By continuing to use the site you agree to our Privacy & Cookies policy

Your browser seems to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser.


Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.



You can be sure that where there's brass, there's muck

Jonathan Dimbleby, our profile this week on page 22 and the man chosen to give the first RIBA annual lecture, was an inch away from becoming a politician himself.

He was sounded out by all three parties in varying levels of seriousness, with the most interesting approach made by Jeremy Thorpe, then Liberal leader.

Dimbleby was interviewing Thorpe on TV and, just as the opening credits rolled, Thorpe leaned over. 'Jonathan, ' he said, 'I wondered if you'd stand for us in Richmond?'

Dimbleby says now that he was not sure if this was an unsettling tactic to get him 'on side'. But he is sure that he made the right decision to resist politics.

He is glad to have avoided the 'perpetual back-biting', the 'over-competitiveness', and the way modern politicians are reduced to 'childishness' in a system which seemingly cannot adequately address big, overarching issues like the subject of his talk at Portland Place - sustainable development.

Which brings us to the institute itself, in the way the election campaign for the new RIBA president is shaping up.

George Ferguson says he wanted this to be a clean fight.

But he is perplexed that his main opponent, Annette Fisher, went to developer Crest Nicholson hoping for its monetary support since Ferguson once opposed a scheme of Crest's in Bristol. And, principally because the presidency is not a paid role, Fisher is going to friends and supporters with cap in hand, yet refuses to let her rivals - or the electorate- know who those supporters are.

In the real world, political parties get into trouble when Mammon is involved, not because they necessarily give favours to donors, but because it looks like they do. And in mirroring the world of real politics outside (Fisher even calls it 'New RIBA' in a letter on these pages), she may encounter the very same problems.

A well-known, well-kept register of interests within Portland Place is possibly a start, but the answer, to attract a wide range of architects to the difficult post, may even require a long look at the institute's charitable status and president-as-trustee.The answer may still be to simply pay the president.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment.

The searchable digital buildings archive with drawings from more than 1,500 projects

AJ newsletters