Student politics is a very different ball game to its Westminster counterpart. No one is expecting the delegates we elect this week to successfully pacify the South China Sea, and likewise Theresa May’s list of priorities extends beyond the introduction of a lecture free freshers week. However, the two are linked by a few significant factors; the importance of debate, the enthusiasm of those campaigning, and the role of ideology in our politics.
It is easy to see why ideology is a dirty word in student politics. After all, our Student Union surely exists to protect our specific interests. Do we need to view these elections as political clashes? I would argue that this is unavoidable, and furthermore that it doesn’t have to be detrimental.
The truth is that political beliefs shape the way people respond to all issues, and contemporary national issues regularly overlap with student politics. Take tuition fees for example. Limits are determined in Parliament, but we still expect our representatives at Warwick to take a stance on this issue.
No one is expecting the delegates we elect this week to successfully pacify the South China Sea
In an ideal world we would vote for the policies we agreed with, then sit back and watch as our representatives implemented it all. Back on earth, this seems unlikely. Times and plans change. The grand promises of election campaigns have to be reworked. The reality of representative democracy is that we are choosing someone to make decisions for us, not simply rubber stamping a list of changes.
When voting for someone, I want to know how they see the world. Are they a progressive or a traditionalist? Left wing or right? Regardless of whether they want to represent me as my Prime Minister or as my NUS delegate.Of course there are dangers and elections at Warwick are often dominated by nationwide issues we have little control over; satirical candidates mock our current officers as focusing so much capitalism that they overlook the concerns of students.
In an ideal world we would vote for the policies we agreed with, then sit back and watch as our representatives implemented it
If anything though, the public face of these elections has been too trivial. It is only by trawling through manifestos online that we can identify any major differences between candidates. The rest is all just signs, logos and sound bites. We need to have the bigger debates, and whilst over politicisation could erode the local issues at stake, I invite you to consider the alternative; we pressure candidates into brushing their political beliefs aside.
This is already the case for some candidates standing this week. Despite usually being outspoken members of political parties, election time reduces them to mutterings about how they are standing on ‘their own platform’. This is at best a pretence and at worst a misleading way of sweeping ideology under the rug.
If anything though, the public face of these elections has been too trivial
People can’t shrug off their beliefs to participate in student politics. Without undermining the importance of practical policies, university should be a forum to debate more pressing and controversial issues than the opening hours of our library. Ideology can’t be extracted from student politics, and our elections would be far more meaningful if we learned to embrace that.