interest in the myriad failings of our student union.

Team Alex’s sabbatical officers are both perfectly plausible candidates, though, once again, there seems to be a question about why they’re running. Pike is the Teddy Hall welfare rep but seems to be quite a divisive character, perhaps more than his sole opponent, Andrew Rogers. The Corpus JCR President Trish Stephenson is running for VP Women but she’s going to struggle to justify her decision to line with Team Alex for a traditionally independent role, especially up against the WomCam supported Anna Bradshaw.

One suspects that, in a slightly altered version of our university, Team Alex would be a totally plausible OULC slate. They certainly don’t seem to have the Tory vibe of Team Westbury and their part-time exec, NUS and student trustee candidate seem quite diverse, and include the co-chair of the Oxford University Liberal Democrats. A comparison to Nick Clegg’s ineffectual third party doesn’t seem completely implausible. 

Analysis will continue throughout the election period. Get in touch by tweeting @Cherwell_Online or using the hashtag #cherwellousu