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by Anna Fenton, Deputy Head of News
Iain Macwhirter has been elected as the University of Edinburgh’s 50th Rector.
The Herald and Sunday Herald columnist took 69 per cent of the vote in the Rectorial Election, conclusively beating off a challenge from the MSP George Foulkes. 7,004 people voted, with Macwhirter taking 4,822 votes.
An Edinburgh postgraduate, Macwhirter is the 50th rector of the university, filling a position previously held by Prime Ministers Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George, Stanley Baldwin and Gordon Brown. The election marks 150 years since William Gladstone first took up the post as rector at the university.
[caption id=”attachment_1742” align=”alignright” width=”140” caption=”Iain Macwhirter”][/caption]
At the outset of the contest, Celebrity Big Brother contestant and Respect MP George Galloway cut a controversial figure in the election, inciting a backlash of Facebook groups, including â€œ’George Galloway for Rector’ THIS MAN IS A DISGRACE!â€. He withdrew early on in the proceeding, citing a lack of time to commit to the position as the reason. In his retiring statement, he asked his supporters to lend their support to Macwhirter.
In his acceptance speech, Macwhirter said: “I am delighted that the students and staff of the University of Edinburgh have chosen me to be their Rector. I am extremely excited to have this opportunity to take an active involvement in the University and look to ensure the interests of both staff and students are maintained. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank George Foulkes for running an excellent campaign and wish him all the best in his future endeavours.”
Money issues have been a key part of Macwhirterâ€™s campaign, as he promises more money for students, writing on his website: â€œStudents are in the front line of the credit crunch and the banks are turning nasty, so we need to address the issue of student poverty now.Â Iâ€™ll lead a campaign for a minimum income guarantee of Â£7,000 for every undergraduate. He also promises to campaign for cheaper student housing, as well as more funding for the university as a whole.
Macwhirter took a very hands on approach to his electioneering, as well as a successful and engaging interview with the Sunday Review news team last week, he personally went into lecture halls to talk to the students about his policies.
His appealing, personal election manifesto also seemed to be a key factor in aiding his victory, in which he expressed his lack of personal affiliation with any political party: “I’m not a politician beholden to any party line, but in my writing I have argued vigorously against top-up fees, the war in Iraq, and identity cards.”
The Lib Dems, Greens and Tories, supported his candidacy, essentially making it a contest between the universityâ€™s Labour society for Foulkes, and everyone else with Macwhirter.
Mr Macwhirter takes the chair from former Green MSP Mark Ballard.