Although turnout was historically low, and most students probably found it all a bit of a nuisance, I must admit that I found the recent student elections very entertaining. Whether it was the legions of campaigners forcing biscuits upon anyone daring to go within half a mile of the library, or the cacophony of incessant Facebook notifications ringing from every phone in town, the entire campaign never failed in getting a bit over-the-top and ridiculous. However, what I truly relish about student elections in St Andrews is that it gives everyone the opportunity to have a bloody good whinge.
Complaining is a British tradition, whether it be commenting on the state of the weather, current affairs or the latest innovation from Greggs bakery, the inhabitants of this fair isle have insisted that everything is a bit rubbish for millennia. A student election therefore simply serves as a brilliant outlet for those stunning and brave enough among us to release their inner Lenin and rail against the cosy cliques which hold back the potential of St Andrews. Every year, students are told that if we just smashed the establishment, we could have the rent costs of Durham, the nightlife of Rio and the drink prices of rural Vietnam. But if you take a step back and really consider the supposed problems of our university, are we really so hard done by?
Sure, the pubs in town aren’t necessarily representative of the best value to be found around the UK. For example, my local serves a perfectly palatable pint of lager for about £1.89, a price which would likely cause a public health crisis in St Andrews. However, contrary to popular belief, there are ways of acquiring a cheap tipple on the three streets. For example, I know someone who works at The Central, which entitles me to 25 per cent off all drinks. Therefore, I can now purchase a cold, flat half-pint of Coors Light for just £9.95.
My fellow St Andreans also revel in moaning about the state of the town’s housing market, but are things really that bad? Sure, flats might be expensive but I am at least certain that where I live is safe. I know this because my landlord comes to my flat almost every day, carrying out much-needed maintenance night and day, no matter what state of consciousness or undress my flatmates may be in. Recently, he has generously installed bars on my bedroom window, which has brought a smorgasbord of benefits to my life. It’s certainly a lot easier to roleplay as Harry Potter now. We humble tenants have also been blessed with the installation of netting on our stairs, meaning that I can now sleep soundly in the knowledge that I shall never fall through the three-inch gaps between the bannisters. When university propaganda states that St Andrews is one of the safest places in Britain, they really mean it.
I am, of course, being a little facetious, but joking about expensive flats and drinks does about as much good as actively campaigning against it. What can realistically be done to cause a massive, wholesale reduction in rents across St Andrews, a town with some of the highest average house prices in the United Kingdom? Even if students managed to achieve a complete repeal of the HMO ban (something incredibly unlikely and heavily damaging to town and gown relations), this would barely make a dent in the current absurd rates. Especially with respect to housing, students need to realise that comparing St Andrews to other universities is at best unhelpful, and at worst downright infuriating. Talk for two minutes with a student from a large city university, and you shall discover that they pay fourteen quid a month for a flat which contains both a living room and a kitchen big enough for a microwave, luxuries of which some students here could only dream of. However, what they might not tell you is that they live a 30-minute bus ride away from any university buildings. A similar journey starting off from St Salvator’s quad would place you in Crail, Cupar, or halfway down the Tay Bridge, all locations not exactly awash with attractive student accommodation.
The fact of the matter is that for all the strong words and rhetoric, elected student positions in St Andrews hold very little power to address the issues that we all care about. Sure, the SSC or SRC might be able to declare that April is “Green month”, or insist that Theresa May should immediately halt Brexit, but when it comes to things like housing and prices, the key decisions are not ours to make. Some brave student might run a brilliantly populist campaign against the HMO ban, but in the end the final say belongs to 75 members of Fife Council, the vast majority of whom we have no say in electing. I could secure a 10,000-vote majority in favour of discounted Pablos, but drink prices are set by the Union bar manager, and even if you could convince them of the merits of the two-pound quadruple vodka you would then incur the wrath of draconian Scottish alcohol laws.
So, in the end, what can we do to throw off the oppression which surrounds us all, whether it comes from greedy landlords, dull nightlife, or pricey pints? I have come to the conclusion that democracy is overrated and, in the end, there is only one satisfactory answer to our problems: revolution. Once the students of St Andrews realise that we have nothing to lose but our chains, we can finally rise up and claim what is rightfully ours. Why would we worry about such trivialities as the HMO ban if we abolish the concept of private property? Who will concern themselves with expensive drinks when we create a truly classless, moneyless society where pablos are not distributed to those who can pay for them, but to those who need them?
So come next election, you will not find me outside the library asking for votes. No my comrades, I shall see you at the barricades.