Bennett rejects Oxford's call

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The Independent Online
THE PLAYWRIGHT Alan Bennett has turned down an honorary degree from Oxford University because it accepted what Bennett called "bad money" from Rupert Murdoch.

Details of Bennett's tussle with his principles when faced with what the late poet Philip Larkin called the "big one" have emerged in Bennett's annual section of his diary in the London Review of Books.

Bennett, author of the successful Talking Heads television monologues, refused the offer because of Murdoch's pounds 3m financing of the Rupert Murdoch Chair in Language and Communication in 1992.

He writes: "Out of the blue, a letter comes from Oxford offering an honorary degree. This distinction is what Larkin called `the big one'.

"So eventually I write back saying no and explaining why. Of course I am aware that writing (and publishing) this may be sneered at as showing off, and that if one does turn something down it's proper to keep quiet about it. But this refusal isn't for my own private moral satisfaction: Murdoch is a bully and should be stood up to publicly and so, however puny the gesture, it needs to be in the open."

Bennett, who read modern history at Exeter College in 1957, was made at honorary fellow 30 years later.