Anneliese Dodds, the shadow chancellor and MP for Oxford East, is in no doubt about the importance of the upcoming local elections for Labour. “These elections are a chance to send a message to the Government,” she tells TCS. “We’ve got a Labour-run council here in Cambridge that’s been really focused on issues of concern, in the face of really unhelpful approaches from the Conservative government.”
For Dodds, the council’s efforts around green transport or affordable housing stand in contrast to a national government which “has refused to stamp out waste, mismanagement and cronyism.” She pours scorn on Rishi Sunak’s plans for reopening the economy: “The Chancellor has hammered down on local people, while failing to clamp down on the corruption which has become a watchword for his government. He’s not had the right priorities through this crisis.” She observes that contact tracing has been far more effective in Wales, where it was managed by the state, than in England, where it was outsourced to rich friends of the government.
Nor is the shadow chancellor any more impressed by the government’s proposal for vaccine passports: “The Prime Minister has spoken with very little detail on vaccine passports: talk about people needing the vaccine to go to the shops obviously makes little sense, because it would discriminate against those who can’t take or haven’t been offered the vaccine.”
Against this exasperating backdrop, Dodds stresses the importance of student voters as a reliable source of ballast for Labour: “I really hope students will be voting at this election; unfortunately the rules for registration have been made harder under the Conservatives but I think it’s particularly important they do get on the register and make sure they vote.”
Dodds seems especially dissatisfied with the Brexit deal which Labour backed in December: “We still don’t have enough customs agents, we don’t have clarity on sectors that are really important to the UK like research which is vital to Cambridge, and we still have a situation where many of our manufacturers don’t have the certainty about our trading relationships for the future and our government hasn’t gotten a grip on it.”
As Scotland creeps towards secession, Dodds – originally from Aberdeen – insists on the importance of keeping the Union together. “The damage that would come from a referendum on independence would obviously be economic, but I would say it would do deeper damage to all of us across the UK: we have a shared heritage, a shared past, shared families, and shared friendships as well.” She strikes an uncharacteristically passionate note: “This is not just a matter for the head, but a matter for the heart.”