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: