The bells of Westminster Abbey pealed as the Service of Thanksgiving to celebrate the Life and Work of Sir Simon Milton came to an end.
I met Simon at a banquet at the Mansion House years ago when I was a London Assembly Member on the GLA. Having looked at the seating arrangements and found who was sitting next to me – I wasn’t particularly thrilled. I was not looking forward to an evening conversation with a Westminster Conservative. You are always at the mercy of who you are seated next to at these things.
But more fool me! After a few minutes of conversation I had to recalibrate my views pretty radically. Simon was intelligent, kind, interesting – and made the evening an absolute pleasure.
Over the years our paths occasionally crossed and like most people, I was shocked by his untimely death.
Simon made a lasting impression on me and hence I wanted to pay my respects to him today in the Abbey.
But what I really wanted to say about today – is that for me it was a great summation of what religions should be about – love. To have both Jews and Christians (for Simon was of the Jewish faith) together in this most significant of Abbeys to celebrate his life was just wonderful. Reverends and Rabbis – Christian prayers and the Jewish Moruners’ Kaddish – together in praise of Simon’s life.
But to add to it all – his lifelong partner Cllr Robert Davis – paid a most moving tribute to Simon. His tribute was one of love for the man – not the politician. And for me it was of huge significance that the loving relationship he described was a relationship of just the kind that any religion would be proud of.
And to hear the love between two men talked of so movingly in Westminster Abbey was a moment of revelation – that love, that commitment and that relationship triumphs over all.
Would that this could set the example of how we can all live together.