Dundee University a Tool for New Labour? 32

I had been more than a little disconcerted by what I discovered of the administration of Dundee University since I became Rector two months ago. In particular, at my first University Court meeting, held the first working day after I took office, the University administration forced through the closure of undergraduate teaching in modern languages and in town planning, and adopted a five year framework of cuts. Accepting hypothetically that short term savings were necessary, I could not see the need for the immediate adoption of a five year programme before their Rector had even had time to read through the papers (which I received two hours before the meeting). Interestingly every academic and graduate representative on Court voted against the cuts, but they were rammed through by an array of co-opted members, who appeared without exception to be either businessmen or from the government’s educational administration establishment.

The atmosphere at the meeting really was an appalling bulldoze. I waited some time before catching the Chairman’s eye, and was astonished when, one minute into my first observation, the Chairman rudely interrupted me to allow the Principal to “Correct” me. This happened several times in the meeting, to me and to others. I wondered who this chairman could be – his name was John Milligan. More on that later.

In short, the Univeristy appeared to have come a long way from being the self-governing democratic community it is supposed to be. In the analysis given by the University administration of different academic departments, they were viewed solely in financial terms. Just what they cost and what they brought in. There was no mention of educational values or wider societal considerations.

It also was plain there was an inner group who were running things, and each subject was introduced with people primed to support. I was sitting close enough to the Chairman to note that while he acknowledged those wishing to speak and ostentiously was writing a list of names, he would vary the order of the list when he felt a need to influence the debate.

It was also plain, from numerous little indications, that this was not just a clique in charge, it was a New Labour clique. This became even more plain at my second Court meeting on Monday, when the Principal, Sir Alan Langlands, spoke of a recent visit to the Life Sciences Department by the vacuous Scottish First Minister, Jack McConell, in quite blatantly electoral terms.

(In Scottish parliamentary elections on 3 May the Labour Party looks set to lose political control of Scotland for the first time in fifty years).

I might have let that go, but for what followed. The University has been in discussions with the Victoria and Albert Museum about the possibility of opening a branch museum in Dundee. It is a wonderful idea – the V & A has vastly more than it can display, and it would bring jobs and tourists to Dundee.

However Sir Alan Langlands said to the Court that a public announcement would be likely to be made by Jack McConnell in the context of an election promise.

That really is too much. This has nothing to do with New Labour – the discussions have been between the University and the V&A. To try to use this University initiative to New Labour advantage is completely illegitimate. The University of course sits in Dundee West, a key Labour/SNP marginal. I therefore said at Court that the University needed to be careful to avoid identification with any political party.

I was still wondering who this Chairman of Court, John Milligan, was and how he had got the job. I have been a member of the University since 1977, and had not come across him. He is not a man who exudes the mores of higher education.

Then today all became clear. As’I am currently in Ekaterinburg, I saw it several days late, but I came across reports that one John Milligan, ex-Chairman of Atlantic Power, on the Sunday Times rich list, and (wait for it…) a high profile donor to the Labour Party, had organised and paid for an advertisement attacking the idea of Scottish Independence, signed by a lot of rich people, some of them very unpleasant indeed.



The move was widely reported to be inspired by Gordon Brown and timed to coincide with his electioneering breakfast in Edinburgh.

Among those who had signed for Milligan and Brown was the Principal of just one of Scotland’s thirteen universities. You guessed it, Milligan’s team-mate, Sir Alan Langlands of Dundee University.

As these two are so keen to help New Labour by entering into the hurly-burly of politics, let us treat them to some of the heat.

Alan Langlands has questions to answer. After retiring in August 2000 as Chief Executive of the NHS, in March 2001 he quickly reemerged as a Director of Patientline, the disgraced rip-off company which enjoys a monopoly of patient personal communications in the NHS. They charge the ill – who are disproportionately poor and elderly – 26p a minute to make a call and 49p a minute to recieve one. They also provide personal televisions at great cost, and, worst of all, have campaigned succesfully to have mobile phones, pay phones and communal TVs removed from hospitals. Langlands was a Director of Patientline when I was in Westminster Hospital for two months in Autumn 2003 and unable to talk to Nadira as Patientline phones won’t call, or receive from, Uzbekistan. He resigned in 2004.


Patientline is one of the most appalling examples of greed triumphing over the needs of ordinary people in Blair’s Britain. But for Langlands to move so quickly from heading the NHS which gave Patientline its monopoly, to the board of Patientline, is in my view of the world a disgrace which in a civilsed country ought to be be criminal. What do you think?

As for Milligan, we know the rewards that giving money to the Labour Party might bring. Who is to say that the chairmanship of a University is not that sort of carrot? The University is now sewn up very tight indeed, with all future appointments having to be initiated by a nomination committee of just six people, of whom Milligan and Langlands are two, and at least two others are from their “Trusty” circle. At the last committee it made two appointments – from amongst its six members.

This whole sorry tale of New Labour Croneyism is typical of much of Scotland, but relatively new in the University sector. I do hope that it causes a backlash of revulsion. I urge everybody with a vote to vote anything but Labour on May 3.

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32 thoughts on “Dundee University a Tool for New Labour?

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  • Sabretache

    Nothing surprises me about NuLab anymore. 'Whiter than white – purer than pure' was Bliar's rallying call at his partys' 1996 conference. And what do we get? The most brazenly corrupt political cronyism the country has ever seen.

    Your piece should appear in every Scottish newspaper but, knowing the extent of Nulabs corrupt control over most of the Scottish media I doubt it will get more than a paragraph in one or two of them

    And here was me thinking the Scots were canny people capable of spotting a vacuous fraud a mile off. It's about time they woke up and smelled the stench.

  • kazbel

    not anyone but Labour – we have a BNP candidate standing, taking advantage of general anti-government feeling in his leaflet. I'm so cross that I actually find myself folding up Lib Dem focus leaflets to deliver although I resigned from the old-style Liberal Party (over Trident) in the 1980s and have never been a Lib Dem. Lib Dems usually come third here and I want the BNP at the bottom of the poll.

  • kazbel

    and, on Higher education, see:

    I wish I were even slightly surprised by your experience. The only thing that surprises me is that academics are still objecting – some are beginning to internalise the New Labour agenda. Questions about the purpose of higher education are not to be touched on (perhaps in case the answer affects institutional interest). Yet there is still a great care for subjects and students from most tutors and lecturers.

  • writeon

    As New Labour failed to hold Tony Blair to account for his disasterous and reckless, decision to take part in the invasion of Iraq; the voters must hold New Labour accountable instead, and punish them severely in the coming elections. Labour must learn the hard way that taking part in a war of agression, has real consequences. Hopefully a real drubbing will have a deterrent effect that will be remembered for a generation.

  • Strategist

    Craig, I think of all your posts recently this is the one that I find the most exciting.

    When peering into the horrors of Uzbek tyranny or US hyperpower out of control – Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo etc – the little old UK-based internet activist inevitably tends to feel there is not much he/she can do to make a difference. The idea of a nice little victory with a clean knockout blow becomes barely thinkable.

    But here we have a nicely defined project, and a simple idea: to get behind Dundee University's new (elected) Rector, its students and academic faculty in taking a new broom to "clean house" and sweeping its arrogant and crooked Principal, Chairman of Court and associated lackeys clean out into the Tay. Precisely the symbolic blow against the New Labour/New Establishment we need – and a hefty one at that, in Gordon Brown's own backyard – that will put many others grown fat on ten years of New Labour sleaze on notice that their days are numbered, and we are going after them.

    We don't need to know the detail of the constitution of Dundee University to know that there are battles that can still be fought and won to save the heart & soul of British higher education, and the heart & soul of the British NHS. We will be guided by you, Craig, as to whether this is one of them. But I would hope we could target either a major climbdown & change in policy of Dundee's University Court, or a major clearout of its membership, as realistic objectives for your term of office. Without the support of students or faculty, who precisely are these guys going to turn to for protection – the new SNP administration in the Scottish Executive?

    You are absolutely right that all of us in UK have good reason to revile the name of Sir Alan Langlands, if he was responsible for, and grotesquely profited from, the abuse that is the NHS hospital phones monopoly. 49p a minute – to RECEIVE a call – this really says it all. My own father had triple heart bypass surgery a while ago, and the cost of calls when in hospital was a genuine anxiety to him, when of course any unnecessary anxiety was the very last thing he needed. I was angered then, but I didn't know I might one day find a chance to get even. Many millions across UK must feel the same way, and yet few would know to blame Langlands – well, let us teach them now.

    New Labour sleazeballs versus Craig Murray and his Internet Friends. Battle is declared from Yekaterinburg! Let's go & get our first scalp!

  • eurotrash

    I am afraid, Craig, your post has not shocked me as to the tactics of political parties. It has however disgusted me.

    Thanks for the info.

  • eurotrash

    Actually Strategist's post is mine. Strange techythings going on.

    I am totally disgusted by your comments and would prefer if you passed them on to our Fourth Estate.

  • eurotrash

    Actually Strategist's post is mine. Strange techythings going on.

    I am totally disgusted by your comments and would prefer if you passed them on to our Fourth Estate.

  • Justice_For_All

    Hi Craig

    Why haven't the Monopolies & Merger Commission as well as the Office of Fair Trading investigated Patientline? Even Ofcom should investigate Patientline's anti-competitive behaviour as well as monopoly…we have to use these vehicles whilst they last.

    In the end all these rich and "powerful" will face their disgrace…and I hope Blair's will be imminent.

  • writeon

    I too hope that Tory Blair's departure is imminent. But it's the thought of him becoming a multi-millionaire that I find galling. Surely, a man responsible for such destruction and such waste of resources cannot be allowed to get away with it? It's not only that Britain has spent over five thousand million pounds in Iraq, it's the deaths of British soldiers too; and don't get me started on the slaughter in Iraq!

    When Blair's book comes out I was thinking of buying a stack of them and burning them on the pavement outside his London house, as kind of protest. But I imagine this would be illegal, would harm the environment and be a waste of money as well.

    I kind of feel that a dedicated posse of demonstrators should haunt him for the rest of his days everywhere he goes; when he appears in public, does a book-signining or makes a speech. England should be made so hot for him he's forced abroad. In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, I always promissed myself that if I ever got close enough to him I'd give him such slap in the face. I doubt I'll ever get the chance and I suppose I'd be open to charges of assult, though I still think it would be worth it, just to wipe that fucking grin off his face!

  • Chuck Unsworth

    A sordid and tacky abuse of power. Not untypical of many educational establishments (at all levels) where the politicians have influence. Oxford and Cambridge have still (and only just) managed to retain some sort of balance between the honourable and the commercial. It's a huge shame that the fine University at Dundee has lost its way.

    The New Labour gravy train rumbles on. If anything, Craig's story shows how all pervasive it is. Worse, so much worse, than the Old School Tie.

    J K Galbraith held out the hope that the Academic establishment would serve to curb the worst excesses of State and Industry, but it's clear that under New Labour the State and Industry are one and the same. It's time for the academics and their supporters to reinstate their position of empirical scrutiny and true independence of thought. They have been bullied by 'Management' for far too long.

    Universities and all teaching establishments have a profound moral duty to their students. Craig's description of the sickening events and devious manipulation above have demonstrated the blatant cynicism of senior members of the university. What real contribution have these self-interested scum made to society as a whole? What principles do they have?

  • grogipher

    Hi there, I'm a student at your uni, and i'm really sickened. I had no idea that any of this was happening until a friend of mine that studies Jewellery was basically told that they had to take part in this electioneering this morning. As if telling students to be anywhere at 8.30 on a Monday morning wasn't bad enough, they weren't told what this would be for or anything. They were press ganged into turning up because today is the day of their final assessment and they obviously didn't want to upset any of their tutors on this day, of all days. I really don't think it's right, fair or legal to manipulate people in this way, you'll obviously know far more than me, but i certainly think it kind of smacks more of Soviet style politics than Scottish! He (Joke McConnell) kept on saying this morning that it was about "Education, not Seperation". If that's not an inherently political statement three days before an election, i don't know what it is.

    The folk who miss out most here are the students. That's the students with an average of ?11k of debt and fees under a different name already.. it's disheartening enough that these same people who benefitted from a free education can it take it away from us, but to then use us for their own means is sickening. There were a fair few jewellers who turned up this morning obvlivious to what's really going on, those who saw through it stayed at home, but i'm willing to bet more cash than my loan that there were students there that were intimidated by the staff enough to turn up and take part. Too scared to not take part in an election broadcast for a party they don't beleive in, simply because they had a fear (rightly or wrongly) that it would have a detrimental impact on their grade.

    I really hope that we can do something to change this. It's not right at all.

  • joslam

    Langlands has forgotten that the important people in a university are the academics and the students. He and other administrators are there to support them.

    Last week St Andrews University had an open staff meeting to explain in detail their plans for the future, ending with how to raise the money. This is what Langlands should do not cut costs and then patch up what is left.

    How can he be fired?

  • Bishop Hill

    That's the problem with giving politicians control over things: they end up being run for the benefit of politicians.

    Privatisation anyone?

  • rhh1

    I recommend you look at the back page of the weekly Times Higher Education Supplement. There is always a report on one of the week's events at the University of Poppleton. Dundee, it seems, still has some way to catch up with the new way of life in the sector.

    Lucky Dundee. Fancy having a Rector who wants to resist the pressure to turn his university into a [might as well be a]baked bean factory.

  • Craig


    Thanks. Can someone send on to me any email etc that invited the jewellers so I can see its terms? [email protected]

    It is going to be hard to roll back because of the entrenched majority on Court and these people's control of the tiny nominations committee. But I am certainly going to be working to change that.

    My Rectorial Installetion address will be an important opportunity.

    I am going to be seeking an early meeting with the new Scottish executive.

  • M.jewellery

    I am a final year jewellery student at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and I was angry to see what was written on this blog. I want to make it clear to GROGIPHER and his 'Jewellery friend' that at no point were we, as students, obliged to turn up on Monday morning at 8.30. I also want to make it clear that this WAS NOT a political broadcasting stunt, as we were not used as pawns in this political issue. We simply saw it was a good opportunity to publicise our upcoming degree show and student work and did not feel bullied into this at ANY point at all.

  • jewelleryjen

    I am also a final year jewellery student at Dundee. I am really annoyed at "Grogipher" and there jewellery friend. If she or he had such a problem with coming in on Monday why not say? We had a meeting on Friday about the First minister coming to visit on Monday morning. this was a casual meeting and the 3rd years who had assessments on Monday were told that they would have time on Monday to bring work down from the workshop to get marked after the visit was over. None of the tutors intimidated us to come along. They are professionals, not just as tutors but as practicing jewellers, this is an entirely separate thing to assessments and they would not use someone not turning up to this visit against them in their assesments. i am also annoyed because grogipher is implying that i am stupid for turning up, i believe this visit gave us an exceptional opportunity to show people our work and it also gave the small department of jewellery a boost, there are many people in the country who don't even know that jewellery design, as a course, exists!!! i suggest gogriphers jewellery friend should have discussed his or her concerns before the event instead of blowing it out of proportion.

  • L.I

    I am also a final year jewellery student and DOJCAD. I wish to underline to "Grogipher" and Craig Murray the fact that we were in no way forced into attending Jack McConnells visit yesterday. The non-attendance of any 3rd years who were also being assessed on the same day would OBVIOUSLY NOT have a "detrimental impact on their grade". Our tutors mark us based upon our work and nothing else. We do not feel that we were used. We simply took advantage of a situation that came along. It was a good chance to give the jewellery dept and Duncan of Jordanstone as a whole, some good pulicity. We were in no way taking part in a Party Political Broadcast. In fact, the footage and report shown by STV did not even mention Labour or J. McConnell and purely reported apon what a positive impact bringing a V+A Gallery to Dundee would have. To underline, we were forced into nothing, were there by choice and used the situation to our advantage.

  • The Greatest

    I'm another final year jewellery student at DOJ. I wish to question the apparent manipulation that Grogipher is reffering to under no circumstances would we especially the final year students allow ourselves to be bullied into this situation. In fact I feel the whole matter has been completely blown out of proportion, the reason for most of us taken part was simply a matter of hopefully publicity for our own work.

  • Emz

    hello i am also a 4th year jeweller and i am also very unhappy with what Grogipher has stated.This is not true and if the one individual who wasn't completely happy with the situation should have been grown up enough to say something to a member of staff. Then this whole farcical accusation wouldn't have occurred.

  • Fletcher

    Hi Craig,

    Enjoyed 'Murder in Samarkand' and pass it round all my friends, cutting sales for you, I suppose, but it's the thought that counts.

    Concerning the scientists who signed the leter to the Herald claiming that independence would damage research funding, maybe they were just telling the truth. A bit of it, anyway. Of the 62 signatories, 35 are members of an organisation called 'Scientists for Labour'. They have a website.

    Look at the article under 'Papers & proposals' called 'A Critique of Christian Aid and its attitude to GM crops'. This is a defence of the utility of a GM rice with enhanced vitamin A.

    Look then at this link:

    ..and this..

    A Google search on 'golden rice' will reveal many similar.

    Were any of the signatories on the Herald letter from Dundee? Does Dundee receive research funding from Bayer? Does Bayer donate to New Labour funds?

    It is all very suspicious and very worrying.

  • Craig

    Good to have so many students posting on this blog, though possibly in a somewhat coordinated manner!

    Glad to hear that you did not feel coerced into attending, and even more glad to hear that STV did not bother to cover McConnell.

    But I see no reason to disbelieve Grogipher when he says someone did feel coerced.

    There is no doubt that the decision to use the McConnell visit to announce the V&A idea – an announcement that could have been made any time in the last few weeks – was political and related to the election. The Prinicpal said as much at the Court. There is also no doubt that McConnell's speech was an election attack on the SNP – he talked repeatedly of "Education not separation", as though you can only have one or the other, which is pretty dim, even for him.

    The fact this did not get him the good publicity he wanted is good news, and due to our pre-emptive strike.

    I am sorry if you think this has detracted from the atention to your excellent work – that is my point. The University should not have brought Labour electioneering into it.

    I very much look forward to meeting you at the Degree Show.


  • Chuck Unsworth

    Slightly off-beam, perhaps, but it might be of interest if the Minutes were publicly available. In most schools (for example) it is mandatory to publish Minutes, although governing bodies can – pretty rarely do – decide to keep some aspects confidential. Even so, those confidential matters should be minuted. All Minutes should be signed by the Chair on behalf of the governing body as true and accurate records. Of course this is all post hoc, anyway. Even so, such documents can be very illuminating.

    I do hope that the students at Dundee recognise what a fine and valuable champion they have in Craig. His track record alone should reinforce that view. It is time for their voices to be heard – particularly by the Court and its disgusting cabals.

  • Turkman Bashi


    Why the hell weren't you chairing the meeting of the University Court?

    My understanding is that it is the rector's job to chair the court, as it is in the other Scottish universities.

    If you see this Milligan character in your chair again, tell him where to go!

    See wikipedia entry on Rector of the University of Dundee:

  • Craig

    Turkman Bashi,

    Unfortunately Dundee is the only Scottish University with a Rector where the Rector does not chair Court, according to the statutes.

  • Chuck Unsworth

    Even so, the Chairman should remain impartial, in my view, voting only to break a deadlock – and even then in favour of the status quo.

    The scandal at Dundee is the apparent partiality of the Chair and his inability (if that is the word) to allow proper discussion.

    It was ever thus with such people. No scruples and no commonsense. What should happen now is the student body should make it its business to protest vociferously. Equally those academics who object to such plans should be prepared to stand up to such bullying by an elite few.

  • George Dutton

    NEW Labour NEVER tell the truth. They never told the people of Scotland this before the last election, that having the Trident HQ in Scotland that on January 25, 1995, they were 60 seconds from being vaporized. Gone in a single instant, erased from the face of the planet.

    The US's dangerous commitment to nuclear militarism

    The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush's Military-Industrial Complex by Dr Helen Caldicott. Pub: The New Press, New York, 2004. Pp: 304. Pbk: US$17.95.

    In his farewell speech in January 1961, President Eisenhower warned: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic process." Dr Helen Caldicott's New Nuclear Danger reveals the lethal danger of allowing the arms industry to dictate US foreign policy.

    In her well-researched, duly documented book, Caldicott, an Australian medical doctor and founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, reveals just how close the world has come to nuclear disaster. The most recent incident took place on September 11, 2001, when the Bush administration raised the country's nuclear alert codes from Defcon 6 to Defcon 2, the highest state of alert before the launch code is operable. Russia, with the second-largest nuclear arsenal in the world, most certainly responded in kind. Consequently, thousands of nuclear weapons stood poised on hair-trigger alert, ready to be launched by the president of either country, with a decision time of only three minutes.

    Another frightening incident, revealed by the author, took place on January 25, 1995, when military technicians at radar stations in northern Russia detected signals from an American missile that had just been launched off the coast of Norway. The Americans had notified the Russians of this launch, which carried a scientific probe. The message, however, never reached the upper echelons of the Russian military. As a result, Russian officials assumed that America had initiated a nuclear war. Aware that, if launched from a submarine, a missile containing eight hydrogen bombs could hit Moscow within fifteen minutes, the Russian computer containing nuclear launch codes was opened for the first time in history. President Boris Yeltsin sat at his computer as his military advisors instructed him how to launch a nuclear war. The process would only allow him three minutes to make a decision. At the last minute, the US missile veered off course, and President Yeltsin realized that Russia was not under attack.

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