Thursday, October 31, 2013

Why this Go Sober malarkey, behind the fun and banter and rivalry, actually matters

A long time ago. It's Christmas morning, but nobody's celebrating. The household is pretty frantic because one of its number, as her life nears its end, is really distressed. A phone call. A short time passes and two Macmillan Cancer Support nurses arrive. They know what to do. Every moment of watching someone you love suffer seems to last for about a year, but in reality, in quite a short time, she was calm and comfortable again.

There were some grim moments towards the end of my mother-in-law's life that the passing of more than 20 years has not dimmed that much. You never forget those who supported you during that time and the minor miracles they wrought every day. She died three days later, and the Macmillan team did everything they possibly could to make it all as peaceful as possible.

They'd been involved well before Christmas Day. We all knew how this illness was going to play out and they helped by talking to not just my mother-in-law, but to all of us too, about how we were feeling, suggesting things that might help us and being available when we needed them. We felt that they understood where we were at. Even after she died, they called in on us to see how we were.

I really don't know how on earth we would have coped without the Macmillan team. Even after all this time, writing this down has made my eyes prickle.

Everyone going through the mill with that brutal disease should have the support of these wonderful people. It should be said that it's not just about supporting those who are at the end their lives - they are there for all with Cancer and so many more people now are getting through it these days. I'm sure we all know someone who has been helped by Macmillan.

That is why, more than anything else, that I've been stoking the rivalry between Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael and Sheila Ritchie. Sure, they are both my friends and a month without alcohol is a real test for both of them and I wanted to help make it worth their while, but the cause was a real motivator. That between them, as I write this, they have raised a whisker from £8000 and are the top two in the UK is incredible. Is it too much to hope that they can get into five figures by the end of their quest. Alistair finishes tonight, but Sheila has another 3 days to go as she started late.

Earlier this week, they made exclusive pitches to Liberal Democrat Voice, which I reproduce here. It's payday today for many people. Please give what you can to either Sheila or Alistair. I'm not taking sides because I think they are both brilliant, although I want to see them both safely taking the top two spots.

And perhaps you will join me at 0:01 tomorrow in raising a glass alongside Carmichael in spirit (literally) if not actually with him in person.

Alistair Carmichael: this is a matter of confidence for the leadership

carmichael and teddy bearI have always thought of Lib Dem Voice as a virtual Lib Dem Conference, just without the Glee Club. I found myself musing about how I would persuade conference to support me in my Sober in October challenge. In fact, we all know that the best way to persuade conference of any proposition is to line all parliamentarians up behind the opposite one and then make it an issue of confidence for the leadership. I offer you, therefore the only speech that could swing things in my direction.
The text in square brackets explains what each sentence actually means.
In the best tradition of conference this speech would be delivered by some poor dupe identified by Matthew Hanney as being popular with activists.
Conference, I think it is fair to say that I speak for the entire parliamentary party today when I ask you to donate money to Sheila Ritchie's page.

[We have Farron locked in a cupboard somewhere] 

You have probably read the ridiculous press coverage saying that your support for Sheila is an issue of confidence for the leadership.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

[The press office have been briefing for the past two weeks now that the leader will resign if you vote against him] 

Of course, Alistair Carmichael is a close friend and a good colleague

[I can't stand the man and am delighted to have this chance to stick the boot in] 

This is not personal.

[This is personal] 

Your parliamentary colleagues feel that he has other responsibilities with which to concern himself
[It should have been me! Me, I tell you!!!!] 

We were delighted (if a little surprised) that he undertook this challenge.

[I am quite happy for you to think he is a total lush] 

We all know Sheila

[I think I spoke to her at the Torquay conference of 1993 but I can't be certain]

She is one of the party's characters.

[Everyone in the Scottish Party seems to be terrified of her] 

Malcolm Bruce holds her in the highest regard

[Malcolm Bruce is terrified of her] 
Viking Carmichael croppedAs a lawyer, her legal advice on the implementation of secret courts was invaluable.

[I just made that up] 
Whoever you donate to, the real winner will be Macmillan Cancer Support.

[Inadvertently, I may just have got something right] 

I realise that Gareth Epps wants to move a reference back but I don't think we need spend any time on that.

[This whole exercise has been a total waste of time] 

Thank you for listening, I look forward to the rest of the debate.

[Is the bar open yet?] 

You can donate to Alistair's page here,

Sheila Ritchie: I will do just about anything to beat him

Sheila RitchieThis is all Caron Lindsay’s fault. There I was minding my own business when she tweeted about Alistair Carmichael’s Go Sober challenge. “Hysterical,” I thought.” Incredible,”   thought.” Hilarious!” But no, it was true. The rest is history.
The sponsorship both of us are raising will go to Macmillan Cancer Support. So the fact that, between us we’ve raised over £6000 is amazing. The fact that Alistair hasn’t had a dram for 29 days is utterly remarkable. The fact that I will do just about anything to beat him, is a given!

He’s raided the Parliamentary Party, the House of Lords, and he’s even had the kitty money off the Tory Whips.  MY donors are ordinary hardworking people.  I did snag a Labour Peer, but it was pure accident.
Megan croppedSee, my problem is that this is a man who, single handedly, keeps the party afloat  with his sparkling wit and repartee at conference  financial appeals. Admittedly, he probably has a wee bit more help from the cratur there than he’s had this month. So I’m relying on you good Liberals to keep the playing field level. None of this “noblesse oblige” stuff.  He may THINK he’s a Party Grandee, now he’s Secretary of State, but he needs a) more money (his, not Macmillan’s) and b) more corpulence. Really.

I know fine that Alistair’s network is greater and richer than mine but I HATE being beaten. Give generously, and remember, just because he SAYS he’s the underdog, doesn’t make it so.

Does anyone not know someone helped by Macmillan nurses?  They were wonderful to my dad. And it seems to me that cancer is becoming hugely more prevalent. Rarely a day goes by without my hearing about someone it affects.  Some of you may have read the story my friend Kathy put on one of my Go Sober posts. The fact is, that in the UK, we are bloody lucky to have Macmillan. So dig a little deeper folks. Truth be told, at this point, I don't care which of us you give it to. 

But it would be nice to see Lib Dems in 1st and 2nd places, eh?

 You can donate to Sheila's page here

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