Bill Clinton has emerged as the overwhelming favourite among Oxford undergraduates to succeed the late Roy Jenkins as Chancellor of the university.
Despite his troubled past, the former US President attracted almost half — 48 per cent — of the votes in a poll to be published in Cherwell, the university’s undergraduate newspaper.
Clinton, a former Rhodes scholar whose daughter Chelsea is a graduate student at Oxford, attracted almost three times the support of his nearest rival, the SDP’s co-founder, Shirley Williams, who polled 16 per cent.
Chris Patten, the former Governor of Hong Kong, headed the rest of the field on 11 per cent, with Michael Heseltine, the former deputy Prime Minister, on 6 per cent.
Undergraduates of a more original cast of mind filled the box marked “other” with more frivolous suggestions, including jailed novelist Jeffrey Archer, a documentary maker and a comedian.
But Cherwell’s survey, sent to 1,000 undergraduates via email, is not quite the green light for a Clinton candidacy that it might first appear.
As Clinton will know, undergraduates are not eligible to vote, though they could help out with canvassing, fly-posting and handing out manifestos to tourists on Broad Street.
As dons and undergraduates return for the new term, the debate on who will succeed Lord Jenkins to what is arguably the top job in British academia is hotting up.
Although primarily a ceremonial post, the next Chancellor will take charge on the eve of one of the most turbulent periods of the university’s history.
Money — the row over fees and the broader debate over how to return a chronically under-funded institution to the front rank of international academia — will be the big issue.
On that score Clinton, with his fund-raising skills honed during years in America politics, has his supporters and not solely among star-struck undergraduates. Some acknowledge that his candidacy would be the marriage of two “big brands”.
But Clinton’s detractors are quick to recall the scandals of the past. “He has one too many strikes against his name,” said one former college head, though others believe the university is “grown up” enough to cope.