The Cambridge Union is home to many wanna-be democratic politicians, but this term they face uncontested electionsTobia Nava with permission for Varsity

Fukayama once famously proclaimed the "end of history". But with all but one Union election race uncontested this election cycle, could this be the equally worrying ‘end of democracy’ for Cambridge? I jest, of course. Everyone knows that the Union does not really do anything other than announce and then sporadically cancel high-profile speakers, and add a cushy section to your Linkedin profile. (I, too, have one of these. Feel free to connect, I’d quite like a grad job). Despite some very compelling debates and student discounts in the bar, this is about as useful to democracy as a chocolate teapot. 

"This is about as useful to democracy as a chocolate teapot"

Usually, at this point in term, I begin to feel very popular due to the number of DM requests asking whether I will support the revolutionary take of yet another HSPS fresher. However, during the past few weeks my DMs have been noticeably bare. In recent years, as voting has remained in person despite the large majority of student societies using the SU’s online voting system, the ‘push to the polls’ has been a big part of the student political scene. Hacks begin to appear at various Labour, Liberal and Conservative events to parade their manifestos.  

This year however, with the elections almost entirely uncontested, such efforts are unnecessary. And so whilst the Union Hacks have an electoral siesta, conveniently timed alongside the price of memberships increasing to the bargain price of £300 due to cited "financial mismanagement", I have begun to ponder another pressing question, bigger than the Union’s relative weight and the importance of democracy in Western society. What is Cambridge without the 'hacks'? 

In a weird way, I quite liked the thrill of having to question whether the compliment of my skirt in the Arc Cafe several weeks back was indeed genuine, or a seed planted well in advance to lure me to the polls for the regrettably under-attended Union elections. Traditionally, hacking season is a slightly grating part of the Cambridge experience, during which your Facebook feed is chock-full of beaming endorsements.

A (hopefully satirical) recent Camfess

When infamous Goldman Sachs Basketballer David Quan was still around, these often came in the form of podcast episodes where past trials and tribulations are lamented over a free Fitzbillies coffee. If you are unlucky enough to not be a fresher, you may remember Sal Widdicombe’s lyrical genius in creating ‘hack hits’ like "Happier (with Appiah)". It was a sort of modernist take on Ed Sheeran, in which ex-CUCA chair James Appiah was posited as an ‘anti-establishment’ candidate for Union President in Widdicombe’s sultry tones. And do you know what? It was pretty damn catchy. As a (hopefully satirical) recent Camfess demonstrated, there is definitely a stigma around ‘hacking’ and the Union in general. But, and I may regret conceding this, you can’t say it is not entertaining.

But these glory days are long gone, as the Cambridge Union election outcomes have largely been decided for us this Lent. Yes - we’ve had the SU leadership elections, but let's be honest, they lack the political hijinks necessary for a particularly juicy Camfess. Where’s the grit, the drama, the vote rigging? This time round, there’s no need. Alessio D’Angelo (who I happen to think is a very lovely guy) will be your supreme leader. Read his manifesto and weep, democracy lovers. Alumni relations will be improved, whether you like it or not. 

"Where’s the grit, the drama, the vote rigging?"

In any case, the lack of candidates in this election is certainly noticeable, which says a lot about the role of the Union in Cambridge life. But with the price of membership also rising exponentially, concerns over accessibility are perhaps more urgent. Current President Nick Davis has tried to improve access with his ‘Double Digit Access Memberships’, which I understand will remain under the current price hike, but for many students, membership remains an impossibility. All they can do is watch from the sidelines.


Mountain View

Don’t blame Ghose for ballot stuffing, blame Tory Britain

Should we be grateful, then, for the peace this time around? Should we celebrate that weeks seven and eight of our Lent term are not being filled with DM cold calling, and being sweet-talked into believing that someone will somehow put a pool in the Union garden? I don’t think so. Everyone loves the thrill of the chase. The rivalries spurred by an election in a private members’ club which now costs £300 to join are often farcical. Populating the BNOC list in large numbers, the ‘Union hack’ is a rare breed. Whatever else can be said of them, I hope they’re having a nice rest. They’re certainly giving Varsity less to comment on.