Azara Blog: Cambridge University has four candidates for Chancellor

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Date published: 2011/06/18

The Cambridge News says:

Four candidates are in the running for the position of Cambridge University Chancellor after nominations closed last night.

Billionaire Lord Sainsbury, the former chairman of the supermarket giant and an ex-Government minister, was named earlier this year as the university's nominations board's choice to succeed current Chancellor, the Duke of Edinburgh.

But actor Brian Blessed, Abdul Arain, owner of Al-Amin food store in Mill Road, Cambridge, and big-name barrister Michael Mansfield QC have also joined in the race.

They all managed to get the 50 nominations required from members of the university's Senate to be eligible to run.

Mr Mansfield, who represented Mohammed Al Fayed at the inquest into the deaths of his son Dodi and Diana, Princess of Wales, has pledged to defend higher education from "market forces".

Mr Arain wants to highlight his opposition to a proposed new Sainsbury's store in Mill Road, which he says is not wanted or needed.

After being nominated, Mr Blessed said he was "thrilled" to be asked, adding: "For me, Cambridge has always been the centre of the earth, there is a brightness and light there that rivals that on Mount Everest.

"The university buildings are architecturally beautiful, the whole setting is wonderful and enchants the soul."

Lord Sainsbury said in a statement yesterday: "I have great admiration and affection for the university, built up over all the years since I was an undergraduate at King's, studying history and then psychology.

"I also have a life-long interest in education. I have no personal agenda, and if elected, my sole aim would be to help the university in any way that I can."

This could end up being very embarrassing for the university. There is one sensible candidate and three jokers, and if one of the jokers wins it will not look or be good.

The only sensible candidate is Sainsbury. He has demonstrated his interest in and support of the university over many years. The one downside is that he is an ex-Labour minister. That should not really matter, but the Tories tend to be petty and vindictive about this kind of thing, and the Tories are currently in power.

Arain is the worst of the jokers. He opposes a Sainsbury's on Mill Road because he has a vested financial interest in doing so, and he somehow has come to the (correct) conclusion that he can get some free publicity for his campaign with this publicity stunt. It is not clear that he has ever shown any interest in anything to do with the university.

Mansfield, although a clever enough chap, would be a real disaster for the university. As is already evident from his statement above, he would spend most of his time as chancellor fighting the university instead of supporting it. Again, it is not clear that he has ever shown any interest in anything to do with the university.

As for Blessed, again, it is not clear that he has ever shown any interest in anything to do with the university. He has a deep voice, but that is not exactly an important attribute of the chancellor of the university. Otherwise he seems to have no particular qualification for the post.

You can never really tell what will happen in this kind of circumstance. In some ways it is lucky for Sainsbury that there are three joke candidates, because they will split the joke votes. And there are plenty of joke votes to be had, given the academic middle class (i.e. silly) mentality of many of the possible electors.

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