From Rachel North
My dad, who is a parish priest and honorary Canon, read my draft article on Forgiveness (‘The F-word’) last night, and it so happened that he was going to to a clergy meeting this morning at Norwich Cathedral where the special guest was the Home Secretary Charles Clarke.
Clarke is my father’s MP.
Clarke, in his speech to the assembled clergy, made much of the fact that he had spoken to the PM ”only yesterday” and the PM was at the time considering the problem of an angry Sedgefield constituent about the closure of a school. Clarke remarked upon this system of top executives still being MPs and responsible to their constituents, how unusual this was compared to most Parliamentary systems. You lucky people, even though I am the Home Secretary, I am still also your M.P and here to help with all your little problems and enquiries. Etc.
He didn’t actually say ‘ you lucky people”, Dad said, but that was the inference. Dad was pleased that he could finally ask his M.P, Charles Clarke, the question he has been keen to ask for some months. Dad waited eagerly to ask his question; he had already written to Clarke in December 2005 with his question. But Clarke had not replied.
Dad was therefore very keen to be part of what was advertised in the meeting notes as ”30 minutes of reflection” after Clarke spoke. (In these meetings, ”30 minutes of reflection”means ”30 minutes of debate”. But it a clergy meeting, so they all ”reflect”, rather than shout and argue. It’s more dignified and godly, see. )
Unusually, according to Dad, on this occasion there was not a debate and questions from the floor, as is usual with these meetings at which Clarke was the special guest today: there were instead only 3 questions which Clarke answered at length, the questions seemed to Dad to be pre-prepared to give Clarke an opportunity to talk about things like prisons and police in a self-congratulatory way.
Dad was not able to ask his question, the last question finished and it was announced that there would be Eucharist in 2 minutes. Dad was very angry that ”the Eucharist was being used as a filibuster.” And still he had not had a chance to ask the question that was by now burning him up inside. It was time to break bread together; people began to leave the room.
My father tells me he at this point left his seat and strode up to Clarke, because he wanted to ask his question, and he said,
”Congratulations on fixing the meeting so that nobody can ask questions! You will have heard about Rev Julie Nicholson who is so angry she cannot forgive the bombers who killed her daughter on 7th July , well, I have a question, my daughter was feet away from the 7/7 Kings Cross bomb, and she and some other surivors have said they are not angry with the bombers, but with the Government, because there was no public enquiry. Why is there no public enquiry?”
Charles Clarke looked at my father ”in a very nasty way”, and then he said to my father
” Get away from me, I will not be insulted by you, this is an insult’.
And he stormed past, and Dad was so upset he could not share Eucharist with this man,
and my father left the cathedral in despair.
Dad has cheered up a bit now, but he was almost in tears at being so insulted by Clarke when I spoke to him: he did not think he had insulted Clarke at all.
Why is it an insult when the father of a bomb survivor, a gentle man of God, who has never caused trouble in his life, asks for a public enquiry? Why is his question not answered?