MP attacks LSE professor over feminist political theory course

During a Commons debate on Human Trafficking, Denis MacShane MP accused professor Anne Phillips of filling the minds of her students at the LSE with 'poisonous drivel' concerning the difference between waged work and prostitution
ourKingdom editors
29 May 2011

The Association of Political Thought has issued a statement of support for professor Anne Phillips, in response to attacks by Denis MacShane MP on the content of a feminist political theory course taught by Phillips at the London School of Economics. Below is the statement of support in full, with a list of signatories. The Daily Mail have followed up on the interchange with a piece questioning the running of Gender Studies courses at a time of university cuts.

During the debate on Human Trafficking on 18 May 2011 (Hansard Col 94WH) Denis MacShane MP, quoting from the list of essay titles for an academic political theory course at the London School of Economics, accused  a distinguished professor, Anne Phillips FBA, of being unable to tell the difference between waged work and prostitution, and of filling the minds of students 'with poisonous drivel'. Fiona McTaggart MP agreed, accusing Phillips of holding  'frankly nauseating views on that issue'.

The ineptitude of this exchange - which is now forever on the official record - is extraordinary. Students are asked why we should distinguish between the sale of one's labour and the sale or letting of one's body. That condones neither the latter nor the former. It encourages students to reflect on how to draw an important line between things appropriate and things inappropriate for market exchange.  Asking such questions, far from being ‘nauseating’, is central to public debate about policy and legislation.  If Members of Parliament cannot tell the difference between an essay problem and an assertion of belief how can we trust them to legislate effectively?

Parliamentary debate is a cornerstone of our constitution and political culture. However, using the privilege of a Parliamentary platform ignorantly to traduce the reputation of a teacher of political theory is a dereliction of office.

Members and supporters of the Britain and Ireland Association for Political Thought:

David Owen, Southampton University

Michael Freeden, University of Oxford

Christopher Brooke, University of Cambridge

Marc Stears, University of Oxford

Simon Caney, University of Oxford

Stuart White, University of Oxford

Aletta Norval, University of Essex

Iain Hampsher-Monk, University of Exeter

Richard Bellamy, University College London

Thom Brooks, University of Newcastle

Raia Prokhovnik, Open University

Chris Brown, London School of Economics

Bonnie Honig, Northwestern University, Chicago, USA

Nicola Lacey, University of Oxford

Elizabeth Frazer, University of Oxford

Martin O’Neill, University of York

Tim Hayward, University of Edinburgh

Mark Philp, University of Oxford

Albert Weale, University College London

Kimberly Hutchings, London School of Economics

Kenneth Macdonald, University of Oxford

Chandran Kukathas, London School of Economics

Hillel Steiner, Universities of Manchester and Salford

Christopher Bertram, University of Bristol

Paul Kelly, London School of Economics

Jules Townshend, Manchester Metropolitan University

Emily Jackson, London School of Economics

Gary Browning, Oxford Brookes University

Adrian Blau, University of Manchester

Russell Keat, University of Edinburgh

David Leopold, University of Oxford

Katrin Flikschuh, London School of Economics

Cecile Laborde, University College London

Engin Isin, Open University

Dario Castiglione, University of Exeter

Clare Hemmings, London School of Economics

Christian List, London School of Economics

Evangelia Sembou, Political Studies Association of the United Kingdom

 David Miller, University of Oxford

Wendy Stokes, London Metropolitan University

Ruth Kinna, Loughborough University

Joni Lovenduski, Birkbeck University of London

Moya Lloyd, Loughborough University

Cecile Fabre, University of Oxford

Adam Swift, University of Oxford

Vincent Geoghegan, Queens University Belfast

Jennifer Hornsby, Birkbeck University of London

Lynn Dobson, University of Edinburgh

David Howarth, University of Essex

Reidar Maliks, University of Oxford

Nicholas Southwood, University of Oxford

Jeremy Jennings, Queen Mary’s University of London


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