Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The President, the Publicity and the Pisshead: FSFC Elections Day Three

(L-R) Crisp Packet Lady struts her stuff, Tom Jones turns on his swag and

a Treasurer candidate addresses the absent testicle.

Photos - Lewis Shaw

Today saw the third day of the FSFC Electoral hustings, and the candidates for Equality Diversity and Community Links Officer, Treasurer, and Environmental Officer take to the arena. The slightly more serious sounding places on offer brought with them a relieving emphasis on speeches and ideas, but the afternoon wasn't without it's hi-jinks.

Highlights included yet more Cult of Personality for now-President Russell, Claire Weston (Equality, Diversity) body-popping in a Superman costume, a man with one testicle ('They said I needed balls to do hustings so I was a bit unsure at first...') a surprise visit from Tom Jones (A Welshman sharing the name of the soul-singer - who sung 'It's Not Unusual' at the request of the audience) and a girl who seemed to think it was a fashion show, arriving in a dress made of crisp packets and strutting around to music.

Photographic evidence that the only thing better than a
Bodypopping Superman is the audiences faces during it.
Photo - Lewis Shaw

Over the previous days a lot of questions have been raised about hustings - what's good, what's bad, and what's effective? So in the name of good political coverage, and for the good of informed voters, I assembled something that all electoral coverage has - a panel of experts in the field to give advice for the Presidential candidates speaking on Friday. The first person I spoke to was the man in the know - President of the Student Association and Cult Personality Russell Fleming.

Russell 'The Love Muscle' Fleming addresses his fans.

Photo - Lewis Shaw

You ran for president last year and won – what was your general approach to hustings?
My whole campaign was similar to Barack Obamas – I copied the ‘Yes We Can’ motto, but my hustings was sexed up a bit. I went on stage in my campaign t-shirt with a towel wrapped around my waist, and told everyone I was commando – obviously I wasn’t allowed to be, but I whipped off my towel and threw it into the audience halfway through, and I had a pair of the brightest beach shorts going underneath.

The hustings for president are on Friday – do you have any tips for the people who are running this year?
Definitely. The presidential is the most brutal hustings, people really want to take the most out of you that they can. If I have one piece of advice for the people on Friday it’s just keep going – don’t let the crowd stop you because if they do they’ll just get a hold on you. Have a plan and stick to it.

How do you think hustings has changed since last year?
I wouldn’t say it has gotten worse or better. One thing I mentioned last year was that nobody could actually see it - I wanted it to be in the sports hall so that at least the majority of the college could get in, because you can’t get that many people into CafĂ© D. So this year we broadcasted it through screens around college, so I was pretty happy with that, that’s my legacy now. I think it’s been toned down since last year, a bit less brutal.

People do an entire array of strange, weird publicity stunts for hustings – what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen someone do?
The year before mine there was a girl who covered herself in cream, tipped a tub of strawberries over her head and said ‘Look at me – strawberries and cream’. I can’t remember who she was or what she was running for – but she won. Kind of shows you the power that hustings has.

My second panel member was native-Texan Lizzi Dee - public speaking expert, scholar and blogger whom I worked with on The Thought Report, who could offer her professional opinions on the subject.

'This is your speech? Good God man, give up before
they destroy you completely.'

You were elected President of Art and Debate Society last year and you have experience speaking outside of there - what kind of thing did you do to get elected?I got elected mostly from experience - I was involved in both before, and was always very organised and leading. People voted me in not just because I had the capacity to put changes in place, but because I wanted to help instead of just get something to put on my CV as well. It's important for people to know that you're genuinely enthusiastic.

The outcome of a husting is very much affected by the audiences reactions and whether they boo or not - is this fair, and do you think that this will be reflected in the way they vote?
In a debate I think it is very fair for the audience to vocalize whether or not they agree with a certain stance being presented by a nominee. When you're campaigning you ought to be selling your ideas to people, not trying to cater to them. When you cater to them that's usually when the booing sets in - the general public is usually smart enough to see through empty promises.

There are alot of different publicity stunts done at hustings - what is effective and what isn't?
I know this really isn't a stunt, but a lot of politicians have body language consultants. They to certain things to make them more like the "average" man and more relatable. I feel like hype is too easy. It's easy to pass out freebies or get someone cool like a celebrity to come out and talk about how great your are and what a game-changer you are. It's hard to make everyone feel like you are on their level and advocating for them as someone who genuinely understands their situation. I guess having proper body-language while campaigning is a more subtle form of a stunt.

My third and final 'expert' fills a seat on the panel that is usually filled with oddballs - comedians, actors, or union leaders. Ross Gilligan - a blogger, scientist and full-time alcoholic from Oxford - has little to do with the subject, but gave me a surprisingly large amount of good answers considering he was halfway through a 12 pack of beer at the time of interview.

"I'd like to come on stage wearing nothing but a fedora and
a trench coat."
Photo - Hana Clements

Have you ever spoken in front of a crowd? And if you have, what are your general tactics?
I have quite a few times actually. Well sometimes a little bit of alcohol can help to loosen the tongue. Not enough to get tipsy though or the talk is going to get incredibly embarrassing for you, and funny for everyone else. Generally, I find treating all talks as though you're recounting anecdotes to a large group of eager listeners is a great method. The main thing however, is to make sure that you've prepared adequately for the talk. Know exactly what points you're looking to make and be sure to find a way of remembering them.

What shouldn't you do when speaking? 
Reading from notes is one of the worst ways to give a public speech. When a speaker reads aloud from a prepared speech they make little eye contact with the audience, making them less engaging, and can easily be thrown off by simple spelling mistakes and misread lines. This leads to an awkward speech.

"Reading from notes is one of the worst ways to give a public speech."
Photo - Lewis Shaw

FSFC Hustings have seen all sorts of publicity stunts, from shark rappers, to dancing nuns and guys waxing their legs. What publicity stunt would you do if given the opportunity?
I'd like to come on stage wearing nothing but a fedora and a trench coat, letting the old family jewels hang loose, while delivering a heartfelt and serious speech on a sensitive topic. I'll call it 'How far can I get before being thrown off stage'. My backup option, due to certain laws that limit my public actions, would be to hire a team of back up vocalists to emphasise every point I make while I stand on stage in an alligator costume. Kids will love it.

Hustings is a brutal and bloodthirsty past time, where alot of people with good ideas and alot of people with no ideas are smushed together - do you think that the brutality of a hustings should really effect how people finally vote?
I find the very idea of hustings a complete shambles on behalf of the voters. It's all too easy to get caught up in the general mood of a crowd. If a person has good speaking skills, knows how to cause a stir in the audience, and how to dominate a debate they can easily come out on top in the eyes of the listener, even if their policies don't actually complement those of the voters. I find it to be more of a peer pressure oriented debate. If you find yourself surrounded by those on the side of one talker, you'll be more likely to listen to their side.

What would you replace it with? 
I would replace them with a unbiased speaker going through the points of each speaker and fielding questions out to them, minimizes the speakers ability to manipulate a crowd. Either that or ponies. Ponies are good.

Tomorrow there will be no hustings, due to an awkwardly placed HE trip. However, the arena will return on Friday to see the Battle Royale - the Presidential Hustings. You can find Lizzi's blog here, and the blog documenting Ross' life with alcohol abuse here.

- Lewis


  1. Hold on, why am I reading this? You're not Russell.

    1. i Agree unless you shave your eyebrows of completely you'll never be a DONLAD like Russell (The Russell Cult)

    2. Perhaps not, but I certainly am.

  2. why are you pretending to be Russell in this post?

    -2nd year illuminati.

  3. I control the elections, no matter what the outcome of the votes, I decide who wins what.

    1. Cheeky Jarvis. Let the voters have their fun...

  4. As if you first years actually thought you could decide an election. The 2nd year Fleet Elite will push our puppets into office with the help of the administration. You, the writer of the blog, you too will assume this position for the 2013 sham.

    1. *sprouts wings* *flies to moral high-ground*