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The Campaigner


Those of you with eyes and ears may be aware that the Students’ Union elections are on. This means that you can vote for the seven full-time officers who will represent you in the next academic year.  It also means that this is my second year of trudging up and down the Mall handing out leaflets for friends who are foolish enough to run.

Now, as fun as it may look to people who aren’t interested in politics,  I can assure you it really is a soul destroying week. Early starts, talking to people, handing out leaflets, knocking on doors, going out out, going home and collapsing on the little bit of floor not crammed with plates and mugs to get some 4 hours sleep before beginning the hideous cycle all over again. And after all that effort, your preferred candidate may not even win. Last year I vowed ‘never again’, stepped back from democracy and gave myself the title ‘politically retired’. I even bought an armchair for my retirement. I felt that I should get into character, so now I have somewhere to sit and struggle through the crossword. With slippers on. And so it shocked me to the core when my friend mentioned they’d be running, asked for my help, and I accepted straight away. Maybe I get some perverse enjoyment from the torment of the week, or maybe I just can’t say no. Either way, within a week of the request, I was well and truly embroiled in election fever.

The build-up to campaign week can, however, be quite fun. To be honest, it’s mainly cutting and sticking, which just makes me nostalgic for those exciting lessons at school when the teacher got out the tray of Pritt Sticks. Whole days can be spent in the same seat on the same sofa until the hundreds of badges are cut and stuck, but it’s always quite nice to see the product of your endeavours. That is, of course, until they’re being trampled into a mixture of mud, rain and vomit on Wind Street. Bizarrely, I always look forward to that first Thursday afternoon, where there’s always one person on Facebook who shares the video of King Théoden at Helm’s Deep saying ‘so it begins’. I like to see what colours people are using, what their banners look like, what their slogans are, what policies they will implement, and so on and so forth. The energy is fantastic; everyone’s so enthusiastic. At that point nobody’s come to the crushing realisation that their campaign is totally doomed.

After that first night though, the week looks bleak. From the first day, people look exhausted by it all, resorting to huge detours in order to avoid the dreaded campaign teams. If you manage to get through campaign week without at least one pin prick from an over keen campaigner and a badly made badge, you deserve a medal. If I’m out and about, there is usually nothing I dislike more than being harassed by persistent canvassers, and so for the one week when I become one, I hate myself quite a bit. So I apologise profusely to anyone I have bombarded with electoral propaganda.

Door knocking is also a devastating process. Haranguing people as they go about their day is one irritation, but when you go door to door selling your vision of a better union, many people see this as a huge invasion of privacy. Indeed, some people may slam the door or lie about even being students. My favourite response, however, was when someone told me flat out that they just didn’t care. Surprisingly, it cheered me up. Someone had actually been honest. Many candidates brag about how they’ve managed to acquire a covert list of HMOs so they can exclusively target those voters. In truth, you can find the list on the council website. It’s not secret. Stop pretending. And then there’s the physical process of actually leafleting. Now, I’m not the most smooth of people, indeed even this afternoon I managed to sort of trip attempting to take my seat in a lecture, and so even the simple task of handing a flyer to someone can be tricky. So far this week, I’ve notched up 5 papercuts. So when I say this campaign has included blood, sweat and tears, I really do mean it (I cried after because my finger hurt).

When I was campaigning last year I noticed that the candidates could be easily divided down the middle to see who was supporting who. This year it seems to be very different. Indeed, people seem to actually be talking to one another, rather than glaring and racing to give their literature to a poor, unwitting and uninterested target. Indeed, earlier today my candidate was talking directly with their main opponent (albeit with an enormously awkward grin on their face), but this sort of communication, I feel, shows that maybe these elections will be somewhat more amicable. At least this year nobody’s trying to get other people disqualified.

There is a serious point to take from all this. Voting is now open and every student has a voice. Your Union is there for you, and now it’s time for you to be there for it. So from every single fool who has been campaigning this week I say this: please use your vote. http://www.swansea-union.co.uk/elections/votenow/

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