Sleaze charge at Oxford's nursery for politicians Training ground for politicians has sleaze on agenda

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The Independent Online
LOUISE JURY

It is renowned as the training ground of politicians, a forum whose despatch boxes mimic Westminster. But the Oxford Union is now echoing the House of Commons in another way - allegations of sleaze.

In a rare move, Jonathan Wolf, 21, this term's president of the debating society has been disqualified from office for misusing his position. Last night, two days before the end of term, when he should have been hosting Cabinet ministers Peter Lilley and William Waldegrave for his farewell debate, he was sidelined. His place in the president's chair was taken by Paul Kenward, who was due to take up the post next term.

The allegations may not be cash-for-questions, but claims that Mr Wolf a physics student at Corpus Christi college, campaigned for one of the rivals to succeed him - against Union rules - have caused fierce factional fighting.

A tribunal hearing of two former union presidents, one now a QC, and a former election returning officer, sat late into the night on Tuesday to listen to the accusations made by student Simon Baker against Mr Wolf under the Union constitution's notorious Rule 33, which governs election protocol. The details of the charges against him have not been revealed.

Mr Baker is a supporter of Amanda Pritchard, a second-year history student, whose bid to hold the post of president in the term after next failed by 13 votes against Jenny Carter Manning, a final year law student and friend of Mr Wolf. Both sides were reputed to have taken legal advice.

Afterwards, as regulations dictate, a public notice was posted in the hallway of the historic Union building: "Tribunal decision - Guilty. Penalty - Jonathan Wolf is disqualified from office." Union spokeswoman Lucy Manning said she could not comment until the tribunal's full report, due by tomorrow, is published. Mr Wolf said he regretted its decision.

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