From lectures to hustings

April 22, 2005

On May 5, a number of academics will be hoping to trade in lecture halls and laboratories for a seat in Westminster as they reach the end of the campaign trail in this year's general election.

There are more than 30 hopefuls across the political spectrum contesting parliamentary seats countrywide.

But none - should they be elected - will be sitting on the Conservative benches because the party has failed to put up any academic candidates.

A party spokesman commented on the Tories' lack of university-based candidates: "We had academics on the candidates' list from the local associations. It's just that none was chosen."

Many of the hopefuls will be back at their desks or laboratories on May 6 because they are fighting seats that they have very little chance of winning.

But this has not deterred those seeking election for the Green Party or the Liberal Democrats. These parties have fielded the largest numbers of academic candidates, declaring ten and twelve respectively.

The Labour Party knew of just eight candidates. Only two of these are likely to win because they are contesting seats that have retiring Labour MPs.

Liam Kennedy, professor of economic history at Queen's University Belfast, will be up against Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Fein. Professor Kennedy will be fighting the West Belfast seat with the support of families who have suffered losses and injuries in violence.

There are about 68 MPs who have worked in universities. Six are Tory, while 52 are Labour. The rest are in other parties.

Byron Criddle, reader in politics at Aberdeen University, said the number of educationists moving into politics was ever decreasing, with parties now choosing professional politicians for safe seats.

caroline.davis@thes.co.uk

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