Christian Conservative candidate unseats ‘Dr Death’ MP

First time candidate, Nicola Blackwood, the candidate for Oxford West & Abingdon, has beaten Liberal Democrat front bench spokesman, Dr Evan Harris, by 176 votes.

With an above average 65% turnout, Blackwood gained 23,906 votes to Harris’ 23730 votes. Third place Labour candidate, Richard Stevens won 5999 votes.

Responding to his loss on Twitter, Dr Harris said, "thanks for the messages. I'm Ok & will come back from this and re-win."

Dr Harris, 44, the former spokesman for science, was first elected in 1997 and has been outspoken in his support for euthanasia and abortion.

He recently said, "I support the right of competent adults who are terminally ill and suffering and who want to die to have the right to ask for help to do so." As a member of the British Medical Association's Ethics Committee he pushed for the acceptance by the BMA of "assisted dying" for the terminally ill.

His views earned him the nickname ‘Dr Death’, a title he has strenuously rejected.

Once a member of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee he persuaded the Committee to review the 1967 Act which legalised abortion. Instead of supporting a tightening of the law, as desired by the public in view of evidence that foetuses can survive after just 20 weeks, Harris called for greater liberalisation.

He also advocated an end to the requirement that an abortion receive the consent of two doctors, arguing that the procedure could easily be carried out by a nurse or even in the home by taking a pill.

In 2009, he was awarded - together with Lord Avebury - the National Secular Society's Secularist of the Year Award, by Richard Dawkins, in recognition of his role in the abolition of the common law offence of blasphemous libel.

The prize, a cheque for £5,000, is presented annually to the individual considered to have made the greatest contribution to secularism over the past year.

Blackwood, born in 1979, was selected as Parliamentary candidate in 2006, She is a member of the Christian Conservative Fellowship (CCF) and a graduate of Cambridge Universtity, where she gained a First in Music at St Anne’s College and an M.Phil. in Musicology from Emmanuel College.

On news of Harris’ deafeat, Tim Montgomerie, the influential ConservativeHome blogger, and founder of the CCF tweeted : "There is a God!!!! Evan Harris has lost Oxford West & Abingdon."

Blackwood works with the Conservative Party Human Rights Group, founded to find ways for the UK to combat human rights abuses in places like Burma and the Democratic Republic of Congo. She is also on the Council of Advisors for ZANE, a charity which seeks to support pensioners in Zimbabwe.

In addition to her human rights work, she helped to set up the Conservative Party Social Action Project in 2007 which has established over 100 small-scale, local projects designed to support and empower struggling communities.

The CCF website notes, "She is concerned that right to freedom of religion is being undermined without proper understanding of the potential consequences for faith groups or the wider community….she fears that the voice of Christians and people of other faiths on key issues of conscience is too readily dismissed in public debate."

Blackwood was born in 1979 in Johannesburg but her family returned to Oxford just two months later after her father, a doctor working in Soweto, had angered the Apartheid government by speaking up for the rights of the black community.

Similarly, although born in Sheffield, Harris is the son of an academic couple who, disillusioned with apartheid, had emigrated from South Africa.

A lifelong Christian, Blackwood attends St Aldate’s Church in Oxford with her family and lives in Summertown.