This is an insult
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 inquiry. Why is there no public inquiry?''
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 inquiry? Why is his question not answered?
You can write and ask Charles Clarke yourself, but I do not expect he will trouble to reply. If he does, can you leave a comment in my blog? My father , and I , and many other people would very much like to hear his answer.
UPDATE: 8.50pm - Dad has tried again.
''10th March 2006
Dear Mr Clarke,
We met briefly today in Norwich Cathedral. A meeting I shall not easily forget.
I am sorry if you felt a direct question from a father of a July 7th bombing victim to be insulting. If I appeared disrespectful of someone who has to carry the mantle of high office I must crave your forgiveness. Ministers of the crown as well as ministers of religion are there to serve the people with as much humility they can muster.
As you will see from my address you are my member of parliament and I have a right to ask you a question, even one which is of national importance. The time and place may not have been to your convenience but I, like most people in the cathedral today, were expecting that we would be allowed questions from the floor. This has been the custom at every ‘Bishop’s Day’ I have attended. That expectation having been withdrawn for whatever reason caused a degree of frustration among your audience.
I should still like an answer to my question, which I ask on behalf of my daughter, Rachel and many other victims. What is the reason for the Government still refusing to conduct a public inquiry into the July Bombings?
The greatest outrage in peacetime Britain surely deserves to be properly addressed so that we can begin to understand why it is that segments of our British Islamic young people are becoming so radicalised that they can contemplate the mass murder of innocent fellow citizens?
I would appreciate the courtesy of a response. This is not the first time I have written to you on this subject. I have yet to receive an acknowledgement. You were at pains to point out, at the beginning of your address, that even the Prime Minister has to exercise himself with constituent questions so I hope you will be following his example.
Rev. Canon Phillip [Rachel North's dad]''