Why are there so many candidates in this year’s SU leader elections?

With the Students’ Union election season kicking off once again, we all await the battle for the new SU officers. This year sees a sharp increase in the number of candidates running, particularly for the role of president. This spark in interest can, and perhaps should, be viewed positively, as a reflection of students’ growing interest and engagement in politics.

However, it has left myself, and others, wondering what other motivations there might be behind the steady increase in the number of candidates. At present, there are eight candidates running for president; with so many nominees, their policies aren’t substantially differentiated, and it becomes harder for individuals to stand out and assert their own value added. With such similar policies, candidates can’t be particularly ideologically motivated.

Similarly for other positions, such as Equal Opportunities and Welfare, and Education, there are more candidates standing for election this year than in previous years. I doubt that this signifies displeasure with the current SU; on the contrary, on an anecdotal basis, the consensus seems to be that the current officers are performing well in their roles. The influx of new candidates therefore shouldn’t be seen as politically reactionary – we aren’t in the midst of some sort of revolution.

What, then, could motivate candidates? For one thing, it is clear that the power and influence of the SU roles offers some allure, although winning candidates will arguably find themselves tightly constrained by university rules and political correctness. It’s entirely possible that some candidates have been somewhat unsuccessful in their endeavors to find a graduate job, and as a result are looking to the SU to provide them with some gold dust for their CVs. It’s debatable, however, whether these candidates are actually likely to be successful.

Overall most would agree that victory in the SU elections promises prestige, especially as the profile of, and voter turnout in, these elections increases. The steady increase in the number of candidates running could indicate that this prestige is increasing its pull. Is there a danger that the policies of candidates may continue to shrink in the shadows of their personalities?

Fraser Collingham

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