Jan Royall delivers the 2011 John Fitzmaurice memorial lecture

On 13 October 2011, Jan Royall, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, delivered the John Fitzmaurice memorial lecture. A summary of the lecture is below, and the full speech can be read here.

Jan Royall was very happy to be back in Brussels to deliver the 2011 John Fitzmaurice memorial lecture.

For her, Brussels bring together three of the most important things in her life democratic socialism, Europe and friendship – and there were many old friends in the audience whom Jan had met during her time in Brussels.

Currently the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords and a Privy Councillor, Jan had previously been Leader of the House of Lords and a member of Gordon Brown’s cabinet from 2008-2010.

During her time with the European Commission, she was a long-serving member of the cabinet of Neil Kinnock and then Head of the Commission’s office in Wales before she re-entered British politics full time.

She began her address started by recalling that she first met John Fitzmaurice in the 1970s. John was an Oxford contemporary of Jan’s late husband Stuart Hercock, who died 2010 of prostate cancer. (Jan noted her belief that Stuart would still be alive today if he had had an early prostrate cancer test – and as part of the introduction to her lecture, she reminded all men present, especially middle-aged men, to have the test.)

Jan’s lecture began by looking back 16 years to the start of her time in Brussels – when Europe was a “beacon of hope” and there was optimism about jobs, growth and a prosperous future.

She regretted that more progress had not been made during the good times and that a lack of sufficiently bold political leadership contributed to the current problems.

Refreshingly she did not hesitate to be critical of some aspects of the European project – in particular the absence of the right mechanisms to manage the euro, and the fact that the EU institutions are too ‘distant’ from citizens.

One recurrent theme in her talk was the nature of the British press. A situation where politicians fear press reaction to their comments stifles them from saying what they really think – and so stifles meaningful broad debate on issues such as ‘Europe’.

Jan concluded her talk by recalling John Fitzmaurice fondly. “He was a decent and delightful human being”, she said. Jan reminded the audience that he was active not only in the European institutions and at high-level summits, but also on the ground: standing in elections where he had almost no chance of success, and taking progressive democratic socialism ideas and arguments to the doorsteps across the UK.

Mark Major, with Kathryn Seren

There is more information on prostate cancer tests here.