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Society Diary: The end of an era. Almost. 

20 Sep 2019 Voices

Happy Friday fans (and people with a passing interest). What a week, and not a good one.

It’s been a particularly bad week for journalism. From the Times and the Mail on Sunday objecting to the RNLI saving children’s lives, to the ever-growing list of sports people whose private lives are no longer private, and even the Guardian making a spectacularly insensitive mess of its leader column. 

So it falls to Society Diary to uphold journalistic standards and re-commit now to reporting only the truth (or alternative truth) and to never, ever being serious. 

With that in mind, this week we bring you the inside scoop and all the gossip from Sir Stuart Etherington’s leaving party. Sector luminaries, and somehow Diary, squeezed into NCVO’s offices to watch him hand the baton (and burden) to the next generation.  

With Etherington having, finally, announced his departure earlier this year, the party was eagerly awaited by those who wanted to pay tribute and thank him for his contribution, and maybe a few who wanted to make sure he wasn’t going to make a last-minute U-turn. 

The new Morecambe and Wise 

One popular suggestion is that old sparring partners Etherington and Sir Stephen Bubb form a comedy double act to keep themselves busy. 

Bubb, who was described on Monday as “the other special person in Stuart’s life”, couldn’t possibly object to the idea. 

And as they’ve both bought retirement homes in the same Italian village (Stuart’s is higher up the hill, which is apparently important) they should have plenty of time to iron out the details and rehearse their material. 

Comedy gold we think. Though if you pitched it as an idea for a gentle sitcom we imagine production companies would say it was too cliché. 

Another important relationship 

Stuart is well-known for being an exemplary lobbyist, skilled at building strong relationships with ministers of all colours. But did anyone ever stop to think about the impact of all this relationship building on others.  

Nick Hurd, officially the sector’s favourite former minister for civil society, revealed via a video message that he received frequent late-night texts from Stuart, which caused his wife to fear he was having some sort of affair. 

To be honest, Diary could have quite done without the mental image of a minister for civil society texting in his PJs… but we won't go there. 

Next stop Europe

Etherington of course doesn’t actually retire until the end of the year. Over the next few months he will be working on a paper about building closer ties with Europe (capturing the political mood, Diary feels). 

Hopefully this will culminate in NCVO and partner bodies around Europe arranging some sort international conference somewhere in the Mediterranean. Diary has already packed a beach towel and stands ready to jump on a plane to cover this important discussion forum. 

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