> As elections end for another year, the question over whether they are a glorified popularity contest remains.
Another election has passed for the UWESU with the largest collection of votes in history (3,479 to be precise!)
But have the students this year voted basically on appearance and have genuine candidates for the positions lost out?
Appearance is obviously important. It may be sad to say but we live in a society where we judge both ourselves and others on looks and image. This factor not only matters for our social lives as this also comes into play in how we vote in elections.
Look at the general election last year for example, Gordon Brown was criticised more on his inability to pull a cheeky grin then his actual policies. Even John Prescott, part Politician, part gluttonous tool, told The Guardian that “the right man for the job” also had “the worst smile in the world”. I wonder which phrase they put as their headline, eh?
This also mattered for the UWESU Election, with candidates’ faces being placed on the posters in order to be recognised and their manifesto’s being made either on posters or online. Like most of the general public, it’s probably likely that UWE students went for someone dressed respectfully, clean looking and with a cheeky grin than a candidate who looks like he’s suffering from an alcoholic assault at Red Bar the night before. Being a student at St. Matthias, it’s not hard to hear side-comments about candidates from people in the student union. Comments including “He’s not smiling, why the bloody hell would he be good?!” and “He looks like he could do the job!” have obviously been tossed around.
Of course that doesn’t mean everyone who voted is a shallow imbecile. Personally, the fact that the candidates have made the effort to come up and talk to people about their manifesto is quite respectable, especially due to the fact that most students see it as a general annoyance. The fact that Chris Nelson, who did most of his campaign in a grey suit, didn’t win is a shock to me. (Anyone who suits up for an election is officially a winner in my books!).
The candidates for St. Matthias Campus Officer, for example, went all out on both campaigns. Alex Tachauer and Rosa Connolly dressed up as a monk and nun respectively; representing the two sets of halls on campus, and winner Dan Hinchey had his campaign team dress up in tiger suits. President Candidate, Wil Harris, was also seen jumping around frantically in an elephant costume on Frenchay. It sounded completely bizarre at the time but seeing both teams genuinely attempt to have fun and talk to students was great for their campaigns!
So are elections based on appearance? Yes and no. People are obviously going to take a look at the individual who look sharp, all-smiles and shiny suits, but there is also the effort that people put behind their campaign that counts. All in all, every UWESU candidate should at least realise that their photo is going to be plastered around every wall in every campus, so making an effort to look like they’re the right choice should always be considered.
That’s unless you wear a suit, in which case you should win anyway.