Philosophers standing for election

If election night in the UK tonight is not exciting enough already, why not add some spice by looking out for how some philosophers fare, as they put themselves up for Parliament? A probably not comprehensive list of candidates includes

Oliver Letwin (Conservative) MP for West Dorset since 1997
A Cambridge PhD, his brief stint as an academic philosopher was as a fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge from 1981-1983. In 1987 he published a book of serious philosophy, Ethics, Emotion and the Unity of Self.

Jon Cruddas (Labour) MP for Dagenham since 2001
Has an M.A. and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Warwick, for a thesis entitled An analysis of value theory, the sphere of production and contemporary approaches to the reorganisation of workplace relations. He was a visiting fellow at the University of Wisconsin–Madison for a year from 1987.

John Pugh (Liberal Democrat) MP for Southport since 2001
Read philosophy at Durham, then was Head of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Merchant Taylors’ School, Crosby

Jesse Norman (Conservative) Candidate for Hereford and South Herefordshire
Has a philosophy MA and PHD from University College London, and also taught at UCL and Birkbeck

Shahrar Ali (Green Party) Candidate for Brent Central
Former editor of Philosophy Today, the newsletter of the Society for Applied Philosophy, and is administrator of the Institute of Philosophy

Ben Foley (a.k.a. Fairweather) (Green Party) candidate for Bedford
Is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility at De Montfort University and is editor the Journal of Information, Communication & Ethics in Society

UPDATED 14:27. Thanks to Andrew Jorgensen for tip.
Chris Fox (Green Party) Candidate for Harwich and North Essex
Is a reader at the University of Essex’s School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, whose “primary research interests lie in the area of the philosophy of language and formal semantics”.

If you know of any others or have any further information, please do add them in the comments.

Leave a comment ?


  1. Helen Beebee

    According to Wikipedia and various other websites, Oliver Letwin actually got his PhD from the London Business School. This seems unlikely to me, given that he published a philosophy book (‘Ethics, Emotion and the Unity of the Self’, Routledge 1987). Does anyone have any reliable evidence one way or the other? We need to know!

  2. According to The Independent his PhD was from Cambridge (Trinity College):

    Is independent evidence reliable?

  3. Andrew Jorgensen

    Chris Fox (formal semantics and philosophy of language) is standing for the Green Party in Harwichlink

  4. I’m always surprised how educated people -nay, people trained to think analytically- can end up running for the Tories. Thinking freely and conservatising seem, to me, strongly in tension!

  5. Michael Rush

    This website (the story is from 2004) mentions Darwin College, Cambridge, in addition to Trinity, but doesn’t specify what he did while he was there:

    Whether ‘’ is more reliable than the Independent you can decide for yourselves. Dr Letwin’s profile on the Guardian website mentions LBS, but again no details.

  6. His biography at the ResPublic think tank website says “He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge (MA, PhD)”

  7. I should stand for Parliament perhaps « Evolving Thoughts - pingback on May 6, 2010 at 9:51 am
  8. I don’t know whether it’s of interest to broaden it to candidates with philosophy degrees at any level, but if so Phil Woolas (Oldham East and Saddleworth, Minister of State for the Treasury) has a BA in philosophy from Manchester.

  9. The Cambridge University Library catalogue of theses answers the question about Oliver Letwin. His PhD thesis, Emotion and Emotions, was accepted by Cambridge in 1982.

    John’s comment at 5.15 am on May 6 puzzles me. If conservatism meant keeping things the same, or only changing slowly, regardless of evidence that would favour change or rapid change, I could see his point. But I do not think that this is what the current Conservative party leadership stands for, although some party members do think like that. But there are prominent members of all the main parties who allow their ideologies to trump the evidence.

  10. links for 2010-05-06 « Rumblegumption - pingback on May 6, 2010 at 7:34 pm
  11. Talking Philosophy | Philosophers hold their seats - pingback on May 7, 2010 at 5:33 am
  12. John Pugh also has a PhD in philosophy from the University of Liverpool, in something relating to epistemology I think.

    ( I used to work for JP; having a PPE undergrad it made for lots of good philosophical discussion. Which was preferable to talking about Lib Dem “policy”…)

  13. Iain Edgewater

    Following Michael Rush above: Lembit Opik, now turned out, also has a undergraduate philosophy degree–from Bristol.

  14. Christine Battersby

    Jon Cruddas did not study Philosophy at Warwick; his Warwick PhD was in Industrial & Business Studies. This is despite what Wikipedia says, & also despite what numerous journalists and websites claim.

  15. A Cambridge PhD, his brief stint as an academic philosopher was as a fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge from 1981-1983. In 1987 he published a book of serious philosophy, Ethics, Emotion and the Unity of Self.

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