When Iain Dale interviewed me for his Total Politics magazine interview, he asked me, with my mental health campaigning hat on, whether I was surprised no MPs had committed suicide over the expenses furore.
I avoided the question, perhaps remembering the mild opprobrium that fell upon the head of Tory MP Nadine Dorries, not least from her leader, when she suggested something similar at the height of said furore. There is also something that just holds you back when being asked to speculate on the death of others, particularly with their own hand.
But had I given a straight answer to Iain’s straight question, rather than dance around it, I would have said yes, I am somewhat surprised; and therefore not totally surprised, albeit shocked, to hear that Tory MP David Ruffley had leapt in front of a train.
My only real experience of Mr Ruffley, who was not among the worst offenders on expenses but got a fair bit of stick from his local media, was when he tried to rough me up a bit at a select committee in 1998. He came over as a real Tory, a bit bumptious, not the kind of guy I would want to sit down with to watch Brazil v Ivory Coast tonight.
But I feel nothing but sympathy for him over whatever was going through his mind in the run up to his leap in front of the train.
I also hope that his extraordinary escape means he will now be able to view it as such, a miraculous escape which gives him a chance to see all the good things in his life and career, not just what he felt to be the bad.
And I hope it means members of the media and the public might take stock of the largely one-sided view of MPs and their expenses.
At a Q and A session on Prelude to Power a couple of weeks ago, a young woman who had read the book said she was ‘amazed to see that basically the people in it are just human beings’.
Why amazed, I asked? They are indeed just human beings, with strengths and frailties, ambitions and egos, good sides and bad, good days and bad.
What’s more, the vast bulk are in it for good reasons not bad, because they want to make a difference for the better.
David Ruffley and I are never going to be on the same page politically. But if, as I read, he has been suffering from depression, then I wish him nothing but the best, and hope he gets all the support he needs, from friend and political foe alike.
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