Intermittently back again, but at least with something a bit different. Hopefully my output may start to increase a little over the next three months, if things go to plan… Hopefully!
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Politics. Strange subject. I’ve been variously interested or disinterested in politics at different stages of my life before arriving at my current status of not caring in the least. I’m still vaguely aware of what’s going on, I catch bits of news here and there, but it only serves to confirm my belief that there are far too many bad people in positions of power all round the world at all levels. I don’t let it bother me.
If I was in charge, I’d want the world to be a utopia, like one of those planets that Captain Kirk and his Star Trek buddies would occasionally stumble across, full of loved-up hippies and trees full of tasty fruit, only without the fundamental flaw that meant it wasn’t a utopia at all, but something dark and sinister…
Anyhoo, that’s not going to happen, but once upon a time, just over 20 years ago in fact, I almost came into a position of (relative) political power, and who knows what the world would be like if things had turned out differently back then…?
At university a friend and I used to run the indie/alternative disco nights at the Student Union bar on campus. Through doing that we got to know the president and vice president of the Student Union, a couple of young men who seemed to live a rather cushy and luxurious lifestyle, at least compared to most of us poor students. They supplemented their income by hiring themselves out as DJs, using all the university’s equipment and the van, while the bulk of the union related work was done by other members of staff.
Midway through our final year of study, my friend and I hit on the idea of running for the presidency ourselves. Not only did it seem like a great way to spend 12 months, but we also thought that maybe we could be more pro-active in the actual union side of things and make the university a better place for the students we’d be representing (idealistic as ever!)
There was a significant obstacle to our plan however, the majority of the students on campus studied sports-related courses and traditionally the president and vice president came from that group. We were art students, so our base support was much smaller, and there had always been very much of a “them and us” attitude amongst the student community.
Undeterred, we made our election intentions official and started to campaign for support, mostly through me making a series of posters, fliers and badges (I was in my creative element!) as well as taking part in the organised hustings and debates that were scheduled in the run up to the date of the election itself. We met the other candidates, and they all seemed quite nice, three other pairings, all from the sports science department. I don’t remember any of their names now, or even slightly recall what they looked like. But I remember what happened on election day…
Campus gossip suggested we were in contention for victory (thanks in part to my enthusiastic marketing campaign I believe) along with two of the other duos, who were helping us by splitting the sporty types, with the fourth party considered to be out of the running.
The university was split into two campuses, nine miles apart, and there was a polling station situated on each site. To vote, students had to show their ID cards to the acting returning officers, who would then tick their name off a register and give them a voting card to mark (secretly, of course) and stick in the black box. It was all very formal and correct.
I think voting must have closed at around 8pm, and we nervously awaited the results as the ballot papers were checked and counted on both sites. We nervously awaited in the bar of course, where else? It seemed to take hours, it probably did. Rumours crept out that we appeared to be doing quite well, so we had to stay in the bar a little longer for the results to be announced. Then the strange thing happened…
The ballot had been declared null and void.
There was evidence of cheating.
Who had been cheating?
Everything that happened afterwards was all a blur of confusion, excuses and dead ends. To summarise, when checking the registers for who had voted, one of the officials noticed that a handful of students appeared to have voted at both sites, something which was of course theoretically possible to do, but not without detection once the registers were compared. One of the people who had voted at both sites was my running mate, the presidential candidate (it sounds fancy when you say it like that!) Another of the double voters was my partner at the time, and another was a mutual friend. Several other arts students had also registered votes on both campuses. That’s what we were told, but it wasn’t true.
My co-candidate spent the whole day on one site, and didn’t travel between campuses until after the vote had closed. My partner spent the whole day with me at the other site, as did the mutual friend. As for the others, they all said, convincingly enough, that they had only voted on one campus. So what was true was that someone, at some level in the election process, had deliberately scuppered the ballot and tried to implicate us into the bargain. Nice!
The union officialdom decided that there would be a ‘re-vote’ scheduled for 2 weeks after the original ballot, and the week after the majority of the art courses finished their term. Naturally we complained, and argued for a full re-election the following term, and took our complaints to the area level Students Union, but they were unable or unwilling to help. There was no investigation into what had happened, and a fortnight later we came in a creditably close but still comfortably second place to the more charismatic of the sporting duos (I remember that much, they were charismatic!)
The following term was our final one, and we all had to spend too much of our energies on our academic work to make any more waves about the injustice we felt we had suffered. We never got to know if whoever it was that voided the ballot did so at the behest of one of our rivals, and we never got to know the count from the first ballot. Maybe we wouldn’t have won anyway. Maybe…
I hope I don’t sound bitter, I’m not. It was a long time ago, but it’s something that I’ve not forgotten. I’ve looked back on it and wondered if it was potentially a significant fork in the path of my life, and what different path my life may have taken if the outcome of the ballot had gone in our favour. I don’t know. That’s not to say that I’m unhappy with the direction my life’s taken since then, we all have many forks in our journey that can radically alter (or not) our course through life. When one possibility seems to have been denied you by devious means, you can’t help but wonder, what if…?
Politics… No wonder I have such an uncomfortable relationship with the subject!
Aha! I managed to find some of the posters from the election campaign down in the cellar, so here are a couple of examples…
Back when Mel Gibson was popular!?
I used to spend hours slaving over a hot photocopier.
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Next time, and not too long to wait for it either (yeah right,) notes from my expedition into deepest, darkest Shpongleland!
Until then… (DON’T) vote ses ;)… ses x
P.S. Some bonus, loosely relevant music for you to enjoy, if you wish