The Cambridge News' Raymond Brown reports that Abdul Arain, an independent trader on the city's Mill Road, is to stand against Lord Sainsbury for the post of Chancellor of the University of Cambridge when the present incumbent, Prince Philip (right), steps down in June of this year. I wish both men good luck, and hope for a clean campaign.
What worries me is that the contest, which is ostensibly about who will represent the University at official functions, is in reality about the imminent opening of a Sainsbury's store in the old Mickey Flynn's Pool Hall on the thoroughfare.
The reason I'm worried is that we've been here before, in the form of a campaign to keep Tesco out of Mill Road that, while ultimately a failure, released more heat than light in its frantic efforts to exclude an outlet popular with blue-collar workers from the "multicultural" area. It was alleged that shops would close down like dominos should Tesco's open a store there, while in reality far fewer shops have become vacant than you might expect in an economic downturn. You can still buy Rosaries, wigs, hard-core porn and second-hand firearms on Mill Road, just as you could before Tesco opened, just as you will be able to after Sainsbury's opens.
I'm also worried that, as mentioned, the present university Chancellor is Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, husband of the Queen, father to the heir to the throne and grandfather to Prince William, who was recently spectacularly married to the Duchess of Cambridge, aka Kate Middleton. A less desirable claim to fame is that, since 1997, he has been accused of the manslaughter (at least) of Dodi al-Fayed and Princess Diana (right) by Mohammed al-Fayed, whose latest effort in his crusade was the Cannes-panned documentary about the infamous crash in a Paris tunnel, Unlawful Killing. Will Mr Al-Fayyed be able to resist a bit of troublemaking should the Prince's stepping down prove a popular subject in the media?
Mr Arain is Kenyan, which gives him something in common with Barrack Obama, whose father came from the country. A low point of Mr Obama's presidency, which I do not ascribe to him personally, was when former president Jimmy Carter decried Obama's detractors as racists. I hope supporters of both candidates will pull back from using the race-card in this campaign.
Perusing the list of Cambridge University Chancellors evinces an absence of names that are not Norman/Anglo-Saxon in origin. It could be that, since the University attracts the most talented people from all points on the globe, the time for a Chancellor from outside this island nation is overdue. But any candidate should have as his/her first priority the good of the University and its contribution to Cambridge and East Anglia; if there's a place for one shopkeeper to try to stop another from opening nearby, the Chancellorship is not that place. It could be that, in the interest of the University and the region which reaps its benefits, the installation of a Chancellor from further afield may have to be overdue a little longer.