I joined the Party towards the end of my time at University, and after the general election, after a number of highly thought provoking conversations with other members of the Labour Party at the institution. During this time I explored my values and learned more about myself than I had learned in over 15 years of education, which was:
- I believe that we each have a responsibility to contribute to the state and to see that every person in this country has the opportunity to be wealthy, successful and happy.
- I believe in a society that is free and equal for all: discriminating against none and empowering all.
- I believe that tackling crime should be done through education, society and community, and through the justice system itself.
- I believe that democracy is for us all and that in modern times we should ensure that it is accessible to all.
I wanted to vote in this election ensuring that the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats gained the right opponent in opposition fighting for a fair society, against ideological cuts and against a repressive and backward government, leading the Party central to representing the interests of the majority of society and not the minority.
On the Outside
This is the first election in three years that I have been a part of without being a candidate, campaigning, or advocating for. It’s been strange because for once I have had no agenda in the election so I have been able to watch, read and listen to as much of what the candidates have each had to say as possible before making my decision. This has been somewhat of an uncomfortable concept to me because the majority of my experience with student politics I have seen that so many of the decisions chosen by electorate have been done so without regard to the cause and effect of a manifesto, the presentation of a campaign and a person, but more so about who’s friends with who. I am a massive supporter of manifesto driven candidates because I am sick of seeing elected candidates without the vision to explain what they are going to achieve in office get elected, especially when they fail to deliver.
Flirting with Leadership
I am proud and privileged to have run in the first Presidential campaign at Newman Students’ Union with more than three physical candidates over four years ago, and whilst I was not elected, it was however a successful campaign. It was delivered with honesty and intention of political delivery: no empty promises and focusing on an issue that mattered so much to students’ unions: engagement and participation. The reason I believe that the manifesto was defeated was because the electorate could not connect with the idea or the value of understanding a Union that took the community spirit of a campus and worked it to its advantage in developing and empowering a membership to fend for themselves – over campaigns of flash with no substance and incoherent messages or a complete lack of experience.
The lack of connection to these ideas is brought on by a culture that ensures that the membership is supported in a massively unhealthy way. Members who strive to do better with ambition are in the minority, and the lowest common denominator is catered to; with the majority being comprised of members who don’t care, don’t want to care and/or want everything done for them. So the membership focused on manifestos that were cause and affect in style, or simple, because they want things done for them and they want to be able to identify what they are rather than achieving conceptual, systemic and cultural change in the whole understanding of the organisation.
I think that it has also been positive that we have not seen as much of the one-upmanship that students complained about in this years’ Presidential election because I think at the national level the electorate disengages with the candidates if they see you trying to score points against an opponent. In fact I’ve been more pissed off with the moderators for not being able to deliver a free and fair debate to the candidates because they want to stir the pot or deliver a venomous or juicy debate, and to those I say: for shame.
However it’s an unfortunate reality of the political world. They have nothing to lose and so can be as petty and offensive as they want: all in the name of probing a candidate rather than giving all candidates the opportunity to shine. When you want a lively debate that’s what happens: Spectacle over substance.
(L-R: Diane Abbot, David Miliband, Ed Balls, Ed Miliband, Andy Burnham)
5th Preference: Ed Miliband
Whilst I agree with his opposition to an increase in fees for higher education because I believe that Universities, and the degrees they award, need to start proving that they are worthy of their £3, 290 price tag this year. With ever-increasing unemployment for graduates, which I am currently experiencing at the moment, how can the H.E sector charge approximately £20,000 for a degree that does not support your career prospects or set you apart from other candidates.
I also don’t support the idea of introducing a graduate tax as a fairer funding system. I have always thought since NUS launched this model of funding that it was just delaying the payment, but struck at those who were doing well rather than charging each person equally for what they were paying for. I don’t think that I should pay more to get on the bus or go to the cinema just because I can afford it more than a student or young person. I think that the rates should be set for all customers at the same rate.
The reason I selected Ed for my final choice was of the second, third, fourth and fifth round ballots but also because of a position he and/or his campaign team have advocated over the campaigning period. Saying that you have lead on proposing a Graduate Tax is certainly not the way to convince students to vote for you.
4th Preference: Diane Abbott
A part of me thinks she represents a positive side of the party, not having responsibility for the decision making in the previous Government, and I do like that she would “support a far more progressive way of funding education … commit to widening access and increase the support package” I just don’t think it’s enough. The other part of me sees her campaign simply as “I’m not like the others, and I didn’t vote for these decisions”. I don’t think she’s done enough the times that I’ve heard her speak to convince me that she has campaigned on a theme or an issue to win the leadership, and because of that she receives my 4th preference vote.
3rd Preference: Ed Balls
Much of what I’ve read or heard about Ed Balls is that he was Brown’s pitbull, and you can imagine my suprise when I first heard him speak how it wasn’t true, and I have been gradually more and more impressed with him. I don’t think he is the right leader for the country at this time but I do think that the country could do a lot worse.
2nd Preference: Andy Burnham
It has been interesting to see his campaign. I think he’s got more ability to connect with the everyday voter than any of the other candidates, save my first prefernece, and its one of my reasons for selecting him as second preference. He has a background with culture, media and sport which is all good to me.
1st Preference: David Miliband
“We need a Leader who can fire the imagination, unite the talents, lead the battle of ideas, and be a credible Prime Minister” and that election material swayed my vote enough to vote for David Miliband. I believe he has the experience, the ideas and the leadership ability to return Labour to power and to keep his promises, or at least be held accountable to them (and with his community campaigning developments it will definitely be more likely). I remember a good few months when Brown was in the shit and I remember saying to someone that I’d like to see DM as the next PM or Leader of the Labour Party, so on that basis I gave him my first preference.