Home Comment Do policies actually matter more than personalities in student elections?

Do policies actually matter more than personalities in student elections?

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Liam Trim, Online Editor, urges you to consider the importance of manifestos before voting in the upcoming Sabb Elections…

Us students are an educated bunch, that’s why we’re here at the University of Exeter. When we graduate we get to wear the badge of education proudly for the rest of our lives, regardless of whether or not we actually spent more time memorising the exact taste and texture of curly fries than reading, or writing essays.

Image Credit: BloomingBath.com
Image Credit: BloomingBath.com

When elections dominate the news educated people (that’s us remember) often like to make a fuss about voting for a party and the policies that party is advocating, rather than voting for a person  because their smile seems genuine.

We, the educated, make a number of convincing arguments. Firstly, many people don’t understand the system. They think the wannabe Prime Ministers are like X-Factor contestants. They forget about the parties and the MPs and the complications.

Crucially, they forget about the policies, the promises and ideas that actually matter. Shame on the voters who ignore a candidate because he or she was a bit too shy. They may have had the ideas to make our lives better, in a significant and tangible way.

We know better, don’t we, us educated people?

I’ve certainly found the tendency of my parents to vote for the party that their parents voted for depressing. Surely they should think for themselves? Perhaps we’re too young, optimistic and snobby due to our wonderful education, though. Maybe they think we’re naive for casting our votes based on false promises in a manifesto.

The candidates in the imminent Sabb Elections will have manifestos. But, as a final year student, I’ve already been through two student elections and I’ve learnt that it’s hard to find the time to read them all. It’s hard to escape the everyday concerns of your own life, for something that doesn’t seem that important, pressing or relevant. We forget our principles about educated people taking the time to vote for policies, not personalities. In fact, us students are social beings as well as educated ones, so we’re likely to vote for our friends or acquaintances.

So maybe we really are too quick to judge our parents and those disillusioned with voting throughout society, or even those who do so in a hurry or out of habit. And maybe we’re wrong to place such an importance on policy in student elections anyway.

Devonshire House, home of the Guild and its Sabbatical Officers, is not the Houses of Parliament. The policies are not important on a national scale. Many ideas in the manifestos of candidates will be based on genuine student concerns, but others will be crowd-pleasers. Not all of the policies will be feasible, even if they mean well, and we can’t blame candidates entirely for that. They do not have the resources of political parties to check facts and gauge opinion.

But 2014’s new Sabbs will be in a position to make a difference. Devonshire House isn’t Parliament, but it does provide an outlet for democracy and student opinion. Sometimes the views of students will bring about genuine change. This year’s Sabbs have increased society funding, helped keep street lights on and assisted students with their search for accommodation. If they do their job correctly they will pass on the concerns of students to the Guild, and make sure the Guild act on those concerns.

So how do we choose between the candidates in February? Is a trustworthy, approachable personality more important than a manifesto? If the Sabbs are just our representatives to the Guild, shouldn’t the student body be choosing the policies, and our Sabbs simply passing them on?

Well, yes. And this is why the manifestos and policies do matter. It needs to be more than a handful of random ideas, discussed with a couple of mates. If a candidate is going to be a good Sabb, they need to be able to be able to find out what students want, need and can achieve. If they cannot find out those things now, and put them in their manifesto, then they’re unlikely to be much better at representing us after they’ve been elected.

Liam Trim, Online Editor

Will you be voting in the Sabb Elections? Will you read the manifestos, or just vote for someone you know and trust? Leave a comment below or write to the Comment team at the Exeposé Comment Facebook Group or on Twitter @CommentExepose.

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