Editor’s Letter, Issue 8 – “Have you Voted in the Leadership Race yet?” and why LUU Democracy isn’t a Joke

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‘Education’. ‘Community’. ‘Union Affairs’. ‘Equality and Diversity’. ‘Activities’. ‘Welfare’. Six words and phrases which, on their own, mean relatively little, but when combined, can mean only one thing: LeadLUU – the campus wide elections which decide who will be taking the place of next year’s Student Exec. Add to that the vote for next year’s Editor-in-Chief of the Gryphon as well and you’ve got yourself a right stonking soufflé of student politics and grass-roots campaigning.

Now, before you turn your nose up at the thought of another student election and the inevitable flurry of campaign videos with more cringe value than the Team America puppet sex-scene (90s kids and Thunderbird enthusiasts, you know the score), take a moment to consider just how important these elections are. Yes, LeadLUU may well mean that you’re going to struggle to get a seat in Common Ground for the next two weeks without somebody you kind of recognise from your post-colonial lecture asking you if you’ve voted in the leadership race yet. And yes, LeadLUU may mean you can’t get through campus without being slapped in the face by a rogue banner. But LeadLUU is about so much more than that too.

This is because the Student Exec genuinely care about the experiences of all Leeds’ students, and make changes to their Union and city in order to reflect that. Cheaper buses between campus and Headingley; VKs at Fruity; ‘Why is my Curriculum White?’; free sanitary products in the Union toilets; copies of the Gryphon delivered to first year halls – all of these things which students take for granted have been the campaign promises of previous members of the Student Exec. And the fact that you’re definitely not reading this brand spanking new issue of the Gryphon from the cesspit that is Lupton or the gilded halls of Charles Morris shows that these promises (almost) always come true.

Although the Wrap Around advert for this week’s issue of the Gryphon may look like some satanic version of ‘Guess Who?’, the LeadLUU decision is much harder than simply “do they have red hair?”, “do they wear glasses?”, “do they look like the kind of person who’d tell you that Dumbledore dies before you’ve even had the chance to get out of Borgin and Burkes?”. LeadLUU represents a campus-wide election which will shape the future of Leeds University for the next year to come. To deny the next generation of Freshers and returning students a Student Exec which doesn’t appropriately represent their needs or beliefs is a huge mistake.

It’s very easy to think that the Student Exec may have little to no impact on your university experience. In fairness, some of us may be lucky enough and privileged enough and downright happy enough for that statement to be true. But there are countless students at Leeds who depend on the Student Exec to ensure that their voices are heard; to give them a platform where others do not. Even if you think that the Exec will have no possible effect on your life, you cannot deny that they may have an important impact on the student sitting next to you in Balcony, the post-grad who always farts in the Eddie B silent study, the old housemate who you haven’t seen since first year. To not vote is to therefore shirk a huge responsibility to the potential wellbeing of your fellow students. 

I think some students genuinely think that the LeadLUU candidates only campaign in order to fulfil a short ego boost. Well, contrary to popular opinion, not all of us enjoy running around making a dick of ourselves for a whole two weeks… apart from, of course, my predecessor Reece Parker, who shaved his hair and died it blonde in order to look more like a ‘man of the people’ – think of a young Jeremy Corbyn, only he doesn’t even know how to pronounce ‘tweed’, let alone wear it.

No matter how annoying you might find it to have your 9am lecture interrupted by somebody informing you that a vote for them will get you 24 hour libraries, the leadership race is an intensely draining few weeks for its candidates. So, if you see anyone handing out flyers or putting up posters, don’t tell them to fuck off, give them a smile, and maybe even give them a vote when the time comes. They may not necessarily have the energy to show it, but I guarantee you that this one small act of kindness will make their day.

I’d like to offer a sincere best of luck to any students who have taken the challenge of running to be a member of the next Student Exec. Some top tips: 

1. Find yourself an album to get you through the campaign and stick to it; mine was Rejjie Snow’s Dear Annie and I honestly don’t think I would have got through the two weeks alive without constantly humming the phrase “breakdance and boogie my love / this is 1971” in the back of my mind every time I saw that another one of my posters had been ripped down.

2. Don’t play the ukulele in the Roger Stevens Fountain; February is a cold month.

3. Enjoy it, regardless of how out of sync your campaign video ends up or how quickly you forget everybody’s names. The experience is one which will last with you for a lifetime, and one which will leave you a much more confident and skilled individual.

Other than that, just be yourself and keep smiling. If you do that, then you can’t go wrong.

Stay classy,

Robbie Cairns