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A picture of The New York Times with the word

Friday did not bring the news that Joe Biden had reached the magic score of 270 votes in the Electoral College, but I left the office confident that he would soon be President Elect. Suffice it to say that I agree with Teiko Maas, the German Foreign Minister. "Decent losers are more important to the functioning of a democracy than brilliant winners".

Mr Biden may not be the most inspiring President, but he is honest, intelligent, and determined to heal divisions. After four years of toxic polarisation, this is more than good enough for me. 

Here in South, Lee, Lynn, Steven, Richard and I marked the end of the week with our first live virtual advice session. We hope those who attended found it useful. It was good to have the chance to speak to so many of you. Oswald was thrilled too. He adores the limelight, and he was visibly thrilled to be on screen and watched by so many admirers. He is equally excited about the competition to find Keepers of the Owl. As soon as we finished the session, Oswald scrutinised a copy of 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' to confirm that Hedwig and his friends have just one keeper each. This, of course, implies that Oswald is at least seven times more important than the world's most famous fictional owl. If you think his head is expanding, don't imagine he is suffering from dry rot.

I promise to make such sessions a regular event throughout lockdown. We will be glad to continue them afterwards too, but ideally in the cafe/bar or the Hub. Meeting face to face is so much nicer than Zoom, Teams or Skype. I anticipate a revival of old social habits when Covid is finally under control. We will all be so fed up with virtual reality that gatherings in cosy pubs, coffee shops and tea rooms will feel additionally charming and alluring. 

On Wednesday I managed to make time for three hours work on my book. This time was spent immersed in online newspaper archives reading coverage of the Beveridge Report from late November and early December 1942. Enthusiasm for Beveridge's inspired vision for what would become the Welfare State extended from the Daily Mirror to the Daily Mail and was endorsed by the Economist and Financial Times. The War Cabinet was just a little less enraptured. There was a war to win first. 

Now to the topic I have studiously avoided: that party. Disciplinary procedures are under way, so I will say nothing specific. However, every student in South should know that my primary concern is for your wellbeing and happiness. The rules under which we currently operate are designed to protect us and, crucially, the community in Durham with whom we are privileged to share this beautiful City and our world class university. They restrict your liberty for a reason: to protect the lives of others who are vulnerable. Please respect them. Our first weeks in South have shown me that you are a brilliant and outstandingly talented group. It is a privilege to be your Principal and I hope that, as South's first ever students, you will earn a special place in the history of Durham University.