I gave my tuppence worth on HRH Prince Philip in the debate on the Humble Address on Monday, with a short speech about his legacy. I do think the main speeches - from the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, and a few notable grandees who knew the Prince well or had some special connection with his work - were enough of a memorial to his life of service, and the public didn’t need eight hours of oleaginous tributes from junior MPs. But we were invited to ‘put in’ to speak, and so we did.
I used the opportunity to talk about the future, and the opportunity to build on the brilliant Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme, or the ‘D of E’ as countless generations of footsore teenagers have called them. We are rightly concerned about the future for young people in this strange age and the D of E lays the foundation of skills, environmentalism, teamwork, initiative and grit that this generation is going to need. I urged the Government to create a more useful memorial to Prince Philip than Prince Albert’s great golden statue in Kensington Gardens.
The next day I opened an ‘Adjournment Debate’ - the last thing in the day’s business - on the use of ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ orders in care homes. Last year some appalling stories emerged of ‘blanket DNR’ policies, meaning patients with certain conditions (including age) had their notes automatically marked with the order that they should not be resuscitated in the event of heart or respiratory failure. The Government asked the Care Quality Commission to undertake an investigation and I am very glad to say they found no evidence of ‘blanket DNR’ policies anywhere; but then again, they found evidence of very shoddy record-keeping, and these policies would probably not be formalised anyway. We need a much better framework to govern the use of these orders, and absolute respect for the dignity and best interests of patients, even those in their last days and hours. My speech is here.
On a cheerier note, my family and I had a happy time at the Caenhill Countryside Centre, the lovely farm run by Chris and Helie Franklin, who talk to the animals and seem to understand them back. Chris and Helie run the farm for the benefit of visitors, especially those with disabilities or special needs. It’s utterly delightful and rightly has a growing global following - Chris loves social media. He made a video involving me and a pair of donkeys discussing politics, which I am glad I haven’t yet seen.
Some other visits this week:
- The Devizes Hockey Club, which uses astroturf pitches at Devizes School but they are now too threadbare, so Dauntsey’s School has kindly lent them use of its facilities. But the Club - led by Lorna Freemantle - want to be back in the centre of town and we need a big effort by the council and the club to raise the money to resurface their home pitches.
- The lovely, tiny library in Netheravon, with Councillor Ian Blair-Pilling. The library is run entirely by volunteers (led by Dot Georgeson) and is now open again. There is a brilliant network of these essential establishments in villages across the county, providing education, entertainment, digital access and company to thousands of people.
- The church at Fittleton cum Haxton, a village with a name larger than its population next door to Netheravon. The resourceful PCC - headed by Churchwarden Emily Way and Treasurer Angus Harley - successfully bid for money from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund to help repair a bit of the church and develop its potential for the post-Covid social bounceback. The village church - along with the library, the working men’s club, the village hall, the Brushh cafe and of course the famous Dog and Gun pub - make up the social infrastructure of Fittleton cum Haxton cum Netheravon.
- The King’s Arms at All Cannings, home of the legendary Concert at King’s founded by three old rockers (John “Grubby” Callis, Andy Scott and the landlord Richard Baulu) some years ago when, all recovering from cancer, they decided to cheer themselves up and raise some money for cancer charities. Last year was a bit subdued but they are roaring back to life this September with a lineup including Billy Ocean and Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel. I’m delighted to support them - here I am with Grubby and Richard, plus Nigel Grist from Grist Environmental and his rubbish truck emblazoned with the advert for this year’s concert. Buy tickets here.
The Netheravon valley has a lot of churches, and not many people in them. The agricultural revolution depopulated these villages. As we build back from Covid-19 and rethink the urban economy, the enterprise and social spirit of Lorna, Dot, Emily, Angus, Grubby, Andy and Richard is rekindling the countryside.