All Elections great and small…

So we’re a week on and the election furore has yet to fully die down. We now have a Minister for Equality who voted against same sex marriage, and a Disabilities Minister who voted for the Bedroom Tax and against protecting disabled children’s benefits… but hey it could be worse, at least UKIP lost a seat.

UEA is most well-known for its arts graduates, figures such as Matt Smith and Ian McEwan. However, it seems more fitting at the moment to discuss those graduates of UEA who have gone on to climb the political greasy pole.20141214_135104

Because there are a surprising number of UEA alumni who have served time in either the House of Commons or the House of Lords, I shall limit myself to those who are currently members of Parliament.

The longest serving UEA MP is Caroline Flint (Labour) who received a BA in American Literature and History combined with Film Studies, and was elected to Parliament in 1997.

Flint has held a variety of positions including Minister for Public Health (2005-2007), Minister for Employment (2007-2008), Minister for Housing and Planning (2008) and Minister for Europe (2008-2009). She is currently the Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

Most famous for co-founding the parliamentary dance troupe, Division Belles, and for admitting that whilst Minister for Europe she didn’t read the Lisbon Treaty (the document which codifies the rules of the EU… *awkward*)

Then we have Karin Smyth and Rachael Maskell, both of whom did their BA’s at UEA and are now both new Labour MP’s as of last week – the very best of luck to them.

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And then we have the man who might be termed UEA’s enfant terrible (although without any of the positive connotations), Douglas Carswell. UEA is generally considered a progressive left wing university, all the other current ex-UEA MP’s are Labour for example, and yet somehow we went terribly wrong with this one.

Carswell is currently the only UKIP MP in the UK, having defected from the Conservative party in 2014. He is a climate change sceptic, opposed to same sex marriage and laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, and dislikes the NHS. Carswell was also revealed to have claimed over £30,000 in expenses to cover the furnishing of his second home, so all in all, a bad egg.

On behalf of UEA, I apologise sincerely.

But in our defence we have also provided the world with the eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith), Greg James, and Charlie Higson, so we’re probably allowed one let down.

When you look at the list of UEA alumni there are many politicians, both in the UK and abroad. It does make you wonder if there’s currently anyone at UEA who will one day appear on the famous alumni list.

In other ‘election’ news, I have just been elected as the Drama Society’s Union and Equality Officer (maybe not as exciting as becoming an MP but still). It was a rather last minute decision to apply, but having now met the new committee I am excited to get started.

So fingers crossed that the Tories don’t muck up this country and that I don’t muck up my new position.

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Norwich the Kingmaker

Forgive the poor attempt at a history pun.

My post is deliberately delayed a little this week so I could cover the hustings held this evening at UEA.

In case you aren’t already aware, Norwich South (the constituency which covers UEA) is predicted to be a four way tie come polling day. The Conservatives, Greens, Lib Dems, and Labour all stand a chance of winning the seat and are therefore all very keen to woo the student vote.

UKIP didn’t attend, ostensibly due to having a prior engagement, but also probably because they are aware that they are very much lacking in support on campus. Why an educated, international body of students wouldn’t like them I can’t say, but they certainly weren’t missed.

The event was well attended with the lecture theatre packed out and people having to stand at the back. The candidates each began with a five minute opening statement, before questions were accepted from the floor with each candidate allowed two minutes to answer. Topics covered included tuition fees (obviously a hot topic in this constituency), the NHS, and employment – rehashing old territory really. Whilst the discussions were interesting I thought it a shame that the candidates rarely touched on specific local initiatives (the Lib Dem candidate and current MP, Simon Wright, did talk about local issues far more, but I imagine he probably had more to talk about having worked as an MP here for the last five years).

As someone who was still unsure of which way they were going to vote, the hustings this evening were a really important factor in my decision. Whilst I think it’s important to vote for a party you support on a national level, it’s also vital to take into consideration what they can do for you at a local level. Unfortunately for me one of the parties who in theory I thought I might vote for had a very uninspiring candidate, however this has made my decision at lot easier.

If similar events are happening in your constituency I would highly recommend you attend, make sure you actually like the MP you’re voting for, not just the party.

This would also seem a pertinent moment to remind everyone that if you want to vote in the General Election, and you should, then you need to be registered by the 20th of April. (https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote)

For those in the Norwich South constituency, here are links to the four major party candidate’s websites:

Simon Wright (Lib Dem) – http://simonwright.org.uk/en/

Clive Lewis (Labour) – http://www.clivelewis.org/

Lesley Grahame (Green) – http://www.lesleygrahame.org.uk/

Lisa Townsend (Conservative) – http://lisatownsend.co.uk/

Norwich South is going to be an important seat come polling day, hence the abominable pun earlier, so every vote counts – literally a handful of votes could swing the seat so make sure your voice is counted.

up simba

Student Elections and International Women’s Day

I walked into a class at eleven last week, with everything apparently as normal, and when I walked out… this had happened.

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In case you hadn’t guessed voting has opened for Student Union reps, and campus is currently flooded with manifestos and posters, people are handing out leaflets on the Street (a guy just walked past my window with a ‘Vote…’ banner on his back).

But even with all this propaganda in your face, it can be quite tempting to let it slide by. To be honest a lot of the manifestos sound the same, and whilst I’m sure that I do profit from the hard work of our union reps, it’s hard to put your finger on what effect they really have on your uni experience – a lot of them sound the same, so does it really matter to me who wins?

Well here’s the thing.

A lot like the General Election, if you want to know what’s going on you actually have to do some digging yourself. Take a ten minute break from Facebook and check out the Union website, find out what people are saying about their campaigns and you’ll find you get a lot more out of it. Many of the aims are generic, but some, like the fight to have gender neutral toilets, are more specific points that less candidates are focusing on.

Another way the Student Union election is like the General in May, is that it is meant to elect people to represent the population, and if you don’t bother voting then you are choosing to not be represented or to have your voice heard – which sounds like the choice of an imbecile if you ask me.

Check out what the candidates have to say at www.ueastudent.com/vote, or they can often be found hovering in Unio café, eager to answer potential voters questions.

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Other events happening on campus over the last few days include the Feminist Society’s celebration of International Women’s Day. Various speakers had a platform in the LCR, and in the evening the talented women of UEA performed music and poetry.

I got these cute pin badges from the FemSoc stall.

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I’m not sure Taylor Swift qualifies as a feminist icon yet, but Malala Yousafzai and Laverne Cox definitely deserve celebration

That’s about all until next week, in the meantime, GET VOTING!

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UEA’s Place in the 2015 General Election (and why your vote counts)

Unless you’re a Politics student then it’s quite likely that you’ve given the upcoming General Election less thought than you perhaps should.

UEA is a particularly interesting place to be voting on the 7th May. In the 2010 general election, Norwich South (the constituency which UEA is in) was a true three-way marginal, but with the Green party making concerted efforts to cultivate the student vote it is possible that this year it may become one of only a few four-way marginals.

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But what does this all mean for me, you may ask? A common reason given for not voting is that, ‘my vote won’t matter’, well you are lucky enough to be a student in an area where that is demonstrably not true. During the last election, the Lib Dems won by only 310 votes – which is fewer people than those who live in Norfolk Terrace.

In a recent article on their website, the NUS (National Union of Students) reported that there are almost 200 seats in which the student vote could swing the verdict, ‘In all but six of those seats, Census data shows full time students are a bigger proportion of the electorate than the swing required to change the 2010 outcome. Students hold the key to more than a quarter of seats – 81 Conservative, 76 Labour, 25 Liberal Democrats and nine others.’

You can register to vote both at home and where you go to uni (although you can only vote in one location). NUS’s Election Hub can help you compare the statistics for the two locations, to assist you in deciding where you should vote.

Earlier this month the Guardian named UEA as the third most influential university come polling day. This is largely due to its three-way marginal which means multiple parties are prioritising the Norwich South constituency as a place to gain a seat this May.

Even if politics isn’t your thing, I’m sure you can see why a large turnout of students on polling day is especially important at UEA. Last election only 62% of 18-25 year olds voted, compared to 89% of 65+, if students want to be taken seriously by the government and not have universities seen as the easy places to make budget cuts, then we need to be politically engaged over the next three months, and exercise our influence in the polling stations come the 7th of May.

Unless of course you’re planning on voting for UKIP, in which case stay home and rethink your life choices.

Goats, Votes, and Dogs with Soft Coats

One of the things I love about UEA is their commitment to the welfare of their students, it’s probably the reason we usually do so well in satisfaction surveys, and this last week was UEA’s ‘Wellbeing Week’.

It saw a whole host of events, from the opening of the ‘Nap Nook’, to the visit of a fleet of dogs. We even had goats in the square – but more on that later.

UEA is now the first university in the country to have a Nap Room; students can book forty minute slots in this little retreat from the harsh realities of academia to relax and refresh themselves. Apparently there are even eye masks.

As I am currently living on campus I have no need for this facility at the moment, but come next year it may be a whole different story.

In even more exciting news, in my personal opinion that is, P.A.T. (Pets As Therapy) organised for some pet owners to bring their dogs into the LCR on Wednesday afternoon and during pre-booked slots students were able to pet a dog for ten minutes.

Look how cute she is

  Look how cute she is

The event was very relaxed and was a great opportunity for students to unwind. The owners sat with their dogs and chatted to the students, providing an informal and calm atmosphere in which students could talk about any problems they were facing at the moment, without the pressure of feeling as though they were talking to a counsellor. The event was by all accounts a great success and I hope that P.A.T. comes back again.

The other great excitement of the week was, ‘Goats for Votes’. To encourage students to register to vote (which you really should do by the way x ) a small herd of goats were brought into the Square, and once a student had registered they were allowed to pet them.

10551088_981636708530267_60805935853729111_nIt’s definitely the most unusual strategy I’ve come across to encourage students to vote, but it was a fun one and as UEA is in one of the constituencies that have been predicted to be important in May’s General Election (x), perhaps goats really will effect the government.

In older news, we have had a few sprinkles of snow, although not the Narnia style covering I was promised, and I thought I would share with you a few snaps of UEA in the snow:

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The Flatmates…

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