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Coleman feels backlash after university outburst
3:08pm Thursday 15th April 2004 in News
Controversial councillor Brian Coleman this week refused to apologise for branding Middlesex University 'crap', despite Barnet Council leader Councillor Victor Lyon distancing his administration from the remarks.
Mr Lyon would not comment on whether disciplinary action would be taken against Mr Coleman after his outburst, which has sparked anger among university bosses.
But in a letter to this newspaper, where it emerged the council sent its own staff to the university on training courses, Mr Lyon wrote: "Any alleged remarks which may have been made by Mr Coleman were made in a personal capacity and do not represent the views of the council.
"Middlesex University is held in high regard by the council and is a valued partner in the local strategic partnership.
"Its courses are widely used by our staff to obtain professional qualifications, particularly in social services and in business administration."
When asked whether he would take disciplinary action against his colleague, Mr Lyon refused to comment further.
Mr Coleman launched his tirade after it emerged that the university wanted to expand its site in Trent Park, Southgate, plans which the Totteridge councillor firmly opposes.
He said: "Why should the people of north London suffer in order to attract hundreds of foreign students? They are such a crap university they only attract foreign ones."
Speaking on Tuesday, April 13, Mr Coleman refused to take back his remarks. "I said what I said. I don't do diplomacy. I wish everyone was as honest as I am. I have said it in public instead of keeping it to myself.
"The only reaction I have had is people saying how right I am," he added.
Phil Yeoman, leader of Barnet's Labour group, who himself studied politics at Middlesex University, said that it was unclear who Mr Coleman, also London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden, was representing when he made the comments.
"Unfortunately Brian Coleman represents the cabinet. If Victor Lyon can't control what he says, he needs to get him out of the cabinet," he said. "In actual fact, we need to be working with the college, not undermining it."
Adam Raoof, deputy president of the Middlesex University Student Union said: "We're proud of our international students. We're actually serving the area. Brian Coleman is alone in his views. They're probably more to do with forthcoming elections than to do with a rational discussion about educational issues."