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Patten leads Oxford race

London, March 15: After the first day of voting, Chris Patten, the EU commissioner and former Conservative Cabinet minister, leads the race to become the next chancellor of Oxford University.

Yesterday’s exit polls suggest that Lord Bingham, the senior Law Lord and former Master of the Rolls and Lord Chief Justice, and Sandi Toksvig, the comedian, are close behind in the bid to succeed Roy Jenkins, chancellor from 1987 until his death earlier this year.

Lord Neill, the former chairman of the committee on standards in public life, who forced Tony Blair to hand back a £1 million donation from Formula One’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone, is said to be in fourth place, after about 5,000 of the electorate of 100,000 Oxford graduates voted yesterday.

After the second and last day of voting today, the university proctors will count the votes in Convocation House, where the Civil War Parliament was held, and proclaim the winner on Monday. Whoever wins will have no ostensible power but plenty of behind-the-scenes clout. There’s no pay, no tied cottage and few formal duties. Those who voted yesterday, though, took the election very seriously.

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