How Captain Tom Moore and Boris Johnson moved me to tears – Bill Carmichael

MAYBE I am getting a bit soft in my old age, or perhaps the extended period of lockdown is making me overly emotional, but a couple of stories this week have brought a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat.

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We salute Captain Tom Moore, 99, and £8m tribute to NHS: The Yorkshire Post says

One was a short video clip of the stooped but distinguished figure of Captain Tom Moore, a 99-year-old army veteran, determinedly clutching his walking frame as he walked around his garden.

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Captain Moore, originally from Keighley, wanted to thank the “magnificent” NHS staff, who treated him for cancer and a broken hip, by doing 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday. The ex-soldier, who served in India and Burma in the Second World War, aimed to raise the modest sum of £1,000 for NHS Charities Together.

Captain Tom Moore, a 99-year-old veteran, who has completed the 100th length of his garden at his home in Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire, raising over £12m for the NHS with donations to his fundraising challenge from around the world.

But after the video went viral donations poured in from all over the world and at the time of writing stood at more than £12m, although that total will probably be exceeded by the time you read this.

When the fundraising total topped £5m a few days ago, his daughter, Hannah Ingram-Moore, said the amount raised was “beyond our wildest expectations”. Heaven knows what she thinks now.

The charity responded by saying it was “truly inspired and humbled”. To which I say, aren’t we all?

And Health Secretary Matt Hancock also paid tribute to Mr Moore saying: “Captain Tom, you’re an inspiration to us all, and we thank you.” Well said that man!

Captain Tom Moore completes his charity walk.

My other choice of a moving story this week also involves the NHS, but I suspect this one will be slightly more controversial – and that was the Prime Minister’s emotional speech on being discharged from hospital on Easter Sunday.

I’ve watched the clip a few times now and the thought it brings to mind is there’s nothing like a close brush with death to bring you up short and force you to concentrate on the things that really matter in life.

He was pale, watery eyed and dishevelled – although admittedly he usually looks as though he’s been dragged through a thick hawthorn hedge backwards.

I’ve been watching politics as a journalist for more decades than I care to remember. And I consider myself to be a cynical old hack who can spot a clever campaign manoeuvre from a mile off.

This was Boris Johnson during his Easter Day message form Chequers after being released from hospital.

But unless I am becoming gullible in my old age, I think what we witnessed was an authentic appeal from the heart from a man who a few hours earlier had been at death’s door and was never going to forget that life-changing experience.

He thanked the public for obeying social distancing rules and uniting together in “a fight we never picked against an enemy we still don’t entirely understand”.

He described the NHS as this country’s “greatest national asset” and added that “if we could stop our NHS from being overwhelmed, then we could not be beaten, and this country could rise together and overcome this challenge as we have overcome so many challenges in the past”.

He named the doctors and nurses who saved his life, making particular mention of Jenny from New Zealand and Luis from Portugal, who watched over him when “it could have gone either way”.

And then he added: “That is why we will defeat this coronavirus and defeat it together. We will win because our NHS is the beating heart of this country. It is the best of this country. It is unconquerable. It is powered by love.”

I have to admit I gulped a bit at the phrase “powered by love”. This is not normal prime ministerial language. These are exceptional times and you may think me naïve, but I think he meant what he said.

Now no doubt there are those, even more cynical than me, who will dismiss all this as a clever ploy by a desperate Prime Minister hoping to deflect blame for the growing death toll from the coronavirus.

Already the online conspiracy theorists are hard at work in Twitter and Facebook arguing the Prime Minister was never ill at all and the whole episode was staged as part of a vast plot involving the entire Cabinet and the doctors and nurses at St Thomas’ hospital in London.

But frankly I don’t care. Decent people know genuine emotion when they see it. And what I witnessed this week moved me and made me even prouder to be British.

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