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All the best to Tory MP David Ruffley

Posted on 20 June 2010 | 5:06pm

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.

*** Buy Prelude to Power here at Amazon.

  • Lesley Bannister

    I dont like the Tories but I dislike harassment more and maybe it is now time to draw a line under the whole expenses saga and move on.If we have got to the stage where MP’s feel so pressured that they feel their only way out is to take their own lives then things have gone to far.Hope David Ruffley recovers both physically and mentally quickly

  • alienfromzog

    This blog entry just proves what the critics always say; all politicians are crooks and Alastair Campbell is nothing but a tribalist liar, always trying to spin, spin and spin again, not caring about real issues and only ever seeking to find party-political advantage… no wait…

    Very well said Alastair.

    AFZ

  • Neil Pye

    Hello Alastair, I read your blog with great interest and like yourself, hope that David Ruffley recovers from what could have been a very tragic experience. What struck me about this incident was the immense pressure that this person must have been under to not only contemplate, but also go down the road that he did. Many years ago, having seen at first-hand the demands and stresses that MP’s such as Ken Hind and Ian McCartney faced on a daily basis, as part of a study on the working conditions of Backbench MP’s, the system needs to be completely overhauled. In place of single-MP consituencies, what we should have instead are multi-member or teams of MP’s to share the workload, as one/two of them could be situated in the Constituency and vice versa at Parliament. By having such a system in place, it would not only remove immense pressure from the politicians in terms of what they do on a day to day basis, but it would also give them more of an opportunity to carry out their roles more effectively, albeit in Parliament or at Cabinet level.

  • Jacquie R

    Whilst remembering that politicians are indeed human beings, let’s please also spare a thought for the wife of Chris Huhne MP.

    It doesn’t speak well of our society that a combination of intrusive journalism and political ambition can cause a family to break up with such callous abruptness.

  • Anna

    I too wish David Ruffley all the best for the future and commend AC for his supportive words.

    One of the problems about the expenses saga was that the abuse and hostility directed at MPs were not always fairly distributed. My poor MP got roughed up (and lost his seat) over quite a small misdemeanour, while ‘flippers’ and profiteers who have acquired considerable property portfolios at the taxpayer’s expense have gone unscathed. David Ruffley clearly falls in the ‘mild offender’. I wonder if the unfairness of the criticism exacerbated his frustration and depression.

    Dragging out the expense scandal is not good for democracy; but it is outrageous that many MPs are sitting on small fortunes as a result of the sleight of hand over property buying and selling. Until they are brought to account, the public, and MPs who have committed lesser offences yet have been severely punished, will feel aggrieved and short changed.

    In a nutshell, the attempt at restitution after the scandal was mismanaged and ill-judged.

  • sarah dodds

    I have had a problem with the expenses scandal from the start. And it rests on the moral authority of the accusers. So much finger pointing and stone throwing, yet I bet it would not take too long to find the journalists who claim a little more then they are entitled to from their employers. Or anybody who has taken a rather generous interpretaion of what they are entitled to whether it be tax, pay, benfits or expenses. It does not make it right. Far from it. But the moralistic tone of the journalists and the public have been nauseating on this one. Were the rules were broken there should of course be restitution and where a crime has been comitted there should be justice. And if the rules were crap to start with they should be changed.
    But let’s remember that him without sin and all that

  • sarah dodds

    I have had a problem with the expenses scandal from the start. And it rests on the moral authority of the accusers. So much finger pointing and stone throwing, yet I bet it would not take too long to find the journalists who claim a little more then they are entitled to from their employers. Or anybody who has taken a rather generous interpretaion of what they are entitled to whether it be tax, pay, benfits or expenses. It does not make it right. Far from it. But the moralistic tone of the journalists and the public have been nauseating on this one. Where the rules were broken there should of course be restitution and where a crime has been comitted there should be justice. And if the rules were crap to start with they should be changed.
    But lets bear in mind that him or her without sin gets to cast the first stones and all that and leave the personal witch-hunting behind.

  • Graham Jones

    Thankfully, David Ruddley has survived, and everyone will wish him well for the future.
    I don’t find it surprising either, that it happened in the first place. Of course the expenses scandal was wrong, but it was the system that was wrong, and all MP’s were doing, was what they’d always done. It became an issue because of the financial crisis, and in the lead up to a general election.
    We do forget that politicians are humans, because what we see is an act most of the time. Perhaps, David Ruffley will allow us all to see politicians in a new light. I hope so, because when politicians get it right, it can transform people lives for the better. After all, we just lived through. 13 years of it.

  • Patrick James

    I am very glad indeed that David Ruddley has survived.

    One of the things that shocks me about suicide is how common it is.

    David Ruddley is one of a great many people who have attempted suicide. Survival after the attempt will be hard for David because he is an MP.

    I hope that he does not feel alone. I am sure many people in politics have felt the same way. Some may have been close to attempting suicide for whatever reason and then pulled back.

    I don’t know why people do commit suicide and I remember reading once that every suicide is unique, so we cannot easily ascribe reasons.

    I do think that politics is a hugely difficult game and I’m very glad I am not in it to the extent that an MP or a councillor, or any public representative is.

  • Laura

    Sarah, I agree absolutely.
    Regards
    Laura

  • Adrienne

    I also hope that the train driver gets support.

  • John Scrivens

    To all those who voted Conservative for change. Well, look out, as your worst nightmare is about to wreck our Country.

  • ivan Brown

    Good morning, Mr Campbell,
    I am sick of the press writing lies rubbish etc, and there seems to be no accountability for them. . I would lover there to be a Television programme [ PRESS ACCOUNT] WHERE YOU WOULD INTERROGATE THE VARIOUS NEWSPAPER writers and hold them to account for the misleading writings, thier lies etc.
    You could have a Cowards Gallery for those who refuse to appear on such a show to explain thier lies.

    Please mr Campbell consider this possibility as you would be the best person to make such a programme.

    It woul beat Questiontime any day of the week and would be of a great service to everybody.
    As it is the press can say what they like and thereis no accountibility for what they say.
    such a programme would balance the propoganda media.
    thank you Mr Campbell

    Kind regardds
    Ivan Brown

  • Robert Jackson

    In one of my earliest contributions to your discussions I said that I was very grateful that I had my mental breakdown under Labour government with its proper funding of the NHS.

    David Ruffley is fortunate that his breakdown has come before this new government has had its grubby paws subtly forcing the NHS to slash the mental health budget. (And I am NOT trying to cue wisecracks about private health provision – it is one area I discovered is not usually covered by private plans.)

    My decision to baptise myself in the River Avon when I was ill looked strange to others but was totally rational to me at the time. In the same way there is no need whatsoever to rationalise David Ruffley’s decision. He just needs help to get better. It cannot happen if he is left to his own devices.

    Let’s just hope we see David Ruffley walking through the opposition lobbies when it comes to Osborne slashing cash for non-NHS funded mental health support groups. When Mr Ruffley is better, of course.

  • Gillknighton

    I realise MP’s are human beings and no-one wishes to see someone driven to attempt suicide.  They do have to take responsibility for their actions though and if the only way to make them abide by the same rules as the rest of society is to publish their misdemeanors regarding expenses then I’d rather that was done.  When people on benefits are being interrogated and penalised for similar offences at the lower end of the income scale what else can you expext from the public. 

  • MicheleB

    We’re both coming to an old article late in its life Gill!

    I’d not heard about this poor man’s attempted suicide; terribly sad.

    Although the article is classified as depression I have a comment about its  other topic; the expenses furore.

    I don’t understand why MPs aren’t simply issued with a specific / dedicated bank debit card funded by HoP?  Surely it would be easy enough to write on each receipt exactly what it related to (even in the case of cash withdrawn for sundries, taxis etc).

    They could even be given a wallet for this paperwork.

    I’ve travelled widely and worked on expenses for years and often been hassled to give my receipts/paperwork to PAs to sort out and claim back on my behalf  more quickly.  I’ve always refused and had hassle due to claiming late.  I can’t help wondering if some (a small percentage) of the mis-claims happened due to something like that, an.other/in-betweener claiming for a receipt mis-filed.