SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Trusting in politics?

Ruth Sims epitomises the Barn Owls and the Akelas who provide the wisdom, the authority and the leadership that helps generations of girls and boys to enjoy the Guiding and Scouting developed by the Baden-Powells to support the minds, bodies and spirits of children.

Sir Peter Bottomley
Sir Peter Bottomley

Agnes Baden-Powell led the Guides, elder brother Warington Baden-Powell developed Sea Scouting and Robert is too well-known to need my description.

In my earlier years I would visit elderly cousin Professor Patrick Duff who was proud of knowing every Chief Scout for the first sixty years of the movement.

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In the 1980s I shared a racing yacht with the father of Bear Grylls, the present Chief Scout.

Ruth was part of the group of 46 who kindly met me in the Jubilee room of Westminster’s historic Great Hall before the Brownies took tours of the Palace of Westminster.

They were pleased when Virginia dropped in during their lunch: my wife had enjoyed her time and I wonder whether her Brown Owl had helped develop her ability to help others as a psychiatric social worker before joining me in the House of Commons.

A joy of serving as Member of Parliament is being able to respond to questions by visitors.

I was flummoxed by one girl who asked about my emotions when I first came in to take my seat.

It did not seem right to say that I was just happy to be able to help locally and nationally.

Most MPs come in together after a general election.

They can be part of a cohort and it may take time for each to find a support system, a desk and then to queue to make a first speech.

A by-election, the first since a general election the year before, was my way in.

Because of the prominence given to the campaign, every MP and all journalists knew me.

Additionally, when a teenager (instead of Scouting) I had come regularly to listen to debates from the gallery.

I enjoyed listening and thinking about issues.

On Wednesday, the day before this newspaper appears, I have felt emotion.

Overnight I was considering how to help clinicians and family members resolve a care issue.

There are times when trust and applied common sense work best.

Then came a shock.

For nearly ten years I have supported Bill Browder in his campaign to hold to account those responsible for the mistreatment of the brave lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow prison hospital.

The flash news was that Bill had been arrested in Madrid on an Interpol arrest warrant at the request of the Russians.

As one of the few MPs in London, I spoke without delay to the office of the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and to the Spanish Embassy after alerting a wise intermediary.

It is with some relief that I can end with the news that common sense has led to Bill’s release within the hour.

If more adults use the initiative and the practical sympathy developed in the Brownies and the Cubs, many more problems can be fixed?


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