FIERY left-wing MP George Galloway is to take on Labour veteran George Foulkes in the battle to become the next Rector of Edinburgh University.
Journalist and broadcaster Iain McWhirter has also entered the race, making it a three-cornered fight.
Mr Galloway – now a Respect MP after being expelled from the Labour Party, but also famous for his Celebrity Big Brother appearance – only decided to throw his hat in the ring at the end of last week.
He is expected to campaign on issues such as the Israeli assault on Gaza and the war in Iraq as well as student rights.
A parliamentary aide said: "We were contacted by students at the end of last week, asking George to stand.
"When we heard George Foulkes was an alternative candidate, George Galloway thought he would rise to that challenge.
"George Foulkes was strongly in favour of the Iraq war and regards himself as a friend of Israel. On these issues and several others, they are at opposite ends of the spectrum."
Mr Galloway – who began his political career in Dundee and was an MP in Glasgow – has no direct links with the Capital.
But his spokesman said: "George Galloway will be up in Edinburgh very soon to launch the campaign. It will be a vigorous grassroots campaign."
Mr Foulkes – Lothians MSP, life peer and former Hearts chairman – announced his bid for the rectorship last November, citing his long connection with the university, dating back to his time as student president in 1963.
He said he was surprised by Mr Galloway's entry into the race.
"He has shown no previous interest in Edinburgh, but it's open to anyone to stand.
"My campaign will be based on my long involvement with the university. I will be a working rector and I will be able to exercise influence. I don't think George Galloway qualifies on any of these things."
Mr Foulkes has already highlighted the issue of feedback for students, on which Edinburgh was recently ranked worst in the UK, and pledged his support for the bid to refurbish the Pleasance Theatre.
Mr McWhirter, a 1979 politics graduate from Edinburgh, said he was running as "the local, non-political candidate".
He said key issues would include the accommodation crisis for students, graduate employment and the quality of teaching and learning and feedback.
"I would try to work with other rectors towards ensuring a 7000 minimum income guarantee for students. The Scottish Government has said it is prepared to look at this, but I think they need to look at it pretty soon."
Around 25,000 students and 8300 staff can vote in the election for Rector, which takes place on February 11-12.
There had been rumours that TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson and Tory MP David Davies might stand but when nominations closed yesterday there was no sign of either being put forward.
University officials are expected to confirm the candidates later this week.