University chief cites Churchill in response to MP's 'sinister' Brexit letter

A Conservative MP has been criticised for sending a "sinister" letter to universities which requested the names of professors teaching about Brexit.

Chris Heaton-Harris, a Tory whip and Leave campaigner, also asked establishments to supply copies of their syllabuses and links to online lectures covering the topic.

The request was sent to vice chancellors across the country, the Guardian reported.

Professor David Green, Vice Chancellor at the University of Worcester, said: "When I read this extraordinary letter on Parliamentary paper from a serving MP, I felt a chill down my spine. Was this the beginnings of a very British McCarthyism?"

A copy of the letter from Mr Heaton-Harris, seen by the Press Association, states: "I was wondering if you would be so kind as to supply me with the names of professors at your establishment who are involved in the teaching of European affairs, with particular reference to Brexit.

"Furthermore, if I could be provided with a copy of the syllabus and links to the online lectures which relate to this area I would be much obliged."

Chris Heaton-Harris
Daventry MP Chris Heaton-Harris (Parliament/PA)

Prof Green said had not heard of Mr Heaton-Harris, MP for Daventry, before receiving the letter but discovered he had previously described himself as a Eurosceptic.

He said: "I realised that 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', another phrase to be found on Mr Heaton-Harris's website.

"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."

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner branded Mr Heaton-Harris' actions "unacceptable" and "ignorant".

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