Campaigning for a position in the student elections is the least Imperial-like thing imaginable: you have to talk to strangers while sober. Some coped by campaigning online, thereby retreating safely behind a Facebook page or Twitter account dedicated to their glory, but most of us ended up doing the face to face campaign. And it was an interesting experience, so I chose to write it down for your convenience. This way you can feel the thrill of the elections without actually standing for anything, or even voting. Isn’t that great?
The first step happens before campaigning: choosing what you stand for. Not in the “I have values” kind of way, but in the “I have ambition” kind of way. You won’t get elected if you stand for everything, so think hard about the position you aim for. Next year’s #Medictatorship is a perfect example, with three out of five sabbs hailing from the department of medicine after Chippy Compton-scattered any serious candidates across all the positions. This way, instead of having to compete against each other, they cruised peacefully to victory almost unopposed, in one of the most boring elections in recent memory. So choose something just slightly above what you are currently doing, like dep rep from year rep, or CU president from CU officer. The Union sends you an email suggesting what you can stand for, but I feel their targeting is a bit off, as they suggested I stand for an undergrad position (I’m a postgrad) and DP Education (I like my course).
The next step is writing your manifesto. Here, you need to convey just the right amount of outrage to seem bold, but not too much or you will sound petty and short-tempered (#Corbyn). Be sure to highlight your current experience, while remaining silent on how grossly you underperformed in carrying out your own expectations. You still probably did more than the person before you though, so don’t feel ashamed of listing your triumphs, no matter how small. Add a few promises where you extrapolate what you feel is lacking and must be fixed to the whole college, and voilà! Manifesto magnifico.
But a manifesto is only the second most important part of your election profile. The picture is where you need your A-game. Use one that is slightly better looking than you are, but not so much that you wouldn’t recognise yourself. Avoid adding extra stuff in Photoshop unless you are Fred Fyles, in which case go full Soviet imagery on us, since felix is a Lef-tist bastion. Outdoor backgrounds are good, since they tell people viewing the picture that you have interests beyond the food at Fusion. You can also add a PDF with more campaign promises or posters, but nobody is going to actually read it, so the image is really the only visual stimulation voters will get.
All this needs to happen before you can start campaigning. You then have two weeks ahead of you to rack in more votes than your opponents, or congratulate yourself if nobody ran against you. I had the luck of having two serious opponents, so you get to read a few more paragraphs of my delicate prose.
Your campaign starts with buying Blu-tack. Otherwise you end up with a pile of posters and no way to actually put them up on the Sherfield walkway before it gets covered in reams of campaign material. A good campaigning poster has your face, your name, the position you’re running for, a nice sentence or two on what you stand for (the values part this time), and the official “Leadership Elections” logo on it. This year’s cringiest poster slogan was “Just another supporting character in the inspiring story of your life”, so you have a low bar to clear. This should be done by the Wednesday before voting opens. Afterwards, you campaign physically. I am sure you have interacted with a campaigner during this election season, as they often come and address lecture theatres or hand out flyers. So instead of telling you what I did, I will tell you how it felt. This was the most terrifying public speech I had made, and I had peddled pseudo-science to 600 people before that (tickets for this year’s Bahfest are selling out! Grab them while you can!) because this time, it’s about you, about convincing other people you are worthy of their trust as a person. As a postgrad, I also went to the labs to interact with PhD students, and it is the same gut-wrenching, palm-sweating, shoulder-shaking experience when doing it one-on-one. And you do it day after day, each time as nervous as the time before, until voting finally closes on Friday. Often, you will come out as less eloquent than you wished, or fail to convince someone to vote (particularly postgrads who feel that the Union does nothing for them). But it doesn’t matter: you are roleplaying another person, one that is smarter and more social than you, and it’s fun. That’s right: the terror of speaking to strangers blurs into the joy of expressing yourself somewhere during the conversation. When the results came in, I was happy to have won, but that joy was nothing compared to how I felt each time I convinced someone to vote.
So if you are here next time around, run or campaign: it is probably the most interesting experience you will have at Imperial.