The morning that the university vice-chancellors saw on their desks the letter of the Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris they could breathe a sigh of relief: for once it was not a FOI by the Guardian or UCU asking about their salaries.
The MP for Daventry, a staunch Brexiteer, was not after their money. He only asked for a list of all lecturers that teach on Brexit and for their syllabi. It didn’t take long for academics and liberal media to call the request ‘McCarthyite’. Never mind that most voters think that McCarthy is an American country singer.
Pro-Brexit media, for their part, did what anyone who has read the Donald Trump for Dummies playbook expected them to do, i.e. publish on the front page of their websites a photo of their new idol.
But I wonder if a different motivation lies behind the initiative. We all know how badly the Brexit negotiations are going and how busy the life of some MPs can be – tweeting, facebooking, leaking stories to a friendly newspaper, faking expense claims, producing scores of babies (but without changing their nappies) – what if the letter was motivated by a genuine thirst for knowledge? Perhaps the sign of a rethink, the desire to finally get some information right about the mess the Tory party has got the country into. Basically all the zealous MP was after is a Brexit reading list. Moreover, we should appreciate the effort that this MP has put into writing a proper letter, not an email, the time it took to print them, put them in tiny envelopes, and go to the post box.