The last time subtext covered a city council by-election in University & Scotforth Rural ward (December 2016 – see subtext 156), the turnout fell to an all-time low for a public election this century. The last time campus residents went to the polls in a public election (June 2017 – see subtext 165), a series of ‘errors’ led to political posters being ripped down by campus authorities. So, what embarrassments to the democratic process would subtext witness at this month’s city council by-election on campus, won by Amara Betts-Patel and Oliver Robinson of the Labour Party?
To our pleasant surprise, it all went rather well. Poor voter registration? Almost all campus residents were on the electoral roll. Poor voter turnout? At 27%, with 1033 people voting, this was impressive for a by-election in a student area. Evidence of total apathy? They were queueing outside the Chaplaincy Centre to vote. Evidence of lies, backstabbing and intrigue? The candidates (if not quite everyone on their campaign teams) were getting on famously, with campaign stalls lined up next to each other in Alexandra Square. And there was a statue of Poseidon made of litter.
There were some brief shenanigans on polling day, when (it is alleged) some Conservative activists stole the giant Labour banner in Edward Roberts Court, but this was defused by a quick call to the police. The banner was back up soon afterwards. The Tories retired sheepishly to the bar.
The only other instance of disharmony came the day after polling day. During a shouty edition of Bailrigg FM’s ‘You Ask the SU’, LUSU Vice-President (Union Development) Qas Younis and Labour’s election agent Lucy Atkinson had a prolonged, testy exchange over who was responsible for the increased voter turnout. Mr Younis suggested that the increased turnout was largely due to ‘the work put in by the students’ union’, even though ‘it’s not our job to promote YOUR elections’ (it definitely is). Listen to the long, awkward altercation at https://www.mixcloud.com/BailriggFM/question-time-grad-ball-founders-you-ask-the-su/
More of this sort of election, please.