Oxstew Column: Week 4

The 2014 Michaelmas elections for the Oxford University Student Union, which several sources described as “the nastiest yet”, have finished after two weeks of poorly-attended hustings, repeated electoral complaints, and only a fraction of Oxford’s students casting their vote.

Despite no lack of controversy, and a certain amount of sceptical attention from student media, the annual process for electing OUSU’s most important representatives went fairly similarly to the last ten years of OUSU elections, and the ten years before that, with only about one in five of those eligible to vote bothering to do so.

The news that Returning Officers had been kept busy dealing with lengthy accusations of electoral malpractice on all sides also elicited little surprise, as did proclamations by newspapers that the elections had been “the nastiest Oxford has ever experienced outside of every single Union election”.

Students have reacted to the news with widespread ambivalence. “The what? Oh. Well, to be honest, I hadn’t even realised the elections had gone by,” Leah Fervingham, of Worcester College, told The Oxstew. “But even if they hadn’t happened and you were just making that up, I’m not sure I would have known any better,” she continued. “I mean, it sounds plausible.”

Though in previous years flamboyant characters such as maverick populist Louis Trup and joke candidate DJ Townsend had injected a dose of excitement into the elections, setting themselves apart from the usual array of sweater-wearing do-gooders and Labour Club candidates through sheer force of personality, the elections have remained steadfastly the nastiest so far, and the voter turnout steadfastly disappointing, every single year.

The winning Presidential candidate is thought to be delighted that, despite a long, hard, and stressful campaign fraught with petty rivalry, the single-figure percentage of total eligible voters responsible for the result had “spoken with one clear voice, and that clear voice was Oxford University’s voice, and that voice demands change for OUSU”. 

Next year’s new sabbatical team are thought to have already agreed to prioritise “enhancing member-representative communicative transparency, empowering liberation campaigns to seek the change they need to achieve, and fostering a nurturing and symbiotic Ox-environment”.

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Although during the elections rival teams of candidates, or ‘slates’, had described each other variously as “incompetent crooks who wouldn’t know a Student Union if they were destroying it from within”, “leftist nincompoops with only a remote grasp of reality”, “bastards, bloody bastards”, and “insult-throwing ad-hominem-attacking credibility-reducing idiots I would never even consider sharing an office with”, the eventual winners denied that there would be any tension arising from these remarks during the entire year spent together in a claustrophobic office.