I was shocked and saddened to learn of the murder of Sir David Amess MP last Friday.
I had indeed only seen him 10 days previously at The Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. I was just behind him as we walked into the auditorium for the Prime Minister’s keynote speech that closed the Conference on the Wednesday. He was his usual cheerful and chirpy self talking to colleagues all the way to his seat.
I always enjoyed listening to his speeches, comments and questions in Parliament. It is because of MPs like him that I am so glad the Thatcher Government first allowed the broadcasting of Parliament ( audio only and not live- if my memory serves me correctly!). He frequently referenced his constituency or his constituents in his speeches. His speeches were poignant, humorous and invariably well thought out.
He was a great friend of the Jewish Community, both in his constituency and beyond. He was also a good friend of Israel. Interestingly, his “patch” included the relatively new Chareidi Kehilla that has sprung up in Westcliffe.
Sadly, he wasn’t the only Tory MP to pass away recently. In very different circumstances, James Brokenshire died a few weeks ago. He was a former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland as well as serving as Communities, Housing and Local Government Secretary. It was whilst serving in the latter role that he was a Guest of Honour at the Chief Rabbi’s annual pre Yamim Noraim Conference for Rabbonim a few years ago. Not only did his speech show what a true friend he was to the Jewish Community but when I engaged him in conversation later about a controversial issue, he was most sympathetic and helpful.
My thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends and indeed I extend my condolences to them.
One of the saddest events of this week was the passing of my ward constituent, little Alta Fixsler. The story is well documented so I shan’t go over it in detail. Indeed this newspaper – and others – were in the vanguard of the campaign to “save” her from the the devastating ruling of the Court. The Jewish Weekly is proud that it started the petition that reached over 50 thousand signatures. Alas, to no avail! Efforts were made to ask the Government to intervene. Even the Israeli Government and the Embassy of Israel made attempts in this respect. However, the Government were in a very difficult position. I believe that had they intervened, the hospital or Court would immediately have sought a Judicial Review, which in all likelihood would have ruled that the Government do not have the power to overrule the Court. Indeed the independence and supremacy of the courts is a cornerstone of the British Constitution. Anyone who doubts what I am saying need only refer to the ruling of the Supreme Court in 2019 declaring the Prorogation of Parliament illegal ( as well as countless other less well known decisions – such as those preventing the deportation of illegal immigrants or criminals!)
Wearing my other yarmulke as a rabbi as opposed to a politician, I would just like to point out that in general terms, the subject of “ end of life care” is complex and a Rav should always be consulted about any decisions that the family are asked to make.
However, there is absolutely no heter (license in Jewish law) to actively switch off a life support machine! I believe we need to enshrine in law the rights of parents and families to be taken into account- particularly in a case where treatment has been offered in another country!
I wish her dear parents and family a Chaim Aruchim.