Roisin O’Connor isn’t so sure about national politics… so how does that change things for her with the ongoing Sabbatical elections? Here she shares her views with The Siren prior to our live blogging of Quiz the Candidates.
by Roisin O’Connor
I really hate politics. In fact, when I was volunteering last year for a national party during their election campaign I was seriously offended when someone suggested I pursue a career in the subject. The simple thing would be to say that my reason for hating politics is because I don’t pay enough attention to what goes on and therefore I don’t understand it, but that wouldn’t be true- though it does bore me to tears. Then there’s the annoying fact that every other piece of political information that gets posted through my door- from the voting card for the Welsh Referendum to something about voting for the Tories- seems to insist on spelling my name as “Raisin”. But trying to avoid politics as much as possible can be a problem.
What with campaign week now in full swing, I reckon there’s going to be quite a few students who are in the same boat. Maybe not as many will have such a strong aversion to politics, but there is definitely confusion over what the Sabbatical elections mean and how they’re going to affect us. What reason do we have to vote? That’s my main question concerning these elections. Why should we bother getting involved? Surely they don’t affect us that much? The question is answered in simple terms on the SU Facebook page; we really are affected by what goes in within the SU, whether it’s the decision over what band to get for the Summer Ball, or how much you pay for your coffee at JCs. But that doesn’t make it any less confusing.
In terms of national politics, it often seems like the private lives of politicians in the UK are almost more important to the news industry than the work they actually do, and they tend to come across as selfish creatures who are more concerned with what their personal gain is rather than how beneficial their political party is to the general public. In fairness to student politics, I don’t often see a great deal about Luke Young’s out-of-office antics in The Waterfront. On top of this, it does feel like union politics trumps national politics on one front; it does feel like the candidates seem genuinely concerned about how they can improve the student experience for other students at Swansea. This year especially has seen all of the current Sabbatical officers standing side by side as students protest against cuts and fees. While I may not know much about union politics, I do feel like I’d be voting a fellow student into office, rather than some no-good politician who wouldn’t take the time of day to find out who I am, what I’m studying and how their policies would affect me.
One of my major concerns about national politics is the lack of women in UK Parliament, with only 22% of seats in the House of Commons held by women, and a miserable 20% in the House of Lords. Here at Swansea, and in pretty much all universities in the UK, we have a dedicated Officer position for women, ensuring a female voice in the union. Interestingly, out of the 14 candidates running for positions other than Women’s Officer, only 4 are female. On the other hand, with four candidates in contention for the next Women’s Officer, there’s a clear indication that women in Swansea University are keen to get into politics, hopefully showing a shift in the balance in future.
While traditionally there’s the sense that politics are only for the older generation, we’re clearly in a time when young people are becoming more and more involved in politics, encouraged by shows such as Mock the Week, 10 O’clock Live, and Have I Got News For You, which make politics more accessible for the younger generation. While 18 young hopefuls run for positions which may signal the beginnings of political careers, the balance still seems to tip in favour of our elders in national politics; David Cameron may be the youngest Prime Minister for almost 200 years… but he’s still 43 years old!
You could argue then that there’s a sense of disconnection between the young and the old in politics. Fortunately for our Sabbatical candidates, they are all around the same age as the people voting and therefore have a better idea of what it is we want. Take for example the £750,000 Student Experience Fund secured by the current Sabbatical team; a fund which will go directly to us and will benefit everyone studying here.
I may have my doubts about national politics, but I’m looking forward to getting involved with the elections this week, and would encourage everyone to do the same. Instinctively, I want to run and hide from the campaigning, and I’m sure many other do too, but the thing is… your vote can make a difference! On top of this, as I’m helping to cover this week’s going-ons, I certainly need to sit up and pay attention. Wish me luck!