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'Make Blair RIBA president', institute's ruling council told

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The RIBA has side-stepped a controversial debate on whether the post of president should be paid - and heard prime minister Tony Blair touted as a possible future chief.

Would-be president Annette Fisher criticised the institute after it buried the media-grabbing issue of payment at last week's council meeting until the day's end. Instead, members tackled the grinding minutiae of council bylaws, so delaying the highly charged topic of payment. Fisher complained that many members who hold strong views had left by late afternoon and there was too little time to debate. 'This issue has been very publicly addressed and has implications on the winner. There's a lot of interest and a lot of the council is not here.' However, the institute managed to squeeze in a vote that presidents should not be paid.

Earlier, Richard Murphy had wondered how president Paul Hyett coped with the workload and said presidents needed to have generous business partners.

He asked: 'For a man interested in sustainability, how do you sustain yourself?'

Hyett, who works three-and-a-half days a week at the RIBA, replied with a sustainability quip about a colleague's design for a huge holiday home with swimming pool for a senior Labour party figure. 'Having told the client they didn't need air conditioning, the client insisted he did because of global warming.'Hyett is to attend a Johannesburg conference in September on global sustainability.

Ex-director general Alex Reid said non-architects should be able to become presidents after talk of a rule change banning this. He suggested Tony Blair or the AJ's Paul Finch, an honorary fellow of the RIBA, as future presidents.

'Finch would make a good president, and using non-architects may allow the post to carry more force in public. Tony Blair may retire and maybe he could do a good job. If we are trying to be more open and inclusive it seems odd to narrow our choice.'

In parallel with Fisher's campaign to be president, Botswana architect Femi Majekodunmi, an overseas RIBA committee member, said the African Union of Architects was meeting in Tunis this week to elect its first white president. 'Africa is coming of age in terms of race relations, ' she said.

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