No spying

May 1, 2014

One never wants to spoil a good story but it is important to correct some of the facts in “Exposé brought Warwick success” (News, 10 April).

It is not true that the university employed a detective to spy on David Montgomery and he did not, as far as I know, attend a meeting of the Coventry Labour Party. Montgomery was a visiting labour historian and attended a trades union-run meeting at Chrysler UK at the Ryton plant in Coventry. He was observed there by a member of the Chrysler security staff who reported his attendance to Gilbert Hunt, chairman and managing director.

Hunt, who was a member of the university council, and who was facing one of the many strikes that affected his company, wrote a letter of complaint to the vice-chancellor. The vice-chancellor sent him a formal acknowledgement and that was the end of the matter until the correspondence was unearthed by students rifling university files during a sit-in.

I am surprised that the allegations made by E. P. Thompson in Warwick University Ltd, that Warwick was a business run by the lay members of its council, are still given credence. These allegations were examined by Lord Radcliffe, the law lord, who was Warwick’s chancellor, at the invitation of the senate – he rejected them.

From my observation, which began only at the end of 1969, the council, which was chaired by a fellow of the Royal Society and former professor of Imperial College London, was no more interventionist than the council of my previous university, Leeds, and a great deal less than many university governing bodies operating today.

Michael Shattock
Visiting professor
Institute of Education, University of London

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