Wednesday, April 19, 2006

State Funerals

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith is campaigning for the last veteran of World War I to be granted a state funeral. I get the idea behind it, and anything that we can do to honour sacrifices is a good thing. I just don't agree with this plan.

How do we know who the last veteran will be? There aren't any lists that could be regarded as 100% reliable. And are we wishing away the lives of these old men?

Several families have said they wouldn't want this intrusion at a time of private grief. A country can't decide how someone should be remembered.

State Funerals are huge events, only one non-Royal has had a State Funeral, ever, and that was Winston Churchill. We shouldn't really open this up further or there will be a never-ending clamour for different groups to have a state funeral - last WWII survivor, last Holocaust Survivor, victims of terrorist attacks at home or abroad, soldiers killed now in the Gulf, any and every politician. I just think there lies a risk that the special-ness of the State Funeral could be cheapened if this proposal were to be accepted.

And what would happen if the last veteran to pass away turned out to be a thoroughly unpleasant bloke? I don't want to pass judgement on anyone who is still with us, but surely not all veterans have been law-abiding throughout their lives. Will there be a moral judgement on the last veteran? Should there be? I don't know and that is the problem with this suggestion. Too many variables, too many questions that we can't know the answers to.

Let's look at another way of honouring all our veterans of past and present conflicts. Let's also look at honouring their lives today and not their deaths by ensuring excellent standards of care home and hospital care for all our pensioners. That would be a real memorial.

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