From now until Easter a plague will sweep Leeds. Not content with containing itself within The Union, or even campus, it will seep into the rest of Leeds, infest Hyde Park, and even cement itself inescapably within your home via social media. I’m talking about The Leadership Race.
For the next five weeks you’ll be bombarded by posters, videos, and slogans galore; an election in which the person with the most memorably punny name is immediately guaranteed a head start. Soon no surface, vertical or horizontal, will be safe from the infuriating scourge that is chalk. Everywhere you look walls, bins, trees, pavements, steps, and fences will be covered in illegible scrawls and nonsensical hashtags. And unless the rain can reach them to wash them away, there they will stay for eternity (shout-out to the “Vote Huge” brick at the top of Brudenell Road. May you one day be liberated from your chalky hell.)
But the ubiquitous chalking is nothing compared to the entire swathe of rainforest used to paper every wall and corridor with posters, manifestos and flyers. Or you could always use this very newspaper upon which to daub your slogan, as one inspired candidate endeavoured to do last year. I’m sure I speak for all student journalists out there when I say that there really is nothing like seeing your words and hard work slapped up on a wall, covered in paint to really make you feel respected and valued as a member of LUU.
I’ve not got anything against the candidates themselves. It’s what people want to do and that’s absolutely fine. It’s more than fine, it’s great. It’s bloody hard work and the next few weeks will be torturous for them. It’s the most important year of their lives for the final year students and they’re doing that on top of running a campaign for over a month. It almost seems like irresponsible timing by LUU, but I’m sure they have their reasons. After all, the students always come first.
So I really do wish them the best of luck. A few of my best friends are running and I’ll support them and help them and certainly vote for them. But then that’s just it. I’m voting for my friends. Everyone is voting for their friends. You ask a student who has just voted why they picked their choices and the answer would be a) I know them, b) Their name was catchy, or c) I wanted to get some free stuff from LUU so I picked at random.
Maybe it’s bad that this is the case. Maybe we should all be a lot more involved in the democratic process of the Union and stop being so cynical about how much our votes actually matter outside of giving them a nifty number to wave in the face of Sheffield’s student union. Or maybe incentives and bombardment aren’t the way to go about it. Could it be that what needs to be addressed is why we need to revert to these tactics to get students caring about politics, big or small? Then again, if the main political parties in the UK started offering out Haribos, what’s to say we wouldn’t all be much happier?