WORCESTER’s university chief has slammed a ‘sinister’ letter from a Conservative MP calling on him to provide a list of staff teaching about Brexit.
Professor David Green, Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Worcester, launched a blistering attack on Chris Heaton-Harris, MP for Daventry and a senior whip in Theresa May’s Government after receiving the controversial letter.
The MP made the request to Professor Green and vice chancellors of universities across the UK for copies of course syllabuses and links to online lectures.
But the move from the arch Brexiteer has provoked a storm of criticism with concerns of a British version of ‘McCarthyism’.
Professor Green compared the letter to the actions of 1950s US Republican Joseph McCarthy who spent almost five years trying expose communists and other left-wing “loyalty risks” and would often make accusations of treason without proper regard for evidence.
“When I read this extraordinary letter on Parliamentary paper from a serving MP, I felt a chill down my spine,” Professor Green said.
“Was this the beginnings of a very British McCarthyism? I had never heard of Mr. Heaton Harris MP, so I looked up his website where I found him proclaiming that: “There must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to re-join it through the back door and no second referendum.”
“He has written to me personally, by name, asking me to give him the names of those who are giving classes about the European Union and give evidence about exactly what they are saying.
“If I don’t, is he planning to use Parliament to denounce me as an ‘enemy of the people’. Why me? “Is it because I have been campaigning so passionately for more nursing places and for a better deal for England’s students – two causes far from the heart of a Government whip for a beleaguered minority government?
“I realised his letter just asking for information appears so innocent but is really so, so dangerous.
“Here is the first step to the thought police, the political censor and Newspeak, naturally justified as ‘the will of the British people’.
“Then I thought that only one response was appropriate, which Churchill spoke so brilliantly for all who love Britain and democracy when he said “we shall outlive the power of tyranny” and “we shall never surrender”.
“That is my reply to Mr. Heaton Harris MP’s sinister letter.”
Mr Heaton-Harris responded to the backlash on Twitter and said: “To be absolutely clear, I believe in free speech in our universities and in having an open and vigorous debate on Brexit.”
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said the MP was acting in a ‘personal capacity’ and not on behalf of the Government.