Singled out

December 19, 1997

Talk of academic freedom will be much in the air as the Teaching and Higher Education Bill makes its way through Parliament, but the government doubtless wishes that some of its recruits from the universities were a little less keen on exercising free thought. Of the 14 members of the 1997 intake who voted against the government on single-parent benefits, no fewer than four were ex-academics - Ian Gibson (University of East Anglia), Brian Iddon (Salford), Kelvin Hopkins (Luton) and David Chaytor (Manchester College of Arts and Technology).

The four 1997-vintage intake abstainers included Tony McWalter (Oxford Brookes), Doug Naysmith (Bristol) and Bill Rammell (manager, University of London Union). But the personal chair in iconoclasm goes to a 1983 entrant, former Aberystwyth maths lecturer John Marek who is clearly bent on disproving the assertion of one book on the election that "MPs don't come much duller than Marek". Dr Marek followed his public rejection of student tuition fees with such vigorous opposition to the benefit proposals that he has been singled out for special attention by the government whips and the Labour national executive.

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