Disclaimer: I lost a Sabb election, so take all of this with a pinch of salt. Also, in case you can’t tell, I’m trying to be funny – obviously there’s a lot more to student elections than oversized egos, badly-painted signs and meaningless manifesto promises…
1. Be popular. This is crucial. Get your name and face known by lots of different people from different societies; start adding masses of people on Facebook in the month leading up to the election. The whole thing is basically a popularity contest. If possible, try and avoid getting featured in a Daily Mail hatchet job two days before voting closes, although there’s a chance people will feel so sorry for you being attacked by the Mail that your popularity will increase.
2. Amass much cardboard. Costcutters will run out early, but Tesco’s always has lots available. When the checkout lady mentions in a surprised tone that they’ve had “loads of people coming in for cardboard this week”, resist the urge to say “Well, obviously, it’s elections week”. Remember that once you cross the road outside Claycroft, no one even knows what a BNOC is.
3. Choose your colour. Choose carefully; not only will you be covering all of the cardboard in this one colour, you will also be wearing it all week, as will any friends you’ve convinced to turn their chests into a walking advertisement for your campaign. Popular colours include red, bright yellow, blue and purple. Yellow is popular because it conveys a sunny personality (until 2011, it could be read as Lib Dem allegiance, but you’d win more votes now from the student population declaring UKIP membership). Red shows passion and left-wing sentiment, green shows a concern with the environment. Blue indicates political neutrality – no one with the slightest Conservative leanings will use blue because they have to spend the week hiding their political beliefs. Purple seems to be popular, and perhaps conveys bipartisanship, although that might be reading too much into it.
4. Choose your slogan. Yes, you could just use “[Your name] for [Position]” but where’s the fun in that? Does your name sound a bit like another word? Is it a word that could conceivably link to an aspect of your campaign? Does it rhyme with a word like “Pick”, “Vote”, “Better”, or “Socs”? Go mad. The sky’s the limit. I’m looking at you, Yes we Dan.
4. Choose your gimmick. This is not essential, but may help. This could be anything from dressing up as a superhero to eschewing sleep for 72 hours. Hey, it might feel humiliating at the time, but have you seen the graduate job market? A few weeks of 15 page application forms and you’ll long for the time you had a decent shot at a graduate job through blasting out a cover version of a popular song with the lyrics changed to talk about your plans to keep food outlets open late after club nights.
5. Make a video. I don’t mean the official SU video where you stand next to a white wall and talk about your plans. I mean the video where you walk around campus to a suitably epic soundtrack and which must, by law, end with at least a dozen people repeating exactly the same phrase, usually “I’m voting X because [insert meaningless slogan here]”. “I’m voting Tom because he is the change we need”. “I’m voting Kate for a brighter future, together”. That kind of thing.
6. Lose all shame. Remember, there’s no such thing as strangers, just voters you haven’t met yet. It’s like Fresher’s Week all over again as you strike up conversation with anyone who’ll talk to you, except instead of talking about your weird new flatmates, you’ll be chewing their ears off about your totally achievable plans to record lectures/reduce bus fares/increase contact hours/make sure the gym is open 24 hours/get rid of tuition fees while they nod and smile politely. Adopt a completely insincere, proto-politician persona and go around sucking up to everyone you meet. Start saying things like “hit the ground running” and “passionate” and “accountability” on an hourly basis.
7. Appeal to different demographics. You need to find a way to simultaneously appeal to LARPers, bellydancers, radical socialists and people who want to work for Goldman Sachs. Attend any large gatherings you can conceivably wangle your way into, and find a way to link your policies to the concerns of the assembled group in front of you, most of whom you’ve probably spent the last three years trying to avoid.
8. Realise when you’re wasting your time. Most students take only a passing interest in the elections, and will not appreciated being harangued about your plans to lobby the NUS for fee waivers while they’re on their way to the pub. If someone doesn’t look interested, you’re better off leaving them alone rather than pissing them off so they go and tell twenty people in the pub how annoying you are and go and vote for the joke candidate instead. Oh, and don’t be too disheartened by the “FUCK OFF WANNABE POLITICIANS, NO ONE CARES” signs on the front doors of accomodation. Do what someone I know did, and sign it “I will eat your babies, love [their opponent’s name]”.
9. Pick and choose a few of the following policies – Fresher’s Week/recorded lectures/cheaper drinks/24 hour library/reduced library fines/online voting/a bus between town and campus after nights out/more contact hours/more feedback/a Rate my Landlord system. I don’t mean to be facetious – I ran for an election and know that Sabbs work hard and influence the University. It’s just every year people promise exactly the same things, which tend to be outside not only their remit, but outside the remit of anybody working at the university.
10. And lastly – don’t, I repeat, don’t drink a bottle of wine whilst waiting for the results. I know that come 9pm on Friday you’ll want a drink more than you ever have in your life, and that the results aren’t announced until after midnight. But if you win, you don’t want your first appearance to the student population as their elected representative to involve your slurring your way through an acceptance speech whilst the student newspaper takes lots of photos. If you lose, you’ll take the results much more graciously if you aren’t completely pissed in addition to being disappointed, sleep-deprived and with the dawning realisation you have no idea what you’re doing with your life post-graduation.