A loss to the House of Commons

It is fashionable in polite society to be critical of politicians: we talk as if they are generally corrupt and stupid.

I have worked as a civil servant very closely with politicians of all parties, and my impression of them is much more positive.  There have been many politicians that I have not agreed with, but have found to be principled, hard-working, and genuinely committed to the pursuit of public good.  I’ve seen a few wrong ‘uns too; but most of those have been exposed in time.  There are many politicians who I admire and respect, and I’m sorry to see some of them leave the House of Commons.  Politics will be worse for the loss of people like Tony Wright, James Purnell and Bob Marshall Andrews for Labour, John Maples and Ann Widdecombe for the Tories, Matthew Taylor from the Liberal Democrats, and Clare Short, all of whom decided not to contest the 2010 election.

Though I am not a Liberal Democrat supporter, for me the biggest loss to the House of Commons came with the defeat of Dr Evan Harris in Oxford West and Abingdon.  He has consistently stood up for sound science, and evidence-based policy.  He has been the most consistent voice in support of secularism and free expression.  He has advocated disentangling the church from the state, and for remaining respectful of religion while resisting the idea that it should be immune from criticism or ridicule.   We need more people like him in Parliament, and I hope that he will soon return. (This is no reflection at all on Nicola Blackwood, who defeated him, whom I do not know at all.)

Published by Owen Barder

Owen is Senior Fellow and Director for Europe at the Center for Global Development and a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics. Owen was a civil servant for a quarter of a century, working in Number 10, the Treasury and the Department for International Development. Owen hosts the Development Drums podcast, and is the author Running for Fitness, the book and website. Owen is on Twitter and

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