Tuesday, 3 November 2015

I will not be singing the National Anthem on Sunday

Some might think a slightly strange and even maybe an attention seeking title for a blog post but I believe I have no choice but to put down my fears for what may happen on Sunday at not only the Ipswich Remembrance Parade but also for other parades over the country.
Armistice Sunday has always been a big event in my family and I guess for about the last 45 years I have always attended an event (I’m 53). I started going to the Christchurch Park event with my late father, first of all when he was a councillor and then when he carried the standard for the Ipswich Branch of the Korean Veterans. The event in Ipswich in the 70’s and 80’s had some similarities to the current parades but what was missing then was the hundreds of Ipswich residents who now turn up to join in the event.
When I joined the army in 1978 the event was still quite low profile, we commemorated it on the 11th hour of the 11th day but the rest of the country just carried on their normal working lives- unlike now and on the Remembrance Sunday, local events were often low key with only the parades in London, Belfast and Edinburgh having large crowds. The tide changed with the Armed Forces becoming both popular and respected after they participated in the more recent conflicts in the Balkans, the Gulf and Afghanistan.
It still cheers me to see all the families at the Ipswich Cenotaph, sun, rain or shine that is what soldiers fought for to enable the public to go out and enjoy a Sunday as a family but now it seems politics has reared its ugly head and we have some sort of ‘poppy’ police operating in this country.
Of course politics becoming involved Remembrance is nothing new, we had it in between the wars, we had the white poppy, one of the reasons the events became so low key in the 80’s was due to threat of IRA attacks and protests by such groups as ‘Troops out’ and then we had the furore over Michael Foot and his duffel coat.
It seems now that wearing a poppy is now a ‘must do’ and if you do not you are not a true Brit! What rubbish, the freedom to do what you want, wear what you want is what the hundreds of thousands of servicemen dies for in the Second World War. I wear my poppy with pride and it helps me remember the friends I lost in conflict, in fact I wear a small metal poppy all year but I don’t care if other people wear one or not, in fact it disgusted me more that politicians are so worried about being seen without one that Number 10 decided to photo shop a poppy on to the profile picture of David Cameron.
But my real fear is this year it has become even more of a political football because of our new Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. I do not like some of the relationships, Jeremy has had in the past with certain Irish groups, I am no great fan of the ‘Stop the war’ coalition but I respect Jeremy for having his own views and I do not care if he wears a red, white or no poppy at all. Now on Sunday I would expect him to wear a poppy at the cenotaph as he is laying wreath on behalf of the Labour Party not himself but we saw how Tory MP’s and the right wing press attacked Jeremy for not singing the national anthem and so people will be watching closely on how Jeremy acts.
That same nasty attitude of certain Tory MPs was then copied over the country by other Tories and here in Ipswich I was attacked for not singing the National Anthem at an event to commemorate the two men from Ipswich who won the Victoria Cross in World War I, I actually felt very privileged to not only attend the event but to be asked to speak and read out the two VC citations, I did this wearing my Regimental blazer and wearing my medals but still that did not stop certain Tories attacking me. They obviously decided the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn by Tory MPs were worth repeating against local politicians in Ipswich and they also showed what a bunch of hypocrites they are as they made every excuse possible to explain the absence of both our Tory MPs for the town from the Civic Event.
There attacks on me seemed to backfire but that has not stopped them, only this week an Ipswich Tory candidate has made yet another attack on me, over the last few weeks he has been accusing me of being a ‘red Tory’ and stating that I would be the target of the Corbynistas but suddenly he has decided I am from the ‘far’ left and accused me (and most Ipswich Labour councillors) of adhering to a terrorist sympathising, Britain hating, security threatening ideology.
That must be why I spent 25 years in the Armed Forces! What rubbish, but worryingly there seems to be a lack of leadership in the local Tory Party and it only makes me believe that both Ben Gummer and the Tory leader, Nadia Cenci either believe the mad ramblings of this Tory candidate or are just happy for him to attack Labour politicians even if it they know there is no truth in his attacks.
So on Sunday, I will attend, I will march up to the cenotaph, I will wear my medals and I will remember those from both Ipswich who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and those who paid the same sacrifice from my regiment. But I will not sing the National anthem, not out of any republican protest but in my regiment we do not sing it, we stand to attention and stay silent as a mark of respect to Queen, Country and our fallen comrades.
But I am aware that there will Tories in Ipswich and further afield watching carefully how Labour politicians behave on Sunday. That is not what Remembrance Day is for but it seems to have been hijacked for political use by those on the right and their friends in the press.
It is a sad state of affairs that one now has to worry how you will be perceived at such an event rather than going there to pay respects to fallen comrades and those from Ipswich who served their country.
On the Falls Road in Belfast, in Crossmaglen, in Pristina, in Bosnia and in Sangin, Afghanistan I met and served alongside ‘real’ warriors, it is their opinion that matters to me not the thoughts of an Ipswich Tory ‘keyboard’ warrior!

Forgot to add that even certain Police Forces  are using Remembrance Day this years as a vehicle to highlight police cuts, stating that certain parades may have to be cancelled as there are not enough police to help close roads.

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