‘On the Campaign Trail’ – The Stresses of Campaigning

It is easy to be fooled into believing that the candidates’ permanently fixed smiles mean the Students’ Union Elections are all fun and games. Impact tracked down some of the candidates on University Park and found that campaigning is already beginning to take its toll on their stress levels, a day before online voting opens.

Whilst some of us are struggling out of bed to make that 9am lecture, the most dedicated candidates are already out in the cold ready to campaign until about 5pm. Wandering around any location with an abundance of students and travelling to different campuses just to get their faces known and their message out there, it is a tough job for any potential Union Officer. For several, the interrogations at the Candidate Question Times will be their first real taste of public speaking. Candidate Rory Thomas told Impact, “I’ve never done public speaking before, but I was fine because I knew I’d put the time into research”. The candidates may become more confident as the fortnight progresses, but we can be sure that their policies will also be increasingly scrutinised over the next few days.

Most candidates also target the clubs for as many nights of the week as they can manage. Simon Murphy said he and his blue-painted smurf supporters would be out almost every night to promote his campaign, but admitted that the lack of sleep was the worst part of campaigning. It’s true that the candidates can be a very social bunch and, in fact, all of the candidates that Impact spoke to around campus on Tuesday afternoon claimed that meeting new people was the highlight of the fortnight so far. It is evident, however, exhaustion is already setting in. They are on their feet for most of the day and night, rarely stopping to eat or sleep. One candidate, who preferred to remain anonymous, said he was already considering a fake tan to improve his zombie-like complexion. The Students’ Union, mindful of the stresses suffered while on the campaign trail, have turned the Project Room in the Portland Building into a ‘Candidate Chill Zone’, allowing candidates a safe haven if campaigning becomes to much to take.

It is also easy to forget that the candidates are just regular students and, as a result, all their usual university commitments are affected by the elections. Final year dissertations are put aside for a fortnight, in the hope that they will be able to put in the catch-up hours at a later date. Rory Thomas said that he is working overtime to fit in aspects of his life such as training for Varsity Rugby League around the elections, thought he admitted that he has needed to take a week off from his part-time job.

Sam Le Pard said that there was no chillout time during elections because there is always something to be doing, whether its meeting people face to face or using social media. Lots of the campaigns are like military operations, complete with schedules and ‘campaign managers’. Phil Geller’s supporters outside Hallward said that they were also going to travel to as many different campuses and locations as possible, as well as the main club nights and providing support at Question Times. Le Pard explained that this support was vital, saying, “I’m being a lone wolf this week, but I’ll need my pack next week”. He did add that it was no fun dragging his friends away from their own lives. This was a sentiment echoed by Rory Thomas, who said that it was unfair to expect all his friends to drop everything to support his campaign when they are busy third years themselves.

Many of the candidates mentioned that they are running for roles that they have been dreaming of for months, if not years. There is a huge amount of pressure on them to prove to the student body that they are worthy of these roles in just two weeks, but whatever the outcome many of them will be simply hoping that they would emerge with their friendships, dignity and sanity intact.

Fiona Crosby

4 Comments on this post.
  • Good article
    4 March 2011 at 08:39
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    The potential stress stopped me from running in the first place. Frankly not everyone can take two weeks off in their third year (at least anyone who prizes a 2.1!) and neither could my house mates at a time when coursework and dissertations are so important.

    The whole process can look like a test of physical endurance at times. SRSs on the look out for a good story, your opponents ripping down your posters and rubbishing you at CQTs and anonymous bitching from the lovely people who comment on Impact articles. All this in a week where you need to do the most clubbing you will have done since Week One and be stuck outside Hallward all day whatever the weather.

  • anon
    4 March 2011 at 10:12
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    The campaign process is completely different from the job, which I think is really sad. Many students could do a fantastic job but just don’t have the time or health to campaign to the level necessary to even stand a chance of winning. Furthermore, for jobs like Rep Officers, whilst it’s great that they’re being treated the same as Exec, if you’re just a 1st year bravely running, the entire process can seem too daunting.
    I’ve wanted to run for Exec since my first year but have sadly had to acknowledge that I just can’t campaign as hard as required due to my health. Knowing I’d be good for the job, and having people regularly surprised/disappointed that I’m not running is tough. We exclude huuuge numbers of capable students due the length and intensity of campaigning.

  • David
    4 March 2011 at 10:43
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    Although the large weight of the pressure is on the candidates themselves, I also think that those who are on campaign teams deserve a massive amount of credit too, especially as they can potentially make sacrifices in terms of course attendence/coursework and their own health as the people they are supporting, but with no potential of a big prize in it for them at the end of it.

    From those who ‘only’ stand outside Hallward for a single afternoon in a T-shirt for a friend through to those who almost give up their lives for the election period in the way the candidate they are campaigning for does (and I’ve been close to the latter in the past – it’s great fun, but very tiring!), I really think it’s worthwhile acknowledging the contribution that these often forgotten people make to the elections!

  • Rob
    5 March 2011 at 13:38
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    More Smears, Less Tears. Come on people, lets get nasty!

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