| Chris Patten
London, March 17 (Reuters): Former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten landed one of academia’s most glittering prizes today when he was elected Oxford University’s new chancellor.
“It would be an honour and pleasure to serve,” said Patten who comfortably fought off two leading lawyers and a comedienne to land the unpaid jobforlife.
The result was announced in front of Convocation House in the centre of the university by the Senior Proctor, Prof. Tim Softley, and the junior proctor, Elizabeth Chapman.
More than 8,000 Oxford graduates cast their votes to find a replacement after the death of centrist politician Roy Jenkins. In the final round of voting, Patten received 4,203 votes, 1,720 more than the second-placed candidate Lord Bingham of Cornhill.
The name of one of Oxford’s most famous students — former US President Bill Clinton — was bandied about as a possible candidate for the coveted post but the man who would have been a dream fundraiser left the field clear to four other hopefuls.
Patten, 58, fought off a spirited challenge from Lord Bingham, the senior law lord who insisted that being chancellor was “not just a business of dressing up in funny clothes and drinking the best claret the colleges have available.”
The other two alsorans were Lord Neill, head of a watchdog investigating parliamentary sleaze, and comedienne Sandi Toksvig — a graduate of rival Cambridge University.
Patten, now the EU’s commissioner for external relations, brings plenty of political clout to his new job in a university eager to win the ear of the great and the good in Britain’s corridors of power.
Patten, who has now captured one of the pearls of the British establishment, was never enamoured of the Brussels bureaucracy and a new life amid the dreaming spires of Oxford has immense appeal for one of its former students. At one EU meeting, Patten was said to have admitted the tedium was so excruciating that he was reduced to counting the number of hours left in his life.
Once tipped as a possible future Prime Minister, the former chairman of the Conservative Party needed all his political skills to steer Hong Kong, Britain’s last major colony, back to Chinese rule in 1997.
A Roman Catholic intellectual, Patten helped engineer the surprise victory by Conservative leader John Major in the 1992 general election but suffered the ignominy of losing his own parliamentary seat at the same time.
He was born in May 1944 and educated at a Catholic school in west London.
He then studied at Balliol College, Oxford, where he read modern history. He also studied in the US on a Coolidge Travelling Scholarship.
He and his wife Lavender, who he met at University, have three glamorous daughters, who were known in Hong Kong as the Three Graces.
On Saturday, Patten called on his daughters, Alice and Kate, to help him campaign for the chancellor’s post.
Pictures of the girls sobbing on the royal yacht Britannia as they left Hong Kong after the handover were nearly as widely published as those of them wearing mini skirts during their stay in the colony.
They led their father’s procession into the centre of Oxford to cast his vote. “At the risk of being accused of lacking humility, I am going to vote for myself,” he said.