Dr John Smith

I ask myself this question. Would I ever have been able to stand up and be counted?

Stand up and say what I know or what I think?

Would my principles be so important, so strong that I might jeopardise family, work and relationships? Would I be so sure I was right because to be wrong would be disastrous?

I have strong opinions, strong beliefs, but they are not necessarily based on fact – opinions and beliefs are difficult to prove.

What is this all about? There are two things on my mind, one recent and one years old. The first relates to Jimmy Savile and the second to the apartheid laws in South Africa, especially in the 1950s and 1960s.

Both relate to a long period of time and both to the nature and abuse of power.

Most of us have thought Jimmy Savile strange and odd, probably wondering about the longevity of his appeal.

But many of us would not have thought how powerful he was, that is until you get to think about it.

It was his charity work that gave him power and made hospitals, in particular, dependent on him.

So dependent, it sounds like, that people were prepared to look the other way and not hear what they were hearing.

What if, and he wasn’t, he had been involved with the two local charities that I am patron of, Cransley Hospice and The Motor Neurone Disease Association?

Would I have been able to speak out and risk the work of the hospice and the local MNDA?

What is right is obvious but being right has consequences.

In South Africa in the 1950s black people were forbidden by law to worship in white churches.

Many white people considered it abhorrent to share the chalice with a black person. If I had been a priest then would I have said, “No, all are welcome in this place” and risked imprisonment or death for what was regarded as treason?

Would I have risked my family, the hate and the venom?

Standing up was never easy.