Conservative MP demands details of university Brexit lecturers
A Conservative MP and leading Brexiteer has written to universities across the UK asking for the names of lecturers teaching courses on Brexit and the content of their lessons.
Chris Heaton-Harris, a government whip and member of the pro-Brexit European Research Group of Conservative MPs, wrote to vice-chancellors earlier this month asking for the names of any professors involved in teaching European affairs 'with particular reference to Brexit'.
His letter then asks for "a copy of the syllabus" and any online lectures on Brexit.
He has now been accused of "McCarthyite" tactics by academics who said it was an assault on free speech.
-- Paul Mainwood (@deftly_admiral) October 24, 2017
Sally Hunt, chairwoman of lecturers' union the University and College Union, told the BBC: "Our society will suffer if politicians seek to police what universities can and cannot teach.
You may also want to watch:
"This attempt by Chris Heaton-Harris to compile a hit list of professors has the acrid whiff of McCarthyism about it and [universities minister] Jo Johnson must disown it in the strongest terms.
"Our universities and colleges must lead the way in defending academic freedom, where received wisdom can be challenged and controversial ideas debated."
- 1 The stench of scandal seeping out from Britain
- 2 Why is devout Jacob Rees-Mogg so quiet about Boris Johnson's affairs?
- 3 Major and Blair were right about Brexit and Northern Ireland
- 4 Dominic Cummings' new venture could cause concern for No 10
- 5 Roman Kemp: Depression and coping with George Michael's death
- 6 The symbolism behind the reopening of pubs
- 7 Why are there so few BAME faces on the fronts of our newspapers?
- 8 David Cameron and Matt Hancock discussed NHS scheme over 'private drink'
- 9 Government deletes pro-Scottish independence blog post
- 10 PM chooses not to attend Prince Philip’s funeral because of guest limits
McCarthyism refers to the US politician Joseph McCarthy, who led a campaign of political repression against suspected communist sympathisers in the 1950s.
Prof Kevin Featherstone, head of the European Institute at the LSE, told the Guardian: 'The letter reflects a past of a McCarthyite nature.
"It smacks of asking: are you or have you ever been in favour of remain?
"There is clearly an implied threat that universities will somehow be challenged for their bias.'
August 2036. And Chris Heaton-Harris finally reaches the end of 6,547 powerpoint slides...
-- Philip Cowley (@philipjcowley) October 24, 2017
Alan MacLeod, a lecturer in modern British history at Leeds University, tweeted this morning: 'If Chris Heaton-Harris wants to know what I teach about Brexit he'll need to cough up £9,250 [the annual tuition fee].'
More than 80% of academics voted to remain, according to a YouGov survey commissioned by the University and College Union in January.
Last year Mr Heaton-Harris' fellow Conservative MP and Brexiteer Bernard Jenkin, a board member of the Vote Leave campaign, filed a complaint to the Electoral Commission after LSE hosted an event at which a speaker said there was 'no upside for the UK in Brexit'.
He demanded that the university be probed for "what appear to be contraventions of referendum legislation".
The commission investigated and took no action against the university.
Mr Heaton-Harris has since tweeted: "To be absolutely clear, I believe in free speech in our universities and in having an open and vigorous debate on Brexit."
Downing Street has said he was acting in his capacity as a constituency MP and not as a government whip.
Become a Supporter
The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.