Some sharp comment here in Monday’s Times by David Aaronovitch:
Pieties are by no means always religious. I don’t know when the practice began in this country of appending “our thoughts are with etc” to any tribute to the recently departed, but it has gone too far.
No one can argue with saying that someone who has died was brave, or made an important contribution, or even that he or she will be much missed. Nor, in circumstances of traumatic pain, such as those attending, say, a massacre or major terrorist incident, does it seem insincere to mention the relatives, friends and communities from which the victims came.
But now, almost every Prime Minister’s Questions is prefaced by the phrase “today our thoughts (and sometimes our prayers) are with his/her family”, followed by a set of exchanges proving, if nothing else, that the expresser’s “thoughts” were in no such place.
When Ariel Sharon died last week, at the age of 85 after eight years in a coma, Ed Miliband made a statement noting Mr Sharon’s “impact” on the Middle East and then saying: “My thoughts today are with his family after the many years of his illness.” The Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, said the same thing.
I do not believe that Mr Miliband’s or Ms Solberg’s thoughts were with the Sharons. Has Ed even met the Sharons? It seems to me not impossible that that family was feeling hugely relieved — for Ariel Sharon and themselves — that this saga was finally over. So, shall we drop this unnecessary new habit?