By Rob Wells, The Linc

Despite cynics often pointing out that the difference between the major political parties in Britain is comparable to the difference between a sultana and a raisin, the candidates in SU elections are worse.

“One of my favourite sayings about politics is that ‘Whoever you vote for, the Government always gets in.’ You can seamlessly replace ‘Government’ with ‘Students’ Union’.” Forget different varieties of grape; ours mostly come from the same vineyard.

There were a couple of instances where there were significant differences between the candidates, such as in the contest for the full-time Sports and Teams position, which went to Rowing Club president Chris Farrell.

Some of the five candidates’ policies overlapped – such as increased publicity for teams – but their manifestos were noticeably different.

However, if your turn your attention to the candidates for the SU presidency, it looks like the they sat in a room together and agreed on pledges they could all make.

All four of them said they wanted to be more involved with the university’s satellite campuses. The winner, Chris Charnley and James Mason both mentioned expanding the university shop and making sure accommodation is checked. Mr Charnley and Stacie Ridley both discussed extending the library’s opening hours.

The amount of overlap between this year’s candidates for the top job was ridiculous. It gets even more so when you compare Mr Charnley’s manifesto to that of his predecessor, Daniel Hutchinson, when the latter was elected president in 2008.

They both stress the importance of “re-engaging” with students, and then go on (in almost the same order) to promise to improve the shop, keep the library open for longer, check student accommodation – Mr Charnley calls this “victimisation”, Mr Hutchinson calls it “taking advantage”, I call it a synonym – and finally to increase student influence over the Engine Shed and the Tower Bar.

However, it would be glib to accuse the SU’s new president of plagiarising his predecessor’s positions.

The reality is far more worrying. Those attempting to get elected to office in our Students’ Union have apparently discovered a set of safe, uncontroversial proposals that can be safely repeated year-after-year.

This has allowed them to bypass the inconvenience of policy and focus on what cynics have always accused these elections of being: a popularity contest. Who do you know, and how can you attract more attention to yourself?

This year it was Chris Charnley’s superman costume.

It would be incredibly naive to suggest that injecting some actual difference and serious competition into these elections would substantially increase student involvement and voter turnout. As mentioned, the Sports and Teams contest was better in this regard, but attracted just 15 more votes than the presidential vote.

But it can not hurt. According to the SU’s figures, voter turnout was 11.9%. Even adjusting the number of members to account for part-time students, who are not eligible to vote under NUS rules, turnout is still just 13%.

That is atrocious, and being elected on stale, year-old pledges does nothing to help.

By Rob Wells

Rob is a third-year journalism student at the University of Lincoln, and is originally from Leicester. He also writes on his website.

19 thought on “Meet the new SU boss, same as the old boss”
  1. The lack of votes cast is just another symptom caused by the Students’ Union inability to engage students year on year! I don’t want a presidential candidate to feed me false promises, I want them to sort out the issue of student engagement and representation. I want them find out exactly what we want from the SU and then they do it. No more guess work!!

    If we have another year like this one, where this promise was made to engage students but is not kept then they will be just a replica of this year’s team! We must give them the chance to prove that they are not the same, and we must support them to do so.

    The presidential candidates all made the most important promise to the students, that is why they all seem the same, but we must make sure they fulfil it. If they do not fulfill this promise, if they do fail like this year’s team, then the Students must make sure that the SU is held fully to account!

  2. Chris and Daniel couldn’t be any less a like. Daniel’s a nice guy but he hasn’t got what it takes, which Chris has shown to us students.

    The feature is completely biased against Chris, whoever wrote the feature dislikes the Students Union. If it had been a popularity vote then surely the cheerleader would have won? being in the AU, a gymnast etc. Everyone who was elected earned their role, apart from one. I think 200+ votes away from the next rival candidate says everything, he worked hard and deserves the role.

    Look at what he’s done to Bullet, he turned the magazine around and more students know about it than others. If he applies what he’s dont to the Students Union then the students are very lucky.

    Let the lad breath before making attacks, he hasn’t even got into the job yet.

  3. Although in terms of manifestos i believe repetition may be the case, it takes one decent and respected president to change this and solve the issues therefore a new set of promises can be made next year. This clearly shows us that previous presidents have not completed the tasks to a satisfactory level.

    It takes support from students to make a good president suggest ideas don’t just leave it them to solve themselves- input from a student can never be a bad thing right?

    If you have an idea propose it see whats happens I indeed hope and belive this year will be the year of change i have full respect and support for Chris and trust him to make a difference in some way shape or form.

  4. I think this is an extremely biased view of the elections. Perhaps the policies were similar because they were obviously unfulfilled in the previous years or this would not be an issue again. I think that if you feel this strongly about the issue perhaps you should have spoke up before the elections were announced. Alternatively you could have ran for President yourself if you feel you have original ideas of which you fail to mention at all in this one sided article. Perhaps it it this cynical attitude that account for the low response rate from students, surely it would be more beneficial to at least give the new candidates a chance to prove themselves before passing judgement.

  5. I don’t think its fair to critique Chris Charnley’s campaign before it’s even taken off. It’s easy to mock someone in such a political position but it’ll be months before we’ll be able to tell if he’s up for the job. I think calling it a popularity contest is ridiculous, I think the majority of the candidates know their positions will be anything but a walk in the park.

    “This year it was Chris Charnley’s superman costume”. Bit low there? Bit juvenile to mock someones choice of outfit for a campaign and futile when you think that he won the campaign.

  6. Chris has already worked very hard at having involvement in the SU and letting us final level students have input into our graduation ball. no one else at the SU has — just him and his group on Facebook.

  7. Personally I think this article is heavily biased and an unfair piece of journalism. I understand the idea behind this feature as being opinionated but this clearly gives the wrong message to students.

    Chris and Daniel may have the same views on how to change the SU and make it better when it comes to engaging and informing students but at the end of the day these are the main points that need to be tackled.

    I voted for Chris because from the start of campaign week right through to results evening he never once lacked in keeping his supporters and mainly the students informed and aware of what he was standing for. This is exactly what students want. They want to know what is going to be done and they want a president who will continuously keep them up to date. I believe Chris will do his utter most to make a difference and put things into effect. He is the kind of person who this SU needs!

    Writing an article like this will have a negative impact on students, making them think the SU will never do anything towards change.

    If you are thinking about publishing an article like this in the future i think you should allow right of reply.

  8. Er, they’re clearly not all the same. I think that at least one of them is a girl for a start. Oh, ok maybe they are all the same…

  9. This article is a column or an opinion piece — and is meant to voice the opinion of the author rather than present events in an objective way.

    The right of reply is a courtesy and not a legal obligation, and Chris Charnley is welcome to have his say in a comment here, or in any other way he finds fit.

    An objective account of the elections process can be found at

  10. Surely if the candidates would of all had similar manifesto’s if they had an idea of the job role they needed to fulfil? I completely agree with all of the comments on here, Mr Charnley is something this Students’ Union and University needs.

    609 voters can’t be that wrong — and he simply had nothing to do with the fact he wore a costume. It got him attention and he used that to let students know more about his ideas and what he stands in. The manifestos are just a bit of paperwork to get the ball rolling, wouldn’t you have been better off doing an opinion piece on the campaigns, would have almost certainly made this a better read.

    Sadly I wont be here next year…

  11. I can’t fail this piece in readability and common interest – as a student. I believe the writer is well within his right as a student paying his way towards this uni to criticise his Student’s Union. Accountability, hopefully, will be in Chris’ top priorities next acedemic year…

    I think objective journalism is taking over the majority of media at the moment. It’s stagnating subjectivity by implying farcical misconceptions like right of reply.

    So what if bad things are said. If Chris Charnley will whole-heartedly follow his targets through then what’s the problem?

    This will be his job in a few months — to deal with things like this. Get used to it!

  12. Sam, I agree with you. I for one, didn’t vote for Charnley and wouldn’t have wanted him to win. But the way things went, I am glad that someone had the courage to criticise them.

    I think they are having an easy ride over at the SU and they are getting paid for it as well. Of course someone has to keep an eye on them, and if that’s going to be The Linc — all the better.

    I also see that Charnley did not reply yet on this article, although many of his supporters are moaning about it. Or maybe he has nothing to say in his defence…

  13. Anonymous – you’re saying “he simply had nothing to do with the fact he wore a costume”. If it was him wearing the costume, surely no one can force him to do it. I’m afraid you’re not making much sense, otherwise you would have had the courage to put your name in the box…

  14. Yes, there have been failings within the SU, and we must be ready to hold the new team to account if things do not change, but let the team get in place and give them a chance. Do not condemn them before they start.

    From what I have seen they are all are a driven and determined bunch that have put themselves on the line to try and make a difference which in itself says a lot about them. Both Chris and Daniel are good and dedicated men that want the best for the University, but they both have totally different perspectives on how that can be achieved.

    Personally, I look forward to the next year with the new invigorated SU and the changes being put in place for Student Council. There is a lot of work to be done, but I have confidence that things will improve significantly.

  15. Why should he have to defend himself? He’s done nothing wrong, its an opinion of one reporter and the lad hasn’t even started the role yet. The feature is a complete minority if you look at all the messages of support the lad got.

    Good on you son and keep up the good work, your what we all need at the uni.

  16. I know Chris, and I know for a fact how hard he worked to get this place as SU President. I trust him 100% and know that he will put 100% into getting everything he promised. Don’t judge him on being a ‘politician’. Do you think that maybe he arrived at a similar manifesto because the last president promised them and didn’t deliver? They are important things to consider as students and we need someone we can trust. There isn’t a fake bone in Chris’ body, so the Superman you met when he was promoting his campaign, is the Chris myself and my other friends know.

  17. I don’t think Chris needs to respond to the article with a written reply. He has his term in office to show us that he means business. It’s on what he does that we should judge his leadership.

    Personally, I have no reason to doubt his ability. I look forward to a fresh start.

  18. I agree with those above who have come out in support for Chris. Having worked with him prior to, during and after the elections I have complete confidence in his ability to take the Union forward with the support of a strong and promising Executive Committee.

    I look forward to working closely with all the newly elected Officers from June and would hope that this article is followed up in the Autumn, once we have actually had chance to implement that changes we have planned.

  19. RE comment by Alice: I also see that Charnley did not reply yet on this article, although many of his supporters are moaning about it. Or maybe he has nothing to say in his defence…


    Maybe you should consider that Chris has more important things to be doing right now (like getting us a decent SU) than replying to every negative post under this biased article? He was a clear winner in the election process and I think it’s a shame that people are so narrow minded and quick to judge him before he has had a chance to prove himself.

    Policies are similar to those made in the past because they were NOT fulfilled. Now we finally have a leader who has the drive and ambition to make these changes. This is something we should ALL be celebrating.

    After being at Lincoln for 3 years, working with Bullet magazine and studying a highly-relevant degree, Chris obviously has the hard-working attitude and knowledge to make a real difference.

    Don’t be so quick to judge. I’m willing to bet a large sum of money that many of you making negative remarks will be eating your words this time next year.

    He is the best thing thats happened to the students union in a long, long time.

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