Label caught up with VP: Union Affairs, Max Crawford to find out all about the changes hitting this year’s Exec Elections.
Max sees the elections as a “big spectacle” and “one of the best thing we do here” (at LSU), but is aware that they are hit with criticism including the idea that they are a “popularity contest and that it’s all just about costumes and who you know”. In Max’s opinion, this is not how the elections should be, it should be about who is best for the role, manifestos and previous experiences. Therefore the following changes are being brought into action.
During our chat, Max outlined that you cannot put a ban on costumes and campaigning strategies that involve handing out sweets, and so instead the manifestos need to be seen as more important in a different way, “it’s about raising the profile of manifestos and the scrutiny of them”. Last year it was difficult to find the manifesto in a written form and therefore things were difficult to see at a quick glance, I can personally vouch for this and agree with Max entirely. “During media week, candidates and their manifestos will be revealed in a staggered form throughout the week. This will be posted on the Exec Elections website and the manifests will be the first thing that everyone sees. Hopefully people will start discussing them already and there’s no emphasis on costumes at this point because the candidates won’t be allowed to be filmed in costume at this stage.”
“Everyone, including candidates can share manifestos around and engage in debate, that’s what we want. It’s also been decided that media can write whatever they want on that and comment on the manifestos, although no candidate can share their plans for campaign week”, hence only discussing manifesto points during media interviews, costumes won’t be disclosed. By doing so, candidates would be engaging in pre-campaigning which could result in a ban at the beginning of the official campaigning period.
A new website has been created for the Elections this year: “the website is purely about elections, everything will be in the same place. Normally LSU Media’s coverage is really good but can be disjointed for those who don’t know how the system works, being unable to distinguish between media and LSU and who is doing what.”
“There’ll be a clear section on what’s going out from me (and LSU in terms of factual information) as well as opinion piece from LSU Media.”
The purpose of the website is to outline everything clearly and simply, enabling those who are yet to see an exec elections to understand the process and see exactly who all the candidates are and what the elections actually mean through a combination of student media coverage and factual LSU information.
Previously known as the live reveal, this will be called the Live Launch this year. Taking this one step further, the launch essentially sees the start of campaigning, although we’ll already be aware of who is running during the week before. “Normally during media week, everything happens in secret, filming manifesto videos in costume etc are all prepared for the Live Reveal but by this time, everyone knows who is running anyway, classic Loughborough gossip, hence the change to a launch from the usual reveal.”
Max has been working closely with LSU Media in the last few weeks to share ideas on how to cover elections and to what extent we are actually able to share our opinions on things. “In the past, media haven’t been allowed to show too much opinion, with the fear that it’s biased towards candidates. In my point of view, media have essentially signed a contract, it’s understood that they wouldn’t be supporting a candidate whilst taking part in media anyway. If they wish to expose reasons why a candidate is unsuitable, then they can do so.” As with a General Election, the media wouldn’t shy away from sharing the opinions of the public and commenting on how campaigns are going and so allowing LSU Media to comment more should bring these elections more into the real-world. “If something happens, you should be able to write on it, and not just in a negative way. If there’s something really good happening, media can say so.”
“These are normally really good, but often at the beginning of the week. The problem with this is that although it’s one of the first things that people see, arguably, people forget it by the end of the week. The way I see it is that the Bubble Debate should be the pinnacle of the whole thing and it should be all about the build up to the debates. We want this to be on the last eekend just before voting starts, most probably building up as a one day event.”
The audience can choose who to come along and see as the audience will revolve, whilst there will also be the option to live stream the event on the elections website. “We’re looking to host this in a lecture theatre, giving the debate a more Question Time feel and instead of having a set panel the whole way through as has been in the past, each position will have a specific panel, although they’ll be seated amongst the audience.” This should encourage further audience participation too, whilst not alienating them or members of the panel from one another. “We’re going to allow the candidates to debate with one another, it won’t be so much of a question and answer session.”
I was intrigued to find out if people will be allowed to direct questions at just one candidate this year, as last year a question had to be asked to all candidates running for a position. Max said that questions can be directed at one candidate, but in terms of fairness, another question should be directed at the other candidate(s). Everything comes back to the exposure of manifestos.
“Previously it has been that you can’t negative campaign, which made candidates fearful of commenting on their competitors or being able to say that they’re the better person for the role. For me, this isn’t negative campaigning which is more like sabotaging someone’s campaign by taking down posters. Candidates should be able to say why they’re better than the other candidate. That’s part of the debate, media will be commenting and they should be entitled to too.”
Allowing more people to run:
Arguably, Max stated that people often think it is always the same type of people who run for these roles anyway, but in some ways this makes sense, as candidates usually need to have had experiences that make them suitable for the role. The money side of things has previously stopped people from running, “a few years ago a £100 budget was brought in, which is the right thing to do, because people could be spending thousands of pounds, and sometimes losing”. T-shirts have previously been purchased outside of this £100 budget, with up to 20 being allowed to be purchased. This year Max has found enough sponsorship for the elections to be able to fund 10 t-shirts for each campaign, as 20 t-shirts can cost £150, which amounts to £250 which is a lot of money for candidates. The £100 budget is funded by the candidates whilst the t-shirts will be union funded. Whilst purchasing only 10 t-shirts per campaign team makes things easier for the union to fund, Max says that the amount of t-shirts would have been reduced anyway as having 20 means that candidates feel “they have to be popular”, trying to get 20 people out every night and day as part of their team, which realistically is very difficult. “This encourages them to be creative in other ways and every campaign t-shirt will be uniform, showing how to vote.” T-shirts have to be done through ASAP and candidates will be invited to sit with Martin from ASAP to design their t-shirts before nominations actually close, allowing approval and printing time.
The presence of RON will increase throughout campaigning and simply remind people at the Bubble debate where there’ll be a short video from RON, highlighting that there are options other than the candidates who are running.
The candidate’s pack will be out shortly and FAQs will be answered on the elections website. If you’d like more information on running in this year’s Exec Elections, please contact Max Crawford on firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re interested in seeing the changes that have been made to the Exec Elections Handbook this year as a result of the above, find out more in our Label article here. The Vice President role is also set to change to “Executive Officer” as passed recently by Union Affairs, Label keep you up to date here. Still unsure what the Elections will mean to you? Find out what Fresher, Tom Newman has to say.
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