Diary: Narrow victory for the new Master

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WHEN Professor Colin Lucas was elected Master of Balliol College, Oxford, last week, convention deemed the vote to have been unanimous. This is one convention that is being taken to extremes. The true voting figures, I gather, show the election to have been the closest contest since medieval times, with Professor Lucas edging out the current Vice-Master, Andrew Graham, by 29 votes to 27.

Professor Lucas, a history don, taught at Balliol before moving to Chicago University. He owes his victory, I'm told, to the more traditional Fellows, who opposed Graham, an economics don. Graham, 51, is a Labour man who served Harold Wilson as economic policy adviser until 1976.

Lucas, on the other hand, is said to be without political leanings, although he has devoted most of his academic life to that most political of periods, the French Revolution. Lucas may also have benefited from a sympathy vote, having lost the previous election for Master, in 1988, to Dr Baruch Blumberg, the American Nobel prize-winner.

To win this time, Lucas had to give a corporate-style 'presentation' to groups of Fellows on his plans for the college. But when told of his victory, he was, I'm sure, modest about his achievement, unlike one Victorian predecessor, Benjamin Jowett, whose intellectual arrogance prompted the following put-down:

First come I; my name is Jowett.

There is no knowledge but I know it.

I am Master of this college:

What I don't know isn't knowledge.

MEANWHILE, at the other place, I spotted this graffito in a lavatory at the Cambridge university library: 'What do you say to a sociology student with a job?' 'A big Mac, please.'


For those who failed to see anything Lawrentian in the ending to the BBC's Lady Chatterley - Connie and Mellors sailing off into the sunset together, ruffling each other's hair, and generally behaving in a precious fashion - I can only agree.

It's true that Lawrence had difficulty in making up his own mind about how it should end. In The First Lady Chatterley, he had Connie ruminating about her love for the gamekeeper. 'Yes, she loved him. He was a man, if he wasn't a gentleman. Anyhow there came a breath of fresh air with him, and a breath of fresh life . . . Ah well] The future was still to hand]'

In the final version, Lawrence decided to end the book with Mellors writing to Connie. 'Now I can't even leave off writing to you. But a great deal of us is together, and we can but abide by it, and steer our courses to meet soon. John Thomas says good-night to Lady Jane, a little droopingly, but with a hopeful heart.'

Of the two versions, the final one, most people would agree, is unsurpassable. But not Ken Russell.

Now I gather that the Isle of Wight, where the series was filmed, wants tourists to see where it all happened. Or didn't happen, if you were expecting to see what you read in the book.

THE ISLE OF WIGHT really has become avant garde since I stopped living there. Now the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes, is developing a social conscience. Among the leather-bound volumes available to guests sits The Big Issue, the magazine for the homeless. One guest told me: 'It shows an unusual degree of political correctness for a club which still segregates the sexes on the staircase.'


Amid the political turbulence in Nepal, there is, I hear, some good news for the kingdom's ruling family. Crown Prince Dipendra - 'Dippy' to his fellow Old Etonians - has proved the inappropriateness of his nickname by achieving the top first at Kathmandu's University of Tribhuvan.

Unkind suggestions that 'Dippy's' grade might have more to do with his ancestry than his brains - the university was, after all, founded by his grandfather - can be dismissed. He has always excelled academically, and his friends insist that he is nothing if not impressive on paper. 'I remember him filling in his UCCA form,' one told me. 'When it came to filling in his father's occupation, he wrote, without hesitation, 'King and God'. '


30 June 1961 John Calmann writes to a friend: 'The new President (Kennedy), whom I admired at first so much, is getting bogged down by the size of the problems - but he may yet do something: he may turn from a puzzled and dazzling do-gooder with badly placed shots in the dark, to a firmer position of getting a few things done. But the struggle most of the time is the one inside America. Half the time he has to be so dramatic in the hope of capturing the wayward American public, who don't think life can be improved. If he was prepared to let the rest of the world go hang, he might be able to bring about that much desired transformation of the present lack of system into a quasi-welfare state. But how can he settle peace abroad, and education, medicine, labour, social services, housing, the race problem and states rights at home as well? One almost begins to be sorry for him.'