Sometimes one’s speech in debate doesn’t quite go according to plan. On Tuesday afternoon 17 November, Lord Warner had raised a short debate on the Charter for Dying Well produced by the organisation Dignity in Dying http://www.dignityindying.org.uk. The Charter contained much that everyone could agree with but also included a call for the legalisation of the right to request an assisted death when terminally ill at a time of the individual’s own choosing, a sentiment I agree with strongly. There was only an hour tabled for the debate, I guessed we’d get about 5 minutes each. Then 16 people put their names down to speak and I cut down the speech to 2 minutes. Then the Government Whips Office decided to let us have an hour and a half, giving the by now 20 of us 3 minutes each. I was rushing about beforehand, my notes got in a mess. I followed the ineffably cool and elegant Baroness Jay, who was as lucid and measured as ever. I lost page 2, I dropped page 4 and frankly lost the thread of my talk. With 3 minutes one can’t afford to get it wrong. I feared I implied depressed old people should be offered assisted dying, hardly the thing for a psychiatrist to say and indeed the opposite of what I meant. I looked at Hansard with some trepidation yesterday and by some miracle, they’d managed to say broadly what I meant better than I had! Not perfect but a bit of a rescue job. Next time I shall rehearse better for that important 2 or 3 minutes.
So John Sargeant, the erstwhile political broadcaster and now amateur ballroom dance TV competitor has voluntarily stepped down from Strictly Come Dancing, (and it was headline news on the Evening Standard billboards last night) recognising that his popularity with the public voters was subverting the purpose of the show. What a pity, I enjoyed watching him just as much as the strutting showbiz professionals. Just think what would happen if popular but talentless members of both houses of parliament stood down in favour of the skilled and competent but less popular….