Clockwise from top left: Roemer, Doku, Sime and Satow.Tom Freeman/Anna Menin

The presidential election grew heated at CUSU and the GU’s election hustings yesterday, as candidates took the chance to go on the offensive.

Throughout the evening, candidates made speeches and took questions from an audience comprised mainly of regular CUSU Council Attendees, campaign team members, and journalists.

The highlight of the hustings, held in the Mill Lane lecture block, was the CUSU Presidential Debate, in which the gloves finally came off. After a subdued video debate on Sunday, watched by around a dozen viewers, and which was mostly plagued by technical issues, the Presidential candidates entered with a new confidence – unafraid to argue and take shots at one another.

Though all the signs on social media suggest that former Jesus JCR President Amatey Doku has the widest popular support, the debate was remarkably balanced.

Doku remained fairly aloof to begin with, but as the discussion continued he was drawn into a more personal method of attack, most notably in a burst of sarcasm at free-speech advocate John Sime.

Activist candidate Angus Satow and ex-TCSU President Cornelius Roemer found themselves in an uneasy alliance – with both emphasising the strength and quantity of policy they had to offer, and attempting to contrast themselves to Doku.

The event marked something of a change in strategy for Satow: where during the video debate he had focused his attention on John Sime, Monday’s hustings showed him turning to Doku. Satow grilled Doku on the latter’s apparently belated policy: noting that a policy document from Doku's campaign had only been released that day. Doku maintained his composure, but dodged the question.

Roemer made a firm bid for the centre ground, leaning heavily upon his experience of CUSU governance, a quality which the other candidates could not boast. 

Despite the eventful week he has had, Roemer largely avoided coming under attack from the other candidates, allowing him to speak freely. Addressing his credentials as a communicator, he claimed that to be a great orator was unnecessary for CUSU’s President. “How often have you heard Priscilla [Mensah, CUSU President] speak to the public?” he asked.

Sime, who was told by Satow to 'check his privilege' during Sunday’s video debate, marched through now-familiar lines, offering new platforms to those who are no-platformed, and advocating a CUSU which supports more university-wide events. 

The candidates take questions from the audienceLouis Ashworth

With the role of CUSU Coordinator lacking any applicants, and awaiting its own automatic by-election, the candidates were asked whether they would consider running for the position if they failed in their presidential bids.

Satow emphasised that he found the focus of the coordinator role unappealing due to its “internal” focus. Roemer said that he sought the increased influence wielded by the President, while Sime said that rejection in the race for president would be a signal that he should not stand again. Doku, in a break from his usually controlled and lucid answers, rather ambiguously said it would “depend” upon who became President. 

Elections opened at midnight this morning, and will run until 3rd March. Currently, an error on the system means that present Education Sabbatical Officer Rob Cashman is listed as running against his prospective successor. In a statement, CUSU Coordinator Jemma Stewart said that “votes cast for any other candidate listed will be redistributed using ballot-checking software striking the candidate following the close of elections.”

There was also excitement in other contests on Monday night.

The debate for Welfare Officer became unexpectedly combative, with current sabbatical officer Poppy Ellis-Logan immediately going on the offensive against challenger Sophie Buck. Ellis-Logan, who has recently faced questions from CUSU Council members regarding her level of attendance at council meetings, highlighted her experience in the role, and fought against criticisms levelled by Buck. Buck emphasised her “greater interest” in issues related to mental health. The room was stirred by Ellis-Logan’s unexpectedly terse closing line: “Do you think you have more experience than I have?”

The 'debates' for the uncontested roles of Access officer, Education officer and Graduate Union President were, predictably, low-key, though Chad Allen’s bid for re-election as the latter was a notably funny warm-up to the dramatic presidential debate. Allen defended the independence of the Graduate Union, recently the subject of a university review revealed by Varsity, but also noted ways in which it could work together with CUSU.

The low-profile role of University Councillor was contested by four students: Josh Jackson, Peter Juhasz, Umang Khandelwal and Jon Wall. Jackson stood head and shoulders above the competition, if only physically – their debate, with the amount of time given to each speaker significantly contracted, resembled a quartet of auctioneers. Words came at a fast pace, but there was very little actual debate – though the words “representation”, “communication” and “consultation” were thoroughly well-used by all four.

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