The Blog

Is the Gimmockracy of Student Politics An Apocalyptic Vision of the Future of Politics?

Does student politics offer a depressing vision of the future whereby politics is determined by how little shame one has? If if does then someone pass me the rope.

There are some things in life we can rely on. The seasons, for example, or the inevitable tragic decline of Miley Cyrus. Another thing we can depend on is the early spring bombardment of your university campus, as well as all aspects of social media, by people running for a student union position.

These people will be dressed garishly, reiterating nonsensical slogans and forcing throwaway pamphlets into your clammy hand. The reason they are doing this is because they are trying to get voted into their respective student union. All the policies will undoubtedly be a variation on the same theme of probably-not-going-to-happen-but-sounds-quite-good-populism: cheaper rent for everyone! Less work! Better grades! More hummous! So, what it is that sets apart the winners? A memorable gimmick. It is a complete - drum roll please - Gimmockracy.

I will provide a hypothetical example of what I mean: someone is called Joe and wants to be voted in as Community Welfare Officer or some such position. So, their slogan would be: "Vote for Joe as he's in the know!" It's exceptionally clever and brilliant as it rhymes a bit and so on hearing it any reasonable person would collapse into a fit of laughter, clapping along like a walrus. Once being so brilliantly devised, this slogan would now be fervently trumpeted around campus as if it's some sort of prophetic axiom.

Another more famous - and sadly not hypothetical - example is Irish Brian. Irish Brian, as he is hilariously known on account of being: a) Irish and b) called Brian, is running for General Secretary at Lincoln University. In his truly nightmarish video he wanders around campus like an old people's home escapee, screeching along to Royals by Lorde in desperately sombre tones. The funny thing is that 'Brian' has nothing to do with 'Royal' other than the fact they both have two syllables. Why not just replace it with chickpea then?

The question I ask myself is why are you doing this to yourself Brian? What are you hoping to achieve? The answer to the first question can only be answered by Brian himself, or perhaps a psychiatrist. The answer to the second question is that he is trying to achieve memorability. He wants to create something that is within the bounds of acceptable behaviour but will also cause his name to lodge in people's mind like an unwelcome skid mark. And before you can say "please God no, not him, anyone but him" Irish Brian is Gen Sec.

Up until now, the tone of this article has undoubtedly been sneering. So now I confess to you all: I was one of these people only a year ago. A very dear friend of mine, and one of the people who genuinely views both student politics and politics as a whole as a vehicle for positive change, was running for a position. I was helping him do so and part of this was dressing as Thomas the Tank Engine.

One of the most shameful episodes of my third year was being dressed as said Thomas and charging at a cluster of unsuspecting MA students to the backdrop of Ride of Valkyries and cascading around the group like a leering hippo scattering a group of terrified pigeons. The sheer looks of disgust, horror and utter bemusement are still with me. I have been part of the Gimmockracy and know it's boundless meaningless nature. Fortunately, my friend was voted in and he did indeed have good, thoughtful policies. But, the point is that he wouldn't have been so without the Thomas the Tank costume.

What is truly mortifying is that students are - to quote the Big Book of Clichés I keep in my toilet - "leaders of the future". If these people are going to eventually run the country and compete in actual political elections then is politics going to somehow achieve the unachievable and become more vacuous and empty? We've had the debates which led to Nick Clegg creeping into power on account that he is less offensive to look at then Gordon Brown and David Cameron, but what is next? When will politicians begin the race to the bottom of pointless gimmicks?

Perhaps we will have Ed Miliband scuttling around Westminster on his belly dressed as a millipede. Or maybe Clegg will wear an enormous pair of clogs and totter around like a perpetually depressed crane. Does student politics offer a depressing vision of the future whereby politics is determined by how little shame one has? If if does then someone pass me the rope.