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UK Politics

Andy McSmith's Diary: I’m sorry, but the next (possible) rector won’t be able to see you now


Edward Snowden, the US intelligence leaker, may soon be filling a ceremonial role in Britain’s academic life. Students at Glasgow University have embarked on a campaign to have him elected as their rector.

Even if he is successfully elected, he will not of course be in any position to take up whatever duties the job involves, because the US government wants to prosecute him on a charge of stealing information, making it impractical for him to leave Russia, where he has taken refuge.

Chris Cassells, Lubna Nowak and Qasim Manzoor, the students behind the campaign, issued a statement saying: “Edward Snowden’s candidacy is a unique opportunity to show our gratitude to a brave whistleblower [who] has shown a spirit of daring and self-sacrifice that is virtually absent in our public life.”

Snowden would not be the first rector of Glasgow University who was unable to travel to the city to rect (if that is what rectors do). Mordechai Vanunu was banged up in an Israeli prison for much of the time that he was supposed to be recting. He had spent 11 years in solitary confinement for revealing that Israel had a secret nuclear arsenal, and had not been out of prison long before he was re-arrested for allegedly breaking the terms of his parole.

A fair rate of pay

The decision on whether to raise the national minimum wage is not George Osborne’s to make, although he has kindly given us his view on the matter. The Government must first study the advice of the Low Pay Commission, after which it will be up to Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, to decide whether to accept.

The commission has nine members, three of whom have announced their intention to stand down, so the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is advertising for replacements. The issue it must consider is whether the economy is in sufficiently good shape for the wages of the lowest-paid adult workers to be raised to £7 an hour. The rate for being a commissioner is £242.12 a day.

In a paddy over Norman

Lord Ashdown was all over the airwaves today trying to limit the damage the Liberal Democrats have suffered over the Lord Rennard affair. Like a true pro, he remembered always to address his interviewer by name. “Martin,” he said, four times, to the man from the BBC, until “Martin”, aka Norman Smith, felt compelled to say: “No offence, but my name’s Norman.”

One way to get ahead

A handy tip for any actresses out there who are not getting the recognition they crave. France’s Julie Gayet has been in about 90 films or television shows but, according to the Journal de Dimanche newspaper, “in all that time, they never once managed to get her profile high enough to appear on the cover of a magazine”.

But now that the story linking her to President François Hollande has upped her profile, she has adorned the front of two hot-selling magazines, Elle and Closer, in a day. When the audience on a prime-time television show was asked if anyone had seen her in any role but that of the President’s squeeze, just 14 out of 130 remembered having done so. Quipped one host: “Even Hollande didn’t know she was an actress.”