Revealed: “Illicit canvassing” of Labour’s Anneliese Dodds in 1998 OUSU elections

Research by Cherwell revealed electoral scandal surrounding the OUSU presidential election of Anneliese Dodds, Labour's candidate for Oxford East, during her time at university

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Cherwell

Allegations of malpractice resurfaced yesterday, after archival research by Cherwell revealed electoral scandal surrounding the OUSU presidential election of Anneliese Dodds (now MEP), during her time at Oxford.

Dodds, 39, is running for parliament as the Labour candidate for Oxford East, which is the constituency of many of Oxford’s colleges.

This week, Cherwell’s investigation shows that 54.2 per cent of Oxford students in the Oxford East constituency intend to vote for Dodds on 8 June.

But a story from Michaelmas Term 1998 has revealed that she was fined £75 for encouraging students at St Hilda’s to work for her campaign via email, in contravention of OUSU rules and the instructions of the Returning Officer.

Her slate were fined £25 each. Dodds, who was eventually successful in her bid for the presidency, was at the time accused by Cherwell of “sleaze”.

Speaking yesterday, Dodds confirmed her electoral malpractice but denied any dishonesty. “I did something that was at the time technically against the OUSU rules, and I didn’t realise it was against the rules,” she said.

“The RO [Returning Officer] said that he knew that I knew that.”

Stephen Moses, Returning Officer of OUSU at the time, concluded that Dodds’ actions had “no determinable impact” on the election, and that her interpretation of ‘canvassing’ was “incorrect but understandable”.

Moses now “advises on investigations into alleged corporate wrongdoing”, according to the website of business law firm Simmons & Simmons. In spite of Moses’ verdict, student media coverage was excoriating.

Dodds yesterday blamed the political bias of the paper for the way the story was reported. “Now Cherwell is a lot more even-handed, but then it took an anti-Labour slant,” she said.

In response, Michaelmas 1998 Editor Hadley Freeman, who is now a columnist for The Guardian, said: “Dodds’ claim is almost as laughable as it is libellous.

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“The idea that a student paper is organised enough, or even morally motivated enough, to execute political takedowns is actually rather flattering.

“Still, how delightful it must be to still—at the age of almost 40—blame one’s youthful regrets on non-existent conspiracies.

“After all, both the editor and deputy editor of Cherwell at that time [Rachel Williams] did go on to work at that natural HQ of anti-Labour saboteurs, The Guardian, so her claim does take on a new tinge.

“And of course, national political climate being what it was back in the autumn of 1998, there was no more obviously reader-pleasing pose for a student paper to adopt than an anti-Labour one.

“Bravo, Anneliese, on coming up with such a watertight theory!”

Speaking to Cherwell, OULC co-chair Tom Zagoria said: “I’m convinced that Anneliese will make a fantastic MP for Oxford East, and it’s telling that the worst the MSM have been able to dig up is that she was once accused of being a bit too intent on communicating her vision to students.”