In the turmoil of the last couple of weeks we could all take a lesson from Her Majesty the Queen for whom ‘Duty’ has been a guiding light through all the years of her reign. As Wordsworth has it “Duty, the stern daughter of the Voice of God….” Those of us who choose to be in public life; but also all who provide a public service - in the NHS, as a clergyman, teacher, public sector worker of any kind -may well do our job it because we happen to enjoy it, get a degree of personal satisfaction from it, or are merely just rather good at it. We most certainly do not do it not for the money, nor the glory, nor for personal advancement. Behind it all lies that stern daughter: Duty.
I stood by my friend Owen Paterson throughout his Parliamentary ordeal not necessarily because I approve (or disapprove) of anything he may have done; but because he has been my friend for 25 years or more. This week I have been much engaged with Remembrance Services - a lovely little service with the Luce Family in Malmesbury Abbey last Saturday in commemoration of 100 years of the Royal British Legion; in Parliament opening Mr Speaker’s Garden of Remembrance and then at the Guards Chapel with MPs and Peers who served in the Armed Services; at that famous War Memorial in Royal Wootton Bassett on 11/11; and I will be in Cricklade, Blakehill and Malmesbury on Remembrance Sunday. I enjoy them all and am pleased to be there; not least to remember and wonder at the sense of Duty which our soldiers, sailors and airmen and women set as an example to us all.
Then on Thursday I was pleased and honoured to be asked by the family of my old friend Nick Fry to read their tributes as a Eulogy at his funeral. Nick was a Chippenham baker (but he used to drive my election battle bus more like a racing car than his baker’s van); he was a leading light in football and rugby throughout his life; he was a district councillor and a parish councillor and took an active part in almost every aspect of life in Chippenham until he and Eileen moved to Hullavington 10 years or so ago. Nick made use of his skills as a baker (and the best Lardy cakes in Wiltshire) in all of his charitable and sporting events. He and Eileen gave of their all; not for any kind of thanks or personal benefit; but because they felt it was their duty - their calling perhaps - to do so.
At other times this week I had meetings with the Chair of the Wessex Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; visited Bradon Forest School in Purton; had a meeting with Cricklade councillors on planning matters, and a meeting with the South West Local Enterprise Partnership; I had my booster jab in the excellent Yatton Keynell surgery and held surgeries in Box and Royal Wootton Bassett. All of these things happen because those involved realise it is their duty to give service to the public.
So in all of the discussions about MPs’ second jobs (I have none), lobbying, alcohol, and the rest; let us try to be modest in our criticisms (remember Sir David Amess); let us avoid party political mud-slinging; let us eschew the merry sport of taking potshots at MPs or people in public life. But above all let those of us in the public service try to remember that perhaps we do what we do because we enjoy it; but above all we do it in obedience to that stern daughter - Duty.