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← Evan Harris: Is this why he lost his seat?

Evan Harris: Is this why he lost his seat? - Comments

InYourFaceNewYorker's Avatar Comment 1 by InYourFaceNewYorker

Ugh, these people and their stupidity! Looking at the flyer just further proves we atheists and science appreciators are right that ignorance of science is dangerous. "Dr. Death?" Now PLEASE!

Straight and Narrow... sigh. 

Julie

Updated: Thu, 13 May 2010 15:45:50 UTC | #469595

The Plc's Avatar Comment 2 by The Plc

It was a disgusting campaign, and a blow to secularism in the United Kingdom, but if people of Oxford West voted on the basis on what was in those pamphlets, then they deserve to be represented by a Christian bigot.

Thu, 13 May 2010 15:46:47 UTC | #469596

besleybean's Avatar Comment 3 by besleybean

Tho poor Evan did not deserve to lose his seat.

I hope it was more just because of the Tory bounce.

Thu, 13 May 2010 15:53:29 UTC | #469600

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 4 by SaganTheCat

yes this was an utterly shocking and very sad result.

Dr Harris has been a great local politician, hard working and much loved. I for one never considered for a moment that his seat might be unsafe after so many years but this looks like we might be starting to see the sleeping giant start to stir in the UK.

It's a shame but I hope if religion is making a political stance in the UK it will prove to be nothing more than to show itself for what it is and this is the behaviour of a cornered animal lashing out. I hope Ms Blackwood learns the harsh reality of standing up for her intollerant dogma in such a constituency and will be watching closely.

I hope to see a lot more of Dr Harris as a public figure too. I notice he's getting a fari bit of TV coverage

Thu, 13 May 2010 15:53:48 UTC | #469601

Dhamma's Avatar Comment 5 by Dhamma

Dr. Death? Now that's a title I would certainly want! Think of being in the same club as Dr. Harris and, especially, my hero Dr. Jack Kevorkian.

Thu, 13 May 2010 16:02:49 UTC | #469608

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 6 by Cartomancer

I don't know if there's any way of determining Richard's question as to whether the christian right propaganda actually lost Evan Harris votes rather than gained them for him.

What I do know is that, thanks to the Electoral Commission's redrawing of the constituency boundaries of Oxford West and Oxford East, the voting complexion of the Oxford West constituency has changed dramatically.

The wards of Holywell and Carfax were shifted from West to East. These two wards, between them, contain about half of the colleges that make up the University of Oxford, and most particularly the liberal, progressive colleges. Wadham, Hertford, New, Balliol, Exeter, Lincoln. Brasenose, Trinity, University, Merton, Corpus Christi, St. Peter's and Pembroke all fall within these wards.

So now Oxford West has had the votes of pretty much the entire student and academic population taken away, and is left to the mercy of the wealthy toffs living in Jericho and North Oxford (most of the houses along the Banbury Road cost several million pounds), and the rural Tory heartlands of Abingdon and the surrounding villages. Meanwhile the progressive, Lib Dem and Green voting students and academics have their voices drowned out by being attached to the overwhelmingly working-class labour supporters of Cowley Road and East Oxford.

Thu, 13 May 2010 16:13:33 UTC | #469611

rsharvey's Avatar Comment 7 by rsharvey

This really makes me angry. What makes me more angry is that it may have worked.

Apparently animal rights activists were also circulating pamphlets about Evan Harris 

http://www.oxfordtimes.co.uk/news/8157195.Harris_blames_leaflet_smears/

I think it is very difficult to tell, as a strong advocate for scepticism and atheism, where the majority view sits on this issue. I think I have become too attuned to spotting the stories that make my blood boil in the press.

I am told by my few Christian friends that I have no right to badger them, since my side appears to be winning in the UK - it is unsportsmanlike in other words. They are, however most likely suffering from the same lack of perspective as I am - being strong advocates for the other side.

It is true that I am often pleasantly surprised by the British response to religion, and that much of my feelings of being a beleaguered minority comes from following the American press. But I am also regularly proven right, when as in the leadership debates, all three candidates gave vomit inducing answers to the question of the pope's visit. And the revelation that atheist Nick Clegg is raising his children catholic almost made me change my vote.

A politician like Evan Harris will never be the populist vote however. And I am not surprised that, in the wake of the nauseatingly populist campaigning by the conservatives, across the country that good MP's such as Harris are shoved out.

Thu, 13 May 2010 16:15:05 UTC | #469612

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 8 by SaganTheCat

Cartomancer

Yes actually you're right, I wasn't sure of how the boundary had changed but oxford east is as safer labour seat as they get. I work in Jericho and use the bus to the Park and Ride in Peartree so I've seen many blue banners in the last few weeks, (not to mention that annoying "jesus army" minibus!) and of course that part of oxford is no place for a student to afford.

The liberals have been marginalised in Oxford by the rich at one end and the plant workers at the other

Thu, 13 May 2010 16:20:23 UTC | #469614

MAJORPAIN's Avatar Comment 9 by MAJORPAIN

This is sad to hear, indeed. This is the kind of stuff that circulates about politicians in Arkansas. No one dare run if they're not on the jesus-bus. Sometimes it comes down to who loves jesus more. (Each politician yells "I DO, I DO" at this point). I had hoped for more in the rest of the world but sadly it is creeping into more and more blue states here in the US as well. Politicians from California, Connecticut and New York don't have to wave the jesus flag to get elected right now, but I figure this will change.

Truly scary. Just be sure and give this newly elected politician a hard time Richard!

Thu, 13 May 2010 17:21:43 UTC | #469633

Jay Cee's Avatar Comment 10 by Jay Cee

This is a mostly excellent description of Evan's accomplishments. The complacent people of Oxford don't deserve Evan as their MP. It's very sad indeed.

Thu, 13 May 2010 18:30:03 UTC | #469653

seals's Avatar Comment 11 by seals

Another example of our crap voting system.  The conservative majority was only 176, so Harris's loss looks like it was purely due to the aforementioned very convenient (for the Tories) boundary change. Who managed to wangle that I wonder? 


Thu, 13 May 2010 19:11:19 UTC | #469664

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 12 by God fearing Atheist

When news of this first appeared on this site there was a link to an Oxford newspaper site which had comments below. One of the accusations was that Evan Harris was a bad constituency MP who didn't answer correspondence. A few others agreed. I don't know if this is true in a few cases, true in general, or just an excuse for more intolerant views, but it might be worth investigating before it is concluded that the constituency is in the hands of bigoted xtian twats.

I think it's a shame he lost his seat. I was most impressed by the webcast of the science select committee inquiry into homeopathy in which he took a starring role.

Updated: Thu, 13 May 2010 20:36:18 UTC | #469684

ObZen's Avatar Comment 13 by ObZen

Hi Richard,

While I as a Christian tentatively approve of such things as voluntary euthanasia and such, I think it's a bit heavy-handed to force them on people with government action, and that's where I think you and others like you have gone wrong. You attempt to put your views forward as the only possibly tenable view. In some cases, you may be right, but consider for a moment that people have a very good reason to think as they do: their family and friends. The people they trust. Trust, though not strictly evidence-based, is a reasonable function.

If you're going to break the spell on some of these issues, you're going to have to convince people that they've been misled. If you force it on them, then you are essentially insulting everything that they know. You're insulting not only their character but that of their friends, their parents, siblings, etc.

Now you have every right to be angry with religious leaders who mislead the public. I am very angry with some, myself. But if you lump the misled into the same category as the liars themselves, you are only going to injure your cause. I think some of the religious conservative backlash may be a direct result of your attacks. Please be careful.

Thanks,
ObZen

Updated: Thu, 13 May 2010 20:41:09 UTC | #469689

Apathy personified's Avatar Comment 14 by Apathy personified

I think that if Dr Harris had got 177 more votes he'd probably be the science minister now. That's what really stings.

Thu, 13 May 2010 21:08:36 UTC | #469703

The Plc's Avatar Comment 15 by The Plc

What the heck are you talking about?  Evan Harris isn't campaigning for forced labour camps for the unemployed, he's campaigning for the individual human right of voluntary, read it again, voluntary euthanasia.

Thu, 13 May 2010 21:15:19 UTC | #469704

green and dying's Avatar Comment 16 by green and dying

As well as the leaflets, I also heard from a friend that people were spreading a rumour that he was lying about being a "Dr" and that members of another party were harrassing canvassers.

Also I think there's a problem where people don't understand what "secular"/"secularist" means. They think it means you dislike religious people rather than that you don't want their beliefs to be privileged.

Thu, 13 May 2010 21:15:47 UTC | #469705

ObZen's Avatar Comment 17 by ObZen

Comment 16 by Wasted Tourist
What the heck are you talking about?  Evan Harris isn't campaigning for forced labour camps for the unemployed, he's campaigning for the individual human right of voluntary, read it again, voluntary euthanasia.
You misread, and I did admittedly word that in a confusing manner. I meant forcing people to accept things like voluntary euthanasia as acceptable. It runs contrary to usual thought. And kicking religion out of everywhere is hugely insulting to a large number of people if not done respectfully, even if it's the right thing to do.

Thu, 13 May 2010 21:20:12 UTC | #469708

ukantic's Avatar Comment 18 by ukantic

There is more here:

http://layscience.net/node/1021#comment-43488

I have just updated a comment in the replies section. I am posting as blackshadow.

I added:

Further reply to Questioning Tessera.

“blackshadow - the leaflet listed Harris's voting record on a number of important issues. It did also report that he has been called by colleagues "Dr Death" - hardly surprising given some of his stances...”

His stances? The last I heard, abortion was legal in this country and there seems to be widespread support for euthanasia both publicly and politically. As for stem-cell research, his support for this is motivated by his well-founded belief that it is of medical value with the potential to improve or save the lives of countless human beings. Yet he is vilified as Dr Death by the same people who motivated by their deeply irrational religious beliefs, oppose such research and therefore condemn such sick people to continuing to suffer and die in their multitudes. It's therefore not just a distortion of the truth, but worse still, the very antithesis of it.

As for my child abuse analogy, it most certainly does not miss the point at all. You have implied that just because Dr Harris supports such issues as abortion and euthanasia that this somehow justifies calling him Dr Death. Well it most certainly does not. Where does this infantile nonsense stop, what's next, the title Dr Strangelove for a supporter of nuclear power for example?

Try sticking to the facts. If you are forced to lower yourself to spreading vile unsubstantiated, mendacious, rumours and gossip (conveniently supplied by some old hack from the Daily Mail) in lieu of a reasoned rational counter -argument then there's a good chance you don't have a case to start with, otherwise you wouldn't have to resort to personal abuse.

Thu, 13 May 2010 21:45:33 UTC | #469712

rsharvey's Avatar Comment 19 by rsharvey

Comment 18 by ObZen
I meant forcing people to accept things like voluntary euthanasia as acceptable. It runs contrary to usual thought.

That's a very Christian view to take on the subject, and is entirely undemocratic.

Thu, 13 May 2010 21:45:41 UTC | #469714

Alovrin's Avatar Comment 20 by Alovrin

Comment 14 by ObZen

I believe that's known as concern trolling. You have a lot to learn young man.

Thu, 13 May 2010 21:52:24 UTC | #469718

rsharvey's Avatar Comment 21 by rsharvey

Comment 21 by alovrin
Comment 14 by ObZen I believe that's known as concern trolling. You have a lot to learn young man.

It certainly has that smell about it...

Updated: Thu, 13 May 2010 22:12:37 UTC | #469725

Stephen of Wimbledon's Avatar Comment 22 by Stephen of Wimbledon

It seems to me unlikely that Evan Harris lost his seat due to the anti-Harris campaign cited.

Mr. Harris himself (http://www.evanharris.org.uk/) equivocates.  He believes the main reason was a " ...hardening of both the Tory and Labour vote in the days running up to the election as a result of ... fear of a hung parliament, of a Tory-led administration, and of Gordon Brown staying on... "

Mr. Harris mentions the leaflets (above), but his comment suggests that he does not give them much credit for losing his seat: "It's also of course possible that the outrageous smear leaflets distributed to every house late in the campaign may have had an impact that is difficult to detect and rebut ... "

Nicola Blackwood (the Conservative Party winner of the seat) is a member of both the Conservative Christian Fellowship (www.ccfwebsite.com), and the group Christian Concern For Our Nation (www.ccfon.org).  While that does not amount to a smoking gun it does look highly suspicious, and what a police detective might call; Criminal intelligence worthy of investigation.  I urge every member of richarddawkins-dot-net with a British passport to look up these unsavoury characters on the Net.

It seems very likely, to me, that a campaign in the other direction, of a similar nature, would unseat Blackwood at the next election.  Of course Oxford West & Abingdon voters (along with everyone else) may get a new right to recall their MP within the next two years (that being a key discussion area within the new coalition) so you might not have to wait long before you can petition to have her removed ahead of a general election.

In the meantime Mr. Harris and his Team need to be keeping close tabs on Blackwood.  Unless I miss my guess; it won't take long for her to acquire some 'form'.

The most disturbing thing about this whole subject is not Blackwood, or the Christian groups, or even the leaflets.  It is that the name Dr. Death was coined by a tabloid newspaper.  Then, this invention was misused anonymously by a political lobby to attack a political candidate in a negative campaign.  The thread started at the newspaper...  The alliance talk about a new politics.  But can we really have a new politics without media reform?

Thu, 13 May 2010 22:43:22 UTC | #469740

ukantic's Avatar Comment 23 by ukantic

"Nicola Blackwood (the Conservative Party winner of the seat) is a member of both the Conservative Christian Fellowship (www.ccfwebsite.com), and the group Christian Concern For Our Nation (www.ccfon.org). While that does not amount to a smoking gun it does look highly suspicious, and what a police detective might call; Criminal intelligence worthy of investigation. I urge every member of richarddawkins-dot-net with a British passport to look up these unsavoury characters on the Net."

Interesting article here:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/12400596-16ac-11df-aa09-00144feab49a.html

Updated: Thu, 13 May 2010 23:34:13 UTC | #469754

fairytalegod's Avatar Comment 24 by fairytalegod

Comment 18 by ObZen
I meant forcing people to accept things like voluntary euthanasia as acceptable.

You can't "force" anyone to accept anything as acceptable.  On the otherhand, prohibitions do force things on others.

Fri, 14 May 2010 06:00:57 UTC | #469816

ObZen's Avatar Comment 25 by ObZen

Comment 21 by alovrin
Comment 14 by ObZen I believe that's known as concern trolling. You have a lot to learn young man.
I don't have any problem with you doing most of the things listed except shutting down religious schools (if they should meet certain requirements), but if you force things on people like they're the enemy, then you're GOING to have problems. You're not going to make political progress. Regardless of whether you're right or wrong, it won't make it into policy.

Fri, 14 May 2010 07:33:15 UTC | #469833

rsharvey's Avatar Comment 26 by rsharvey

Comment 26 by ObZen
I don't have any problem with you doing most of the things listed except shutting down religious schools (if they should meet certain requirements), but if you force things on people like they're the enemy, then you're GOING to have problems. You're not going to make political progress. Regardless of whether you're right or wrong, it won't make it into policy.

To be honest, if religious voters are against others being granted the right to end their own life in a humane and painless way, they are the enemy - of progress and of basic human decency.

Not every question should be treated as morally 50/50. Its the reason there are federal laws against racial segregation etc: because there were just too many white Christians in Texas who weren't comfortable with black folks drinking from the same water fountain as them. 

Fri, 14 May 2010 08:14:20 UTC | #469862

keddaw's Avatar Comment 27 by keddaw

There is always the possibility that people voted against his party's politics rather than his personal views. Such is the nature of UK politics.

The Lib Dems are more left wing than Labour on many issues and people might have had enough of big government (like the Tories will change that!) and decided a more conservative approach would be best given the nature of our finances.

No-one, with any sense, wants to ban religious schools, we simply don't want to fund them from the public purse. If people want to see their kids taught in a different way they are welcome to do so, as long as they are willing to pay for it and it meets some minimum standards.

@Steve_r_w

But can we really have a new politics without media reform?
Not a fan of the free press? US Constitution:

Amendment I Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Sometimes a nasty, bigoted, partisan press is the price we pay for freedom and I think the UK would do well to follow America's lead on certain rights the citizens should have.

Updated: Fri, 14 May 2010 09:31:41 UTC | #469874

Stephen of Wimbledon's Avatar Comment 28 by Stephen of Wimbledon

Thanks for ther link ukantic:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/12400596-16ac-11df-aa09-00144feab49a.html

For anyone who hasn't seen it yet, please take a moment to look at this - it is a fascinating story about how well-funded political pressure groups (in this case christians) can twist a far larger organisation (in this case the Conservative Party) to their agenda.

It also offers a fascinating insight into the growth of christian political activism in Britain, and their methods.

Personally, I have always been deeply suspicious of open primaries (the above linked article opens with a description of how a Conservative Party open priamary was easily undermined by organised christian groups).

Primaries are promoted as democratic but, to me, they are obviously a device designed to limit open non-party political activism and the emergence of new political parties and independents.  They are successful at this, partly, because it makes the job of mass media rreporting easier - so the media enter into a conspiracy - sometimes quite openly, as in the case of Murdoch - with the existing parties to use open primaries to crowd out real, public, political activism.

What this story illustrates so well is that 'open primaries' is a misnomer.  What it really is: Secret lobbying, back-room deals and pressure tactics masquarading as political debate within a big-party political system designed to monopolise voters attention by ensuring cheap, over-simplified, sound bites for mass media.  Perfect for an electorate who's education doesn't allow them to apply critical thinking!

People of Britain: You are being kept in your place.  Be free.  Be powerful.  Campaign for electoral and political reform.  Join the Purple Revolution:

Saturday, 2 p.m.

Wear some purple.

Trafalger Square.

See you there.

www.takebackparliament.com

Updated: Fri, 14 May 2010 09:46:54 UTC | #469878

hungarianelephant's Avatar Comment 29 by hungarianelephant

Comment 29 by steve_r_w
What this story illustrates so well is that 'open primaries' is a misnomer.  What it really is: Secret lobbying, back-room deals and pressure tactics masquarading as political debate within a big-party political system designed to monopolise voters attention by ensuring cheap, over-simplified, sound bites for mass media.
I'm sorry, but this really is nonsense. Until they become more popular, open primaries will always be vulnerable to well-organised groups, but that in no way means that this is the point of them. In fact, the Tories were most worried that they would be hijacked by anti-Tory factions determined to install a bad candidate.

The article neglects to mention, for example, that Fiona Bruce was in the running for at least two other seats (Macclesfield, for which she was rejected, and Penrith, which became moot); that Matthew Hancock had attempted to mobilise his friends from the Alsager Hunt to pull off exactly the same trick; and that he did in fact get another constituency (West Suffolk) where he was duly elected. If this is all party machination, then it's most politely described as fairly incompetent machination.

Fri, 14 May 2010 12:18:33 UTC | #469907

latsot's Avatar Comment 30 by latsot

If Harris hadn't been voted out, perhaps he could have been science minister now.  To call that a shame is something of an understatement.  As well as being scientifically literate, Harris has both integrity and the courage of his convictions.  If he'd backed down on his views, there seems a decent chance that he wouldn't have been voted out.

It depresses me that his opponents can't admit that he's a man of integrity, even though they don't like his views.

Fri, 14 May 2010 13:44:44 UTC | #469921