Lord Sainsbury

Lord Sainsbury was nominated by the University to stand for electionTristan Dunn

What would it mean to you to be so deeply involved with the University of Cambridge?

I was an undergraduate here, but since then I’ve been quite involved with Cambridge so I’ve come back on a regular basis. I always knew that Cambridge was a great university and when I was Minister for Science and Innovation, one looked at all the various rankings of universities in the UK and across the world, and it’s quite extraordinary how well Cambridge comes out. Championing the University in all its aspects to me is a job worth doing.

What do you think the role of the Chancellor should involve?

I don’t think you want to overstate what the role of the Chancellor is. It is in some ways quite a ceremonial role, to represent the university on important occasions. But I think the role of the Chancellor is very much to champion the University in the political world and society at large, and that would be something I would very much look forward to. To do that you must share the values of the University and believe that universities are important institutions in our society. You couldn’t do the job if you don’t think that arts and humanities are important, or the values of scientific research.

It has been 164 years since the Chancellor election was lastactively contested. Were yousurprised to hear you had competition?

No, I thought that was very likely. I think things have changed in the last 163 years. The idea that someone is just nominated by the University and there will not be an election is an old-fashioned view of the world. I don’t get any sense that it’s prejudiced against me.What do you think of one of Michael Mansfield’s nominators calling you a plutocrat representing ‘some of the capitalist focus that threatens the ideas on which this University is founded’?I’ve been a member of the Labour party and the SDP, so I’m not a traditional plutocratic businessman,and if you knew me you wouldthink that I clearly don’t standfor values that threaten the university. I have a long record of supporting research and educational projects, which are at the core of the values of the University.

Do you think your political involvement will create any issues in running for a non-political position?

No, I think it’s actually quite valuable to have some knowledge and experience of the political world because the role of universities takes place in a political context. But I should add that I’m not actively involved in politics at the moment.

And finally, do you feel confident about the election, considering the amount of competition?

I’ve spent a lot of time going round talking to people in the University over the last few weeks, and I think there is quite a lot of support for me. But the trouble of having an election which hasn’t taken place for 163 years is that it’s rather difficult to predict, so my guess is as good as yours.

Mr Abdul Arain

Arain in his Mill Road store


What reaction have you had to your Chancellorship campaign?

People have been very supportive both in and around Cambridge because they feel that Britain is suffering from a depleted high street. For example, the Galloway and Porter bookshop just closed as has the Trinity Street Post Office and, as a result, everything’s becoming a lot more artificial. But I feel this issue is relevant to the University because academics don’t just come to Cambridge because of the prestigious institution, but also for the life that they can enjoy here.

So do you think your campaign for supporting independent businesses has any relevance to a role as University Chancellor?

Absolutely, and I’ll tell you why. I believe in ethics. The University stands for ethics. I definitely think there is a strong synergy there.

Prince Philip held the position of Chancellor for 35 years and took a very neutral stance. Do you think your ambitions will change the nature of the position for good?

There is still the office of Vice Chancellor whose role would be largely unaffected by my election. My aim is to see the Town and Gown more connected because I believe it’s important that this wonderful institution is embedded in the Cambridge community. I want to encourage more state school students to apply because there’s a lot of talent in those pools that it is important for this university to attract.

How long do you envisage holding the Chancellorship and would your motivations affect future candidates?

In terms of how long I hold the position, that is for the University to decide but I am definitely in this for long haul.

Do you think that whether or not you win or lose will affect the momentum of the campaign to protect Britain’s high streets?

No. This is an ongoing fight and it all helps. It might be about Sainsbury’s today but it was about Tesco’s before and it will be about another store after. Our country’s value system needs to be questioned – just look at the riots. This campaign has been something close to my heart for a long time – I was one of the founding chairs of Mill Road Improvement back in 1997 – and something that will continue to be important to me.

So how do you expect to have time be Chancellor, if you are heavily involved with local campaigns and running your own business?

Prince Philip was Chancellor for many decades and was flying all over the world so I don’t think that having other projects should be an issue! I find that I provide a lot of time to something if I am passionate about it, and that’s how I feel about the Chancellorship. I really want to build on the ‘Town and Gown’ relationship and see them both mature.

Do you think the fact that you yourself did not attend Cambridge will affect your suitability to the role?

I think it will have no effect. The other two candidates did not study at Cambridge either; it is mainly the admission of more state school students that I am concerned with. If you look historically at previous Prime Ministers, for example, some came from state schools but were able to enhance their abilities with an Oxbridge education. It is this sort of transition that should be encouraged.

Do you see the other candidates as tough competition as Lord Sainsbury?

There are four candidates in total and they all must have something to offer as they have all been nominated. I have not been in touch with them.

Have you had to do much canvassing for your election campaign?

Most of my support has come from word of mouth. Lots of the academics are very passionate about what I stand for and are pleased that I am running. I think it has done the University a lot of good that I have been able to stand for the position. It proves that the University is fostering an environment for a fair process.

And finally, do you feel confident about the election, considering the amount of competition?

If I wasn’t confident, I wouldn’t be here.