Death of John Smith: 25th Anniversary

Part of Acquired Brain Injury – in the House of Commons at 2:52 pm on 9th May 2019.

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Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Conservative, North East Bedfordshire 2:52 pm, 9th May 2019

I think that I am the only one here on the Conservative Benches today who was here on the day that John died. I remember being in the Department of Social Security, where I was a Minister, and I remember how shocked everyone was. We learned quite quickly that he had passed away, before it could be publicly announced. I remember the shock among Labour friends as they began to appreciate what had happened, and I would like the hon. Gentleman to know that Conservative Members who were here felt exactly the same as our colleagues in the Labour party. In that spirit, I would say to him that, while he has painted a picture of a robust and quite partisan politician, I cannot personally remember being on the wrong side of one of John Smith’s tirades. That is probably because I was one of those who took the advice of the Whips and did not intervene on him. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that he was able to combine passion with courtesy, and that if there is anything that we are missing at the moment in the difficult debates we are having, it is the ability to combine our passion—whether for our party beliefs or for Europe—with the courtesy that this House and this country need? John Smith’s example should take us forward into the future.