suggestion that Dundas Street in Edinburgh should be renamed after the Tanzanian politician, Julius Nyerere, is a strange one. Bob Cant airily dismisses the practical difficulties of renaming. I suggest the hundreds of businesses and residents in Dundas Street would think differently.
And while not in the same league as Idi Amin, Nyerere was a dictator who ran a one-party state and imprisoned hundreds without trial. His army imposed a form of collective farming by military force, burning down villages and ruining the economy. His vice president, Abeid Karume, and other party members entered into forced marriages with young girls from the Arab minority in Zanzibar and Nyerere did nothing to prevent this. He also believed homosexuality to be alien to Africa and that therefore laws against discrimination were unnecessary. An appropriate role model for 21st-century Edinburgh? I think not.
A propos the suggestion from Bob Cant that Dundas Street in Edinburgh be no longer named after Henry of that ilk, but after Julius Nyerere, I'd be hesitant about naming after people in general. But I am in favour of the recognition of Tanzania, not least because its national day is my birthday. It remains (so far) the only sub-Saharan African country I have visited, and what a marvellous trip it was. I visited when a friend was teaching near Dodoma, more than 20 years ago. The people were uniformly friendly and welcoming. Education was clearly central. Seeing a leopard for the first time was thrilling, but probably the most startling moment of all was being served lunch in the main hotel in Dodoma by a waiter wearing a Strathclyde Regional Council tie. Apparently Oxfam (and other charities) send out clothes that won't sell in the UK – or at least, they did then. I hope he didn't have to pay for it.
For a minute, I thought Strathclyde had just won University Challenge
going by the praise heaped on them on social media. It turns out they had only got through to the quarter finals. However, when I watched it on catch-up, my attention was diverted from their achievement by the all too familiar image of an all-male line-up (their reserve is also male). Similarly, the winning Edinburgh team in 2019 was all-male. In the most recent series, only five out of the 28 teams managed a gender balance.
Quite a lot has been written on this issue before and I cannot add very much except to say it can't go on. The problem seems to lie with the universities and how they select their teams. As always, we also get a 'blame the victim' explanation too. Not enough women apply and when they do appear they face a torrent of misogynistic abuse on social media. The BBC gets off far too lightly in my opinion. It's six years since they announced that they would no longer have all male guests on panel shows. They set the rules for University Challenge
and could simply say that teams have to have a gender balance – end of!
I remember Edinburgh University inviting applications for its team back in 1967 when I was a student there. Malcolm Rifkind got the place on the team that was rightfully mine had I bothered to apply. Miriam Margolyes appeared in the first series in 1962 and claimed to be the first person to say the F-word on TV. The programme ran on Granada from 1962 to 1987, and was then revived by the BBC in 1994. It has spanned almost 60 years with only two presenters, Bamber Gascogne and Jeremy Paxman. By the way. Do you have to be called Jeremy to do quiz shows these days? Paxman: University Challenge
; Vine: Eggheads
; Clarkson: Who wants to be a Millionaire?
Controversy has mainly concerned students who turned out to be no longer matriculated at the college or university they appeared for. There have also been lots of parodies over the years including a classic episode of the Young Ones
with a contest between Scumbags College and Footlights College and a novel, Starter for Ten,
in 2003 by David Nicholls (later turned into a film). But all this wallowing in nostalgia and trivia leads me nicely to my final point.
The truth is that University Challenge
looks like a programme more at home in the 1960s and 70s, and that is probably reflected in the audience demographic. Rather than force gender balance on the show as it is, why not come up with something completely different that would showcase the breadth of knowledge and intelligence that is out there? While you are busy doing that, I will try to think of someone called Jeremy (or Geraldine) to present it. Meanwhile, it's goodbye from me. Goodbye.
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