Monday, 14 September 2015

A politically momentous weekend

What an interesting weekend on the domestic political scene! Great rejoicing among Corbynistas as their man was elected as the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. It's a very important role. There was a helpful blog-post by theologian Ian Paul: Why Jeremy Corbyn is just what we need, in which he argues that "there are lots of reasons why anyone concerned for truth, justice and Britain’s long-term welfare should welcome Corbyn’s appointment, as it challenges some key features of the current political scene." He suggests that despite the media's prejudging assault on him and some bonkers policies he might provide just the shake-up or wake-up that Westminster politics needs. It's certainly true that the majority of the population feel alienated from politics and voiceless, despite the proliferation of mass communication. On the other hand one of my Labour-supporting friends believes he's a danger to the country and "unfit" to be leader, "let alone PM".
All pictures from BBC website - note the sample
of our bumper apple crop in the foreground 

Then on the Friday there was the debate in the Commons about assisted suicide. Jane and I gained a certain amount of opprobrium (and friendly comments) as we were interviewed by the BBC's remarkable Caroline Wyatt and featured quite a bit on radio and TV. We are sometimes mistakenly regarded as campaigners. The truth is that we are just two individuals who will say what we think about the issue when asked. And like anyone who has been associated with MND we also understand the dilemmas and pain of terminal illness; we realise what a complex issue it is. 

There were two points in the day when I thought proponents of the Bill were quite illogical. One was when Lord Carey (retired Archbishop) cited Tony Nicklinson as his prime example of why the bill was needed. The bill would have done nothing to help Tony, whose prognosis was more than six months and who would have been incapable anyway of self-administering a lethal dose. The example illustrated in fact the direction that supporters of the bill hope to take it: to extend it to those who are not terminally ill and to legislate for others (medical professionals) to take life. It implies the beginning of euthanasia. Which is why I am glad it was so resoundingly defeated in the vote.

The other thing I noted was when Rob Marris was proposing his bill, near the end, he said, "I do not know whether I would, if I had a terminal illness and a prognosis of less than six months, but I and many others would find it comforting to know that the choice was available—to have the option of choosing a dignified and peaceful end at a time and place and in a manner of my own choosing at my own hand." I couldn't divine why this principle should be limited to the last six months of life. We none of us know when we're going to die, but this doesn't stop us from living full and fulfilling lives. To say, "If only I could choose my time and manner of death, I'd be happier," seems to me illogical and immature, and a carte blanche for suicide. However, maybe I'm not entirely logical to say I understand and would not condemn someone who felt desperate enough to take their own life....

We need to accept that life is a gift of which we are privileged to be part. Life and death - it's the circle of life.

 • You can read further thoughts of mine here: I'm ill with MND but still don't want assisted dying in Britain - Daily Telegraph. The headline isn't mine. I think it's unhelpful to call PLS a 'terminal' disease.
 • You can see Jane and me being interviewed in the last video clip on this report: