Putting the demo back into democracy

Photograph by Mina RassouliWell, it’s over. The bunting is down and I’ve finally taken off my green hoodie. 3,866 Sussex students cast their votes for and against 54 candidates contesting 18 positions. I announced the results. And apart from a small amount of blood that still needs mopping up, the record-breaking 2013 #sussexelections, which took place in the shadow of an ongoing student occupation, are done and dusted!

It was a week not without its controversies. That’s the polite way of me saying that at times it was like running a primary school. There was the odd banner that was mysteriously destroyed; an occasional allegation that another candidate was acting unfairly by “having more friends to help them” (yes really) and even by “receiving votes” (what a bastard).

There was one period on Tuesday when I received 10 ‘formal complaints’ within 6 minutes: complainants usually included the word ‘formal’ despite it being utterly meaningless in this context.

To prevent students from ‘buying the election’, we enforced a points system under which every item of publicity had a certain value, eg. an A5 flyer cost 2 points, and candidates had a spending limit of 2,000.

You might think that this sounds scrupulously fair, but you’d be wrong. Some of the issues upon which I had to adjudicate  included: “How many points is a ‘V’? Because at the moment my sign just says ‘OTE FOR ME’!” and, “How many points is a bouncy castle?” and, “Is he allowed to campaign in a dolphin costume?” Not, I flatter myself, queries that, say, Ed Miliband’s Returning Officer often has to deal with.

In fact, the whole thing was very reminiscent of one time when I was leading a summer camp and told one child, “You have to take it in turns to use the climbing frame,” to which they retorted, “That’s SO unfair!!”

The results themselves weren’t that surprising; but this tweet I received was, almost unique in fact, hence my preserving it for all eternity:

sussex uni twitter

A PCC of my mind

Following an enquiry from one of the failed Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner candidates, I ran a little statistical comparison between our two paragons of democracy. (It’s worth noting that in a report released this week, November’s PCC vote was referred to as “how not to run an election”.) The results are:

hybrid copyIn your face local government. Meanwhile, the despot who won the PCC election, Katy Bourne, has been getting up to some monkey business:


Yes we vatiCAN!

God condition, 265 previous owners
From our Catholic correspondent

The papal conclave will be with us soon, amid concerns that rich candidates will simply be able to buy the election (still, that’s the way the money goes: pope goes the weasel). So this week, Gabrielquotes takes a look at some of the runners and riders.

At odds of 3-1, it’s the very reverend Harvey Maria, Bishop of Bromley and Primark of the Holy Trinidad, who has promised to “restore the Church’s Mass-market appeal” with a series of innovations including away-days for Cardinals, confession boxes in coffee shops and a referendum on leaving the European Ucharist.

At odds of 10-1, it’s the Lord – pundits say there’s an outside chance that He may choose to take the whole operation back in-house and take personal control of the Church, ending centuries of outsourced Service providers.

At odds of 15-1, we have American-Jewish singer and songwriter Tom Lehrer, standing for the position on a platform of, “Do whatever steps you want if you have cleared them with the pontiff.”

And at remote odds of 30-1: he’s 100% stalking horse, it’s Urban Legend, Roman Curio and Prefect of the Apostolic Poundland. Urban made a big name for himself when he was elected to the committee of the Sussex Circus Skills Society, and commentators are wondering whether this could be his next big break. He’s pledged that if elected, he’ll serve his full term and not run off with the diabolo.

(It’s not funny if you just list the real candidates with no elements of parody or satire. -Ed.)

The silver fox

"Irresistable to women" – Chris Rennard
“Irresistable to women” – Chris Rennard

Former Lib Dem chief executive Lord Rennard has been in the news this week, after it emerged that he “abused his power to proposition women.”

The image of a Liberal Democrat abusing their ‘power’ for such purposes reminds me of when I was on a train a few months ago and a young man sitting next to me was pretending (I assume) to be the director of Thomson Local as a way of chatting up the girl sitting opposite him. Though to be fair if it were true it would be a really powerful line.

Party ‘leader’ Nick Clegg claims that he had no idea of his colleague’s darker side until a few days ago, although he admits that he had heard of “non-specific concerns about Lord Rennard” in 2005, and acted upon them immediately.

I’m not clear on how one can possibly act on a ‘non-specific concern’, but if anyone knows how to appear to do something while actually doing nothing, it’s Nick Clegg.

In other news:

  • Cardinal O’Brien ‘to join Liberal Democrats’
  • Dawkins ‘has non-specific doubts’ about existence of God
  • Dull, menial office worker of no importance ‘abused power’ more than Lord Rennard ever could

News from Oxford: show some R.E.S.P.E.C.T.


As the Returning Officer…
now accepting papalIn tonight’s episode, Sussex democracy flourished while Katy Bourne did her best to destroy it. Nick Clegg will remain leader of the Liberal Democrats for a non-specific period. George Galloway was a member of the Labour Party until his expulsion from the human race. This was an Gabrielquotes production.

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