LUSU elections are not normal. Any normal election would see candidates standing on a shared policy platform, united by their common beliefs. Instead, LUSU sabbatical officer elections are highly individualistic and incredibly vapid, focusing on candidates' likeness to flying insects or vague pledges to 'improve mental health' rather than a programme of change for the institution that is so loathed by students.
Historically, nothing has stopped students from standing as part of a team. But when recent outcry over the Sugarhouse Scandal led to greater interaction with LUSU's (remaining) democratic structures than has been seen for some years, Vice President (Union Development) Hannah Prydderch has seemingly taken the decision to ban slates from contesting elections.
Experienced candidates were surprised to see a set of 'Additional Rules' emailed out to them prior to the Week 8 elections, among which was one banning teamwork, aka slates. Candidates running for different positions are prohibited from campaigning on a shared platform, even though that's the norm in many students' unions across the country. These 'Additional Rules' didn't exist in prior LUSU elections, so where did they come from?
Ms Prydderch has claimed that 'the rule prohibiting slates originated several years ago', and is not a new decision of the Democracy Committee. This is not backed up by the facts: none of the election rules from 2016 to 2019 (all available on the LUSU website) include the 'Additional Rules', or any mention of slates.
According to LUSU's Democracy bye-law, the election rules are approved annually by the Trustee Board. This makes sense, as there is a legal requirement under the Education Act 1994 that students' union elections 'are fairly and properly conducted'. These election rules are only to be submitted to the Trustee Board following consultation with LUSU's Democracy Committee.
The Democracy Committee is led by Ms Prydderch and consists of a representative from each JCR, typically the democracy officer. As well as signing off on the election rules, the committee was also responsible for setting the recent campus referendum questions that were criticised for being poorly-worded. The decisions of this committee are not made public, its membership is not published, and most egregiously of all, minutes are not made, nevermind not released.
The Democracy bye-law itself, it turns out, is rather ironically named. Its header states it was approved by the LUSU Executive Committee on 26th October 2018, but the minutes of that meeting show that the bye-law was never even mentioned. The meeting was also inquorate, so anything that needed action was taken to a 'digital resolution', which presumably means it was approved over email, if at all. There is no public record of the bye-law ever receiving any such approval.
This is a prime example of the state of 'democracy' in LUSU, which students railed against during the AGM. Although no Trustee Board minutes have been published since August 2019, the existing minutes on the website bear no mention of election rules ever being discussed or approved. If rules are not being brought to the Trustee Board annually for approval, they are in violation of their own bye-law.
How can the authorities be satisfied that the elections are being conducted 'fairly and properly' if the bye-law governing how election rules are drawn up is not being followed? Spineless awaits an answer from LUSU eagerly.
Editors' Note: Some incredible sleuthing by the Spineless staff after a note by a former LUSU sabb candidate has discovered that a document called the Elections bye-law (no longer a LUSU bye-law), approved on 15th May 2014 by LUSU Council, expressly banned slates. The bye-law, the body that approved it, and any evidence of this approval has been scrubbed from the LUSU website.