Over 300 alumni register to vote in Oxford Union election after “joke” alumnus nominates

Over 300 Oxford University alumni have registered to vote online in today’s Union election, as part of an electorate numbering approximately 2000 registered voters, The Oxford Blue can reveal, in information leaked by an informed official. This surge in registrations is believed to have been prompted by the candidacy of James Price, who graduated 7 years ago, but is standing as one of the 4 presidential candidates. In his manifesto, he states that he is running “because [he] think[s] it’s funny, and also because [he] would be better than anyone else”.

The re-run of the presidential contest caps off the first online election ever held in the Union’s history. This followed a term of chaos and scandals that ultimately saw RON claim its first ever victory in the election for the body’s president, precipitating today’s poll. Former students are normally excluded from running due to residency requirements, but these has been lifted due to the pandemic, creating the loophole that Price has exploited to declare his candidacy. Both voter and candidate registration have now closed.

Price told The Blue: “Well I think it’s just given some people a laugh during lockdown to see something a bit silly. I think it’s not lost on people that the joke is of ‘a former hack spotting a chance at electoral redemption even though he should have grown out of it’ so it’s definitely taking the mick out of myself as much as anything else.”

Price studied Classical Archeology and Ancient History at Worcester from 2010-2013. According to his LinkedIn, he spent time on the Standing Committee and was involved with OUCA, where he served as both Vice-President and Treasurer. More recently, he has worked for the Conservative Party itself, for whom he spent time as the Special Adviser to the Leader of the House of Lords and the Government’s Chief Whip in the chamber. There he was involved in the passage of the EU Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill. In 2018, he gave a talk at an OUCA event.

On 17th June, Price posted his manifesto on Twitter with the hashtag ‘#ThePriceIsRight’: 

Price’s candidacy has drawn attention to the Union election from right-wing circles in Westminster. He has received a series of public endorsements from the likes of Daniel Hannan, Laurence Fox and James Delingpole, appearing to embrace his “joke” candidacy, on Twitter:

Price said to The Blue: “I’d like to think that if I won I would be effective at addressing some of the long term problems there and setting the old place up on a better footing than when I left it a few years ago. I think there’s something nice about people being attached to old and flawed institutions and wanting to make them better, and by extension, maybe making ourselves better, too.”

His candidacy has, however, been met with a largely hostile response by current students presently involved in the Union. Adam Roble, the Secretary-elect, gave comment to The Blue: “As the first ever Somali person to be elected as an Officer of the Union, I find it very troubling that at such a watershed moment of introspection for the Union someone can effectively make a mockery of the Union and the online voting system – the Union doesn’t need ‘joke’ Presidents, it needs serious ones.”

The other three candidates standing in today’s election are: 

  • Amy Gregg, DPhil student, Exeter College 
  • Jeremy Bararia, Economics and Management undergraduate, Lady Margaret Hall 
  • Joseph Mochhoury, Law undergraduate, St Hugh’s College