Sunday, November 09, 2008

Victoria's speech

The problem with eulogies is that they are more commonly encountered at funerals. And also, as you all know, my father is a modest individual, more used to giving speeches than finding himself the subject of one.
But I didn’t want to let the opportunity pass, or miss the moment when I could add my love and best wishes for Eric’s 80th.
The risks he has taken have often put his life on the line, and his health problems, so vividly and graphically documented on his blog ( have also proved somewhat challenging. However, his attitude and approach to life has always been, variously, inspirational, incredibly tenacious, occasionally eccentric, generous, and embarrassing at times!
Virtually all his life has been spent either representing or fighting for the rights of others. For over 50 years, he has campaigned and highlighted the unheard voices of those less fortunate.
Since his famous ‘Orpington by-election victory’ in 1962, he has dedicated himself to trying to improving the democratic process – although perhaps in his position as an elected hereditary peer, this is somewhat of anathema! But before he is finally ‘abolished’, I have no doubt, he will continue to identify and address issues of injustice, with his tremendous wisdom, experience and unbounding energy.
The same cannot be said for his filing system, which I have been attempting to get to grips with recently, which runs from Azerbaijan and the Ahmadis through alcohol, pneumococal disease, through to Georgia, Zambia, freedoms and rights. In the last week alone, those that follow his blog will have been able to follow his meetings with the President of the Turks & Caicos Islands, the Armenian Foreign Minister, speeches on immigration and chairing a meeting on self-determination for Kashmiri’s. And some of you may not know that only a few weeks ago, he was hurtling around on the back of a motorcycle in his role as a member of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission.
But what about Eric, the father?
• Scribbling in my school history and geography textbooks, correcting erroneous ‘colonial errors’ and re-drawing world boundaries. This invariably resulting in him being summonsed to my school and having to pay for the ‘wilful damage’.
• Days out visiting stately homes, when Eric would stick a piece of gum to the end of a stick and attempt, in full public view, to extract coins tossed in by members of the public to the ‘wishing well’ fountain!
• Or there was the time he was charged and prosecuted with “resisting arrest and trying to injure a police officer with his ball-point pen” – around his neck on a strap at the time. Unfortunately, the T-shirts I had printed to proclaim his innocence were mis-printed, reading instead “Lord Avebury is indecent”
• Inspite of his rebellious nature, he is always an example of energy, passion and commitment - a brilliant role model and we are all incredibly proud of him and his achievements. Along the way, he has made many friends, as well as quite a few enemies exposing political hypocrisy and dirty dealings – from the arms to Sierra Leone to Blair’s secret meetings with Murdoch.
• So, to sum up, We urge you to keep up the good work as long as you are able and willing, but also, like tonight, continue to make time for “3 F’s”: Fun, friends and family. and we are all very happy to be able to share your 80th birthday celebrations!

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