Leslie Griffiths

Leslie Griffiths

Leslie began his theology post-graduate degree at Fitz in 1969, despite having been told he would struggle ‘socially’ at Cambridge/Oxford.

I was in the sixth form at Llanelli Grammar School at the same time as Michael Howard. Our headmaster explained to me why he wasn't putting me into the "Oxbridge Group" then being prepared for entry to those hallowed places. "You wouldn't be able to cope socially," he said. I don't say this to criticise him – in many ways I think this would have been true. I'd been raised in destitution and had no culture or social graces. Michael was in the group and he did indeed come up to Cambridge. I went to Cardiff, got a good degree in medieval English, became an assistant lecturer at Saint David's College Lampeter, and then candidate for the Methodist ministry.

They accepted me (!) and sent me to Wesley House as a member of the Fitzwilliam College family not long after the move up the Hill to Huntingdon Road. I didn't play much part in the life of the College - a few games for the second XV rugby team and a very occasional attendance at a lecture or event of some kind. My social life and my intellectual development were in the hands of my mentors at Wesley House. But I'm proud to be a Fitzwilliam man and tell everyone I meet that the College helped me cope with the social demands of Cambridge. I'd earned a second chance.

I went from Cambridge to Haiti where I spent the best part of 10 years. My subsequent ministry saw me in charge of a large social work programme in London's West End, a 21 year stint at Methodism's cathedral - Wesley House in City Road. I'm a Canon of Saint Paul's Cathedral, have a doctorate from SOAS (and a few honorary ones too), a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales (and a few honorary fellowships too).

I was President of the Methodist Conference in the 1990s and joined the House of Lords in 2004. I'm currently the front bench spokesperson for the Labour Party for DCMS affairs and also Shadow Minister in the Lords for Wales. I may not have had the social skills to come to Cambridge in the first place. But it was Cambridge that developed these skills and equipped me to make good use of them in the rest of my life.