Yesterday, BBC One’s News at Ten saturated itself with D-Day coverage, and rightly so. Hu Wedwards was on hand in Normandy to anchor clips of dignified talking berets, many spry despite their ninety years, cut with long vistas of white tombstones. Obama, naturally, outbarmed his own high standard of excellent oratory. Yet the tone was at once both sombre and urgent: sombre with remembrance, yet urgent with the certainty that this, the seventieth, would be the last decennial commemoration attended by many who had been on those blood stained beaches in 1944, beginning the fight that would erase the dark stain of Nazi tyranny from Europe. Liberation, as Churchill foretold, was sure, but at a cost of so many lives. Yesterday’s urgency, as Prince William told us, was to ensure that the baton of remembrance is passed to future generations.
It is therefore not without extreme irony in a week when we have been remembering both the lives of the fallen, and the living hope embodied in the liberation of Europe, that back here in Ol’Blighty, in the corridors of the undead, the Fat Controller is on the march again. As the rest of us remembered an event about life and liberty, Lord Falconer gave the first reading to his revised Assisted Dying bill, a bill about death, and, so far as it is about liberty, about the freedom to pursue the finality of death. No more stark a contrast could there be than between the will of those who fought for life on the D-Day beaches seventy years, and the will of today’s Fat Controller and his confederates, pushing a law to enable assisted dying; no greater irony could there be that the very liberation bought at such great human cost now gives those who care to the liberty to pursue death. Yet, so broad was the D-Day coverage that the BBC’s News at Ten found no room to cover the bill’s first reading. A distant Machiavellian voice whispered in Dr No’s ear, ‘You do see, dear boy, such a good day to launch an assisted dying bill’.
But a Machiavelli would say that. The rest of us are confident the Fat Controller – who probably can’t even see his own shoe-laces – would never stoop so low; and in any event, the first reading is merely the formality of a minute that sets the bill on its parliamentary path. The debates – debates we can have because of victory bought at such cost in Europe over half a century ago – have yet to come. Dr No can’t help wondering on which side of the debate those D-Day veterans we saw and heard from yesterday will stand.