The Red Baron – Launch

Having walked you through the very long and extensive processes that have seen STAR win pretty much constantly in recent Guild elections, it’s time to turn our attention to Launch.

We’re going to give Launch the benefit of doubt here and not consider the processes and internal workings of their de facto predecessor – Liberty. So, how do you become the captain of the ship that takes off with Launch?

You know you want to run. It’s been an idea on your mind since the second you realised that your candidate was not going to win in the previous election. Out of the ashes of the campaign that has just been waged, a phoenix has to emerge. You are that phoenix.

As Launch are yet to win a presidential election, it’s important to understand from the outset that you face less competition for this spot. After all, who wants to pay multiple thousands of dollars to likely lose an election? Apparently you might do. When the dust has settled on the campaign at the turn of the year, prospective candidates need to make it clear that they are keen to go another round in the ring. In what is by all accounts a relatively informal process, a cabal of people slowly form around one central candidate. To be that candidate, you essentially need to have:

  1. have run with last years campaign for an OB position or in some highly involved capacity
  2. be willing to have a crack at it
  3. have some policies that are well liked and at least reasonably thought out

If you fit these criteria and make it abundantly clear that you are keen to run, you have a pretty damn good chance. Around you will form a vanguard of sorts. These are your mates who were all about it from the get go. As soon as you said you were keen, they turned into your full time hype crew and got on board. Between you all, you begin to suggest and vet candidates for your OB positions.

During this time, an AGM occurs. All previous candidates who have run with Launch the previous year (including OGC candidates) are able to vote in this meeting, more members than in the STAR process. However, it can’t be emphasised enough that the dynamic in Launch is entirely different. Having been around a mere few years and still searching for an initial victory, the competition to head up that campaign is nowhere near as intense as that of STAR simply as a function of expected success.

Launch’s 2017 Campaign Manager Lewis Hutton described the process to Pelican.

“We always aim to include as many Launch-ers in the process as possible. For example, last year’s AGM took place at the start of semester two and had a very strong attendance of around 70 candidates. The successful Presidential candidate lays out their vision for the campaign and the Student Guild, giving all past and prospective candidates the chance to speak directly with the candidate at the head of the Launch ticket.”

Somewhere on campus, all these candidates will gather to vote for their choice of candidate. Hutton told Pelican that any Launch candidate can run for the position and aren’t assessed in secret by a set of criteria.

“Candidates are given time to present on their vision for the Guild and campaign strategy, and delegates in attendance ask questions. If these delegates are good enough to run for Guild office, they can be trusted to make the best decision in the interests of the Guild.”

While all this openness and meritocracy sounds fun and wholesome, other previous Launch candidates told Pelican that this was only the case because everything has essentially been decided by this point. While everyone can technically run, it seems more for the purpose of creating a facade of openness than out of any real contest. There’s much less need for intense questions and debates when you’ve only got one candidate who is willing and ready to go for it. That’s you! You’re that candidate!

This divide between the two major parties is also true for the OB selection processes. Where the STAR presidential candidate essentially has the capacity to pick their OB candidates unilaterally, Launch seems to prefer a process through which candidates are suggested to the group and assessed.

Hutton described it as a process of wide consultation, whereby “talented individuals are asked to put up their hands” and selected. Selected by who? The group that formed in the very first place.

What does this process actually look like? Well let’s say you like the look of old mate X to be Education Council President. You go to your Launch group and post precisely that and solicit thoughts. Someone else likes Y a bit better, but thinks X has their merits. A discussion goes on and eventually you end up with a shortlist of your choices. This is essentially the ‘meritocratic system’ that governs how the OB team comes together.

However other previous Launch candidates told Pelican that the process wasn’t nearly as merit focused as described above, with the candidate and campaign manager largely responsible for making these choices unilaterally. Despite these conflicting accounts, it seems that even if a group dynamic of selection exists, a natural hierarchy emerges regardless of attempts by Launch to be ‘grassroots’ in their approach.

If there’s one takeaway message here, it’s that many of Launch’s processes are more transparent and far less formal than those of STAR.

Is that a strength or a weakness? Is it because of its relative age as a party still finding its feet? Is it simply the best way of pulling in as many candidates as possible in an election that last year saw over 300 eager names on the ballot paper? Or is it because Launch is genuinely interested in hearing from a broader church of people?

You can see Launch’s process as a function of deliberate strategy, history, incompetence or some combination of the three. It’s up to you to be the judge of that.

Be that phoenix. Take Off With Launch!

Hopefully these two articles have given you a better insight into what the process of preselection looks like. These candidates are coming soon to a Facebook message near you.

A big thanks to everyone who talked to Pelican both on and off the record for this piece.

Cormac Power