Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Chancellor Talks Business

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Chancellor Talks Business

Article excerpt

This year's annual Teesside Business School lecture at the University of Teesside departed with tradition. Instead of the usual talk to an invited audience, the University's Chancellor, Lord Sawyer of Darlington, discussed the theme of politics and leadership on stage with Teesside PhD student Alex Gillett, in the style of a TV interview on the sofa.

Lord Sawyer drew upon lessons from his life as both a trade union leader and general secretary of the Labour Party, to inform current issues of leadership. The audience asked questions after the discussion and a lively debate ensued. Lord Sawyer was born in Darlington in 1943 and worked in the engineering industry until 1971, when he became a full-time official for National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) and secretary of the Darlington Trades Council. He rose through the NUPE ranks and became Deputy General Secretary of NUPE/UNISON from 1981-94. Lord Sawyer was Chairman of the Labour Party from 1991-92 and General Secretary from 1994-98. He is currently Chairman of the Notting Hill Housing Group and the Royal Mail Partnership Board and a Director of the Britannia Building Society. He was made a life peer in 1998. Lord Sawyer was installed as Teesside's Chancellor at Middlesbrough Town Hall in April 2005.

Lord Sawyer's discussion with Alex included:

* The start of his working life as an apprentice in an engineering factory, and how this inspired him to become involved in the trade union movement;

* The Labour Party's 18-year period in opposition and the problems Neil Kinnock experienced as opposition leader in Margaret Thatcher's era;

* His current role in the House of Lords.

Lord Sawyer said of his role as University Chancellor: "Deep down it's a great honour. How many people get the chance to do this? You cannot go to the job centre and ask 'do you have any vacancies for Chancellor?'

"As someone who left school at 15, I was shocked to be invited; I assumed the university wanted someone who had high academic achievement. …

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