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Harris attacks leaflet 'abuse'

AN Anglican priest’s leaflet campaign about Oxford West and Abingdon candidate Evan Harris has been condemned by the politician as an ‘inaccurate personal attack’. About 10,000 leaflets have been distributed which make claims about Dr Harris’s stance on abortion and euthanasia and his views on religion.

Tonight, Dr Harris, Liberal Democrat MP for the area since 1997, said the material was based on a distorted view of his voting record and contained personal abuse. He spoke out as it emerged the leaflet’s author, Lynda Rose, had complained to police after receiving abusive phone calls following the distribution of the A4 sheets.

The leaflet claims Dr Harris promotes liberalising the law on abortion and embryo research and claims he is ‘one of the most out-spoken secularists in Parliament’. The leaflet also claims he has been reported as having the nickname ‘Dr Death’ in Westminster.

Dr Harris told the Oxford Mail: “It is a pity that, instead of putting up a candidate to contest the election, an anonymous group, using money from no-one knows where, is distributing an inaccurate personal attack leaflet in this constituency for the first time ever.

“It is offensive and I would say profoundly unchristian to use the term Dr Death – associated with Nazi murderer Joseph Mengele or mass-murderer Harold Shipman – to describe any politician.” Dr Harris refuted claims made on the leaflets concerning his stance on abortion and euthanasia. He said: “I am proud of my record of speaking out on medical ethical issues and of course no candidate will agree with everyone on some of these divisive issues but I have always been prepared to debate the issue with any group.”

The Rev Rose, who is not a parish based priest, says she leads a group of residents who are concerned by the Dr Harris’s views on the issues.

She said the leaflet was not produced on behalf of a formal or political group.

She said: “It is completely independent, entirely on the part of concerned residents. It is a purely factual leaflet and it has been extensively checked out. It’s letting people have the full facts.”

She said reaction to the material had been mixed and she had received threatening phone calls that she reported to the police.

She said: “When people start screaming abuse at you and threaten to put things through your letterbox it is very upsetting.

“A few people have been very pleased. They have said thank you for spelling it out.”

By Chris Buratta


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