With Union Council expected to pass the 2012 Executive Elections candidates pack tomorrow night, Label Editor, Jago Pearson analyses the Union politics scene as it stands. Will the new set-up work or will the elections descend once again into controversy?

Read the proposed candidates pack here.

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Like many things, Loughborough thinks highly of itself when it comes to its own democratic standards. Unlike most things, this is utterly unjustified.

The framework is in place for the Student Union to be a hive of democratic activity. There are, however, two problems. Not many of the University’s students are politically minded and those that are already hold positions of power and influence, power and influence that they naturally want to preserve. How then should democracy in the real sense of the word be encouraged?

Last year’s farcical Executive Elections ruthlessly exposed the incompetency and damn-right complacency at the heart of the process. The candidates pack had more holes in it than a block of Swiss Emmental, while election officials demonstrated that they had little grasp of the key issues at play. Of course, it has been for this year’s Vice-President for Democracy, Pete Childs, to try and rectify the situation.

Former Vice-President for Democracy, Jamie Morgado told Label:

“It is a shame to see how democracy has taken a massive hit over the past two years, and I hope that Pete can salvage such situations.”

It is an unenviable task, but with the 2012 Elections candidates pack going through Union Council tomorrow evening, he is well on the way. The document has been stripped out and reduced to a codified 19 pages, from in excess of 70 last time around. Yes, it is not flawless. There are sure to be some questions that will arise tomorrow, but on the whole, it is a phenomenal improvement. 

Label received a sneak-peek of the document before it was published as a Council paper. Upon reading it, we raised the fact that the majority of last year’s controversy was a result of ambiguity and debate about the legitimacy and the severity of sanctions for breaches of election rules. Childs’ revised document does not tackle this profound issue.

He replied to us by confirming that he will now look to tackle this crucial omission. Although it could be said that a comprehensive set of sanctions for a variety of different breaches should have been devised and published long ago, Childs has had a tough job on his hands completely re-writing a flawed constitutional paper.

He is absolutely right not to try and rush an additional document through tomorrow’s Council without proper consultation, especially in light of the profound importance of such addition. 

When Morgado spoke to us, he did so in light of the Council meeting that could not go ahead following Label revealing the fact that the agenda and papers had not been published in time; Council of course being the pillar of Loughborough democracy.

While at first the Council Chair, James Carroll, wanted to continue with the meeting, it became apparent that it would be unconstitutional and therefore a short ‘informal discussion’ was held in its place.

In reference to this, Morgado commented:

“It is an absolute disgrace that Chair of Council allowed the meeting to continue let alone, be ‘economic with the truth’ to cover his back. 

“At the end of the day the Chair of Council’s primary role is to be impartial and fair at all times. With the previous experience of the Chair of Council it is no doubt that he is fully aware of the constitutional regulations regarding agenda and minute posting and I hope that he publically addresses council to restore their confidence in him and democracy at Loughborough.

“Democracy is simple – follow the rules. It is a shame that the same mistake occurred only a few months ago, and lessons are not learnt. If this follows suite, good luck for this years’ executive elections.”

Following the meeting, four councilors told Label that they were investigating the possibility of launching a campaign of no confidence against Carroll. He responded by telling Label:

“Though I am disappointed that councillors did not feel they could speak with me directly to address concerns they may have and that it has come this far, I am delighted that councillors feel able to hold people to account as is their core duty; even if it is me!” 

So, with frictions within the Union’s second highest decision making body seemingly evermore evident, as well as inevitable debate, discussion and controversy with the sabbatical elections just a few weeks away, it promises to be an interesting few months on a ‘democracy’ front.

Students that take an interest in the political workings of the Union and the University should ask themselves, to what extent do they really have a say? And crucially, in what way can the democratic processes be improved?

Make sure you pick up a copy of Issue Seven of Label Magazine after the Christmas break, where you will find a Special Report investigating to what extent Loughborough is ‘democratic’, including a feature interview with Pete Childs where he will be posed all of the difficult questions and be given the opportunity to explain his vision for the process of Student Union decision making and electioneering going forward.

Between then and now, I will ask one simple question. For you, what are the crucial elements of a democracy? For me, it revolves around freedom of information and freedom of the press. Does Loughborough have either? Definitely not. If it did, I would not be posing these questions but instead be publishing a list of about a dozen individuals who are planning to run in the Executive Elections and analyzing their chances.

Would that be a good thing? In theory yes, but in practice, who really knows?


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