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reaction to Evan Harris losing his parliamentary seat

At the recent general election the Liberal Democrat science spokesman and general all-round champion for science Dr Evan Harris lost his Oxford West & Abingdon seat by a mere 176 votes.

Dr Robin Lovell-Badge, geneticist, embryologist and stem cell scientist, said:

“I am devastated. Evan and I worked together closely on several issues to do with science policy, most notably the HFE Bill. He has been a critical champion for science and a superb and very active parliamentarian, who has achieved so much for common sense and for progress. It just seems completely unjust that he has not been re-elected. We need him back as soon as possible.”

James Lawford Davies, biosciences lawyer, said:

“Evan’s understanding of medicine and his commitment to scientific progress have been vital to the UK remaining a positive environment for medical research.”

Ben Goldacre, doctor and author of Bad Science, said:

“Evan stood head and shoulders above all other MPs for wit and intellectual fluency on all science issues. He drove through vital wins on evidence based policy, quackery, embryonic stem cell research, freedom of speech, regulation of the internet, immunisation, a sensible approach to animal experiments, a woman’s right to choose, and the right of all people to be treated equally regardless of religious belief. SciTech Select Committee reports that carried his name were also – astonishingly – brilliant pieces of topical popular science writing. His loss is a tragedy for science in politics and we will all suffer: if there is any value in an unelected House of Lords, it will have Evan in it.”

Prof Colin Blakemore, Professor of Neuroscience, University of Oxford, said:

“The defeat of Evan Harris is a sad loss for parliament and for British science. My strongest impression of Evan is the way that he always acted out of principle rather than narrow political or personal interest. He has been a tireless champion for science, for social justice and for human rights. It’s cruel irony that the tiny majority by which this remarkable MP was deposed was undoubtedly influenced by scurrilous campaign literature funded by anti-scientific groups.”

Nick Dusic, Director, Campaign for Science and Engineering in the UK (CaSE), said:

“Dr Evan Harris played an extremely important role in Parliament on science issues. He was a member of the Science and Technology Committee, the Lib Dem science spokesperson, championed various pro-science campaigns from within the Commons and raised important debates and questions within the Chamber. CaSE has worked closely with him (as we have with the other party spokespeople for science) in the run-up to the election as the Lib Dems developed their election science policies. His presence within the Commons will be missed by all those who care about science policy.”

Gail Cardew, Director of Programmes at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, said:

“It’s a sad day for the science community. We’ve lost someone who is a great advocate for scientific rigour and evidence-based policy.”

Prof David Nutt, Chair in Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London and Chair of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, said:

“It’s a sad day for science and government. Evan was such a great voice for rationality and evidence and its especially hurtful that the Tory candidate attacked him on those very issues by grossly misrepresenting his stance. Black day for him and the country.”

Prof Simon Wessely, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, said:

“We have so few MPs who are knowledgeable about science and medicine – losing any is bad, but losing one with Evan’s flair, charm and charisma is a disaster. Let’s hope there is another general election as soon as possible.”

Lord Drayson, Science Minister, said:

“Parliament has lost a leading advocate for science, Evan Harris will be sorely missed.”

Dr Chris Tyler, Executive Director, Centre for Science and Policy, University of Cambridge, said:

“Dr Evan Harris has been a passionate advocate of evidence-based policy and a champion for science in Parliament. He will be sorely missed. Within Parliament there is a need for a strong voice for science. The Centre for Science and Policy looks forward to working with new and returning MPs from all parties on promoting engagement between scientists and policy makers.”

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