Are policemen really getting younger, or is it just that we are getting older? Some very dear friends gave me the most wonderful birthday present - two pencil sketches by an Illustrated London News artist who happened to be in the Commons Gallery on Churchill’s last day, 27 July 1964. In one he is sitting listening, and the other shows the great man walking out of the Chamber for the final time -after 64 years’ service.
My friend Sir Peter Tapsell reminisced about how- as the junior whip- it was his job to look after Churchill after PMQs one day. He took him down to his usual seat in the Smoking Room, plied him with a brandy and a cigar, and tried to make conversation - about the War; about brick-laying; about the Royal Navy. Not a squeak emanated from the old man until after an hour he rose to his feet, fixed (merchant banker) Tapsell in the eye, grunted “Never trust a banker” and shuffled off…... Those were the days.
What a contrast with my colleagues Matt Hancock making a fool of himself in the jungle, Gavin Williamson being exposed as an alleged bully and Labour’s Matt Western accusing Jeremy Corbyn of ‘being senile.’ Are these childish playground antics new, I wonder, or are we just getting older and less tolerant of them? History will tell.
Remembrance Sunday reminds us of true greatness and self-sacrifice. As well as Remembrance services in Calne and Royal Wootton Bassett, I was glad to plant a cross in the Speaker’s Garden of Remembrance. It was especially in honour of my predecessor Captain Victor Cazalet who was the MP from 1924 to 1943 when he was killed in the General Sikorski air crash in Gibraltar. I have been asked to serve on the Speaker’s Advisory Committee planning a National Arboretum memorial to MPs and peers like Captain Cazalet killed serving their King and Country. Like those whose bodies passed through Royal Wootton Bassett, they obeyed their orders, suffered terrible privations, injuries both physical and mental, and in so many cases gave their lives. “Greater love hath no man…’’
Remembering those great people who sacrificed their lives for the greater good of the Nation perhaps puts current day shenanigans into perspective. Remembrance tide invites us to try to follow their example, to lift our vision above the horizon, to do what is best for the greatest number. Politics should not be about Party, most definitely not about self. It must be about the Constituency and its people and about truly serving the Nation. Churchill- and those who gave their lives in the wars - should set today’s politicians an example of service and self-sacrifice. We who are lucky enough to have avoided wartime military service and have lived into middle age and beyond salute the young men and women who served and died.
At the going down of the Sun and in the morning, we will remember them…..