Sunderland councillor appears on TV’s University Challenge - but opposition party criticises him

Councillor William Blackett, second from right, captains York University on University Challenge. Picture: BBC.
Councillor William Blackett, second from right, captains York University on University Challenge. Picture: BBC.

A Sunderland councillor got to rub shoulders with TV’s Jeremy Paxman as he appeared on University Challenge.

Coun William Blackett, who represents St Chad’s ward for the Conservatives, captained York University as they took on St Edmund Hall Oxford on the BBC2 programme.

Councillor William Blackett captains York University on University Challenge. Picture: BBC.

Councillor William Blackett captains York University on University Challenge. Picture: BBC.

Coun Blackett, who is just 20, was elected to office in May, and is the second youngest councillor currently on the authority.

Sadly for Coun Blackett and his team-mates however, they came up short, losing 240 points to 105.

“It’s a shame that the programme went that way but I think it was more down to the other team being quicker on the buzzer than us,” said the final year history student, who lives in Queen Alexandra Road in Sunderland when not studying.

“That was the main problem.

“Oxford did have a very good team and they knew their stuff, but they just seemed to answer quicker.”

Coun Blackett added that he hugely enjoyed the experience of the show.

“It was really exciting for me as I was on the reserve list last year and didn’t manage to get on.

“To appear as captain of my team was amazing.

“Jeremy Paxman was really nice too.

“He comes across as stern on the TV, but I got to speak to him afterwards and he’s very friendly off camera.”

Among the questions Coun Blackett managed to answer correctly were on Nancy Mitford, flags and a bonus round on Latin.

Coun Blackett’s appearance on the programme has not pleased everyone however, with Liberal Democrats in Sunderland criticising him for studying for a degree in York while holding the position of councillor, 70 miles apart.

Lib Dem campaigner for the Herringtons, Farringdon and Gilley Law areas Margaret Crosby said: “Like many local residents I was shocked to see one of my supposedly-local councillors, William Blackett, appearing on the University of York team on University Challenge.

“Mr Blackett certainly didn’t make it clear during this year’s election campaign that he was a student over 70 miles away in York.

“We need local councillors to be just that - local.

“William Blackett now urgently needs to come clean to residents.

“How much time does he spend in York, and does he have enough time to carry out his community and civic centre duties here in Sunderland?”

Coun Blackett has hit back however, saying he is fully committed to the role: “Local residents are not shocked as I’ve been telling everyone in the ward I’ve bumped into to watch out for me on the show.

“The only local they have spoken to is Margaret Crosby, one of their activists, who has repeatedly failed to be elected to council.

“I believe the people of Sunderland will be pleased to see that at least some of their councillors are educated.”

The University Challenge episode featuring Coun Blackett can be viewed on the BBC iPlayer.