I now write on law and regulation facing the pensions sector for Professional Pensions and this portfolio will no longer be updated. Please read all my new articles on the Professional Pensions website.

Editorial: Redbrick’s frustration at the Guild Elections

With campus dressed in soggy cardboard adverts and ragged-looking candidates, there’s no doubt that the Guild Elections period is here.

This is your prime opportunity to have your picture taken with a stranger in a cardboard frame, and line your pockets with penny-sweets. Of course, alongside this is the serious message that you should be choosing your Guild of Students’ officer team for 2015-16, but how do you make that choice?

As you rush your way across campus to lectures, attempting to dodge the many candidates reaching out for your vote, there are mere seconds to communicate their policies to you. And with final assessments looming, you might only end up looking through their policies online out of sheer procrastination.

In their quick summaries, many of these candidates’ policies will seem incredibly appealing and you’ll be nodding your head furiously as you look forward to their implementation. To be perfectly honest, most of these policies sound pretty great!

So, it is almost inevitable that many votes placed in the Guild Elections will be the result of which name you remembered worst, and which buzzwords on those soggy pieces of cardboard stood out most to you. What this results in, simply, is an inability to make a truly informed choice. I don’t blame you – juggling the third-year of my degree, the duties of being editor of Redbrick, and also an attempt at a social life leave me with little time to really sit down and think about the policies being pledged. How is it then that you can easily sort through the achievable and unachievable policies presented?

This is where your student media groups should step in. As we voluntarily cobble together all of the candidates’ information, conduct interviews and promote the elections, we get to know the candidates quite well. Year-after-year, for those involved for a long time, we can see which policies keep returning and which seem fairly new.

We also feel that we have a duty to let you know this. We should write up an article scrutinising the policies of these candidates, as most media outlets would do for an election that affects you. As the General Election draws closer, you’ll see more and more situations where party candidates and leaders are asked questions about how they will achieve their policies – just look at Natalie Bennett’s interview on LBC last week.

The reality is, we can’t do that. We want to, but we’re not allowed. The Guild of Students has regulations that state “No Guild Committee or Guild recognised Student Group shall support a candidate.” Because Redbrick is a guild recognised student group, we can’t write an article exploring and scrutinising the policies of candidates. Despite knowing their policies weeks before the elections period starts, we can’t properly investigate what they hope to achieve and work out whether that’s going to be possible. All in all, we can’t tell you whether you’re going to be able to get what you voted for.

We feel that it is our duty to help you know your candidates better. This is why we volunteer hours of our time every year to provide you quality information on the Guild Elections website, tirelessly follow candidates around and find out about their campaigns, and provide live updates throughout the campaign, hustings and results night. But we can’t do this effectively if we can’t publish the all the information that will help you make that all-important informed decision.

Remember, for the full-time (previously sabbatical) officer candidates, you’re voting them into £17,000 jobs. You’re agreeing to pay them to fulfil their policy promises. But if no-one can tell you whether they can truly complete their mandate, how can you be sure that you’re going to get what you voted for?

The Guild’s election regulations need to change. This article hasn’t even touched on the limits on our publishing ability. Your student media outlets should be able to carry out their duty. But we can’t and, in all honesty, it’s incredibly frustrating.

Read more in Comment