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‘I was wondering whether you would be so kind…’

by Michael Emerson | 25.10.2017

“David, I was wondering if you would be so kind as to supply me with the names of professors at your establishment who are involved in the teaching of European affairs, with particular reference to Brexit.”

Those words, penned by government whip Chris Heaton-Harris in a letter to the University of Worcester, are now infamous.

This and a series of similar letters to UK universities have been met with a mix of incredulity and anger from the recipients. This gushingly polite invitation was worthy of tea-house talk such as: “Would you be so kind as to pass me the scones?” But, as one pro-Remain Tory MP put it, amounted to: “Papers please, Herr Professor”.

Since this seems to be the preferred style of our ruling Conservative party, members of the public might like to adopt a similar form of questioning.

“Theresa, I was wondering whether you would be so kind as to supply me with the 50 sectoral studies on the likely consequences of Brexit?”

“Boris, I was wondering whether you would be so kind as to apologise for the misleading claims on your red Brexit bus about saving the NHS, when in reality it is threatened by an exodus of valued doctors and nurses back to the continent?

“Liam, I was wondering whether you would be so kind as to inform us on whether we should look forward to consuming chlorine-washed chickens and genetically modified foods produced by the US’s mega agri-food complex?”  

“David, I was wondering whether you would be so kind as to inform us on precisely what plans you are making for a ‘no deal’?”

“Theresa, I was wondering whether you would be so kind as to organise a second referendum on Brexit, since we the people may be having second thoughts on the question?”

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Edited by Luke Lythgoe

2 Responses to “‘I was wondering whether you would be so kind…’”

  • It seems that this character Heaton-Harris has now stated that the letter he sent to Universities was solely in respect of personal research he was carrying out for a book. This statement begs the immediate questions as to why he has misused Parliamentary writing paper (and possibly free Parliamentary postage) and also abused his position as a public servant. I wonder whether the criminal offence of Misconduct in a Public Office would cover this man’s very sinister letter?

    • If he used Parliamentary writing paper for a private letter, then it comes within the remit of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. In fact, from looking at her website, that’s about all that she does! (I complained about Vote Leave’s disinformation, since Vote Leave was largely run by parliamentarians, and got nowhere). You could try a complaint to the PCS- but don’t expect anything much by way of sanctions! Usually MPs apologise profusely- often saying the Parliamentary stationery was misused by a local volunteer- and then they are patted on the head and told not to do it again. (I’d complain myself but am just about to go on holiday and don’t have the reference anyway).