How Prince Philip did public service with humour – Barry Sheerman

HAVING been a Member of Parliament for a very long time – normally when I say that, people say “too long” – I have been lucky to have had conversations with the Duke of Edinburgh and Her Majesty.

Political tributes continued to be paid to Prince Philip, pictured at a Buckingham Palace garden party.
Political tributes continued to be paid to Prince Philip, pictured at a Buckingham Palace garden party.

On one wonderful occasion, we 
were talking about the things we 
had in common– my wife and I 
have four children, and they had four children.

The wonderful thing about the 
Duke of Edinburgh was that, from that time, I couldn’t meet him without him saying “How are the children? Are they doing the Duke of Edinburgh?”

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He had a phenomenal memory.

Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman has paid an affectionate tribute to Prince Philip.

I got to work closely with the Duke 
of Edinburgh because of his work with, and his great presidency of, the Royal Society of Arts, although he would say “It’s not the Royal Society of Arts. It’s the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce” – he absolutely insisted on that full agenda.

There are two things that came out of the Royal Society of Arts that I worked with him on.

One was a very interesting group where we tried to look at the future of the British countryside. It met at the RSA the first time and then at Buckingham Palace.

What I learned from those meetings was that the Duke of Edinburgh could 
do public service with a sense of 
humour. He had wonderful sense of humour.

Prince Philip died at Windsor Castle last Friday, aged 99.

They must have minted the saying “Not suffering fools gladly” for him, because there was certainly that element to his way of chairing a committee.

He would do his research, and he loved teasing politicians.

There were three of us on that committee, and he would always find something.

I got teased by him because at 
one stage, when the current Prime Minister was editor of The Spectator, he awarded me the parliamentary speech of the year award for my speech on fox hunting.

The Duke of Edinburgh never ceased teasing me about my commitment 
to fox hunting. On the other hand, the Duke of Edinburgh would suddenly 
pick up on something and say “What is this Labour party policy, the ‘right to roam’?”

I said: “Well, it’s to encourage people to get out into the countryside and walk wherever they can very freely.”

He said: “It sounds like a licence to poach and interfere with good farmers to me.”

He always had an edge to him, and it was such a good committee. I learned that people can do public service with a sense of humour and with passion.

The other passion that I was lucky enough to share with the Duke of Edinburgh was design.

People have mentioned his commitment to science, but every 
year, in conjunction with the Design Council and the design profession, he presented the Duke of Edinburgh Award for young, successful designers, and the wonderful awards ceremony in Buckingham Palace did so much to change the culture, focus and priority of design in our country.

I remember him launching in and stating that the Design Council should be “more than a posh shop in Piccadilly” and that it had to reach out so that everybody understands the importance of design in changing lives.

I enjoyed the relationship I had with that great man and I will mourn him. I know that Her Majesty will miss him sorely, but, as in my family, the Royal family will come together and get through this.

I will mourn with them.