Friday 25 January 2008

Voytek - The Polish Soldier Bear

Reading the BBC News website, you do often find some stories that actually both make you smile, laugh and show you a more quirky part of our history- one I read today made fascinating reading.

Polish soldiers fighting for the Allies in World War Two came across a bear roaming the mountains in Iran- somehow- and all ex or serving soldiers will know how - they managed to get the bear back to Scotland. When they were then sent to fight in Italy, the only way they could take the bear with them was to enlist him. so the bear was given a name and rank. It even helped carry mortar rounds during battles in Italy.

The bear is also remembered by Polish troops for his ability to smoke and drink beer.

The bear ended up in Edinburgh Zoo, where he died in 1963. A book about the bear is planned and now a campaign is starting for an erection of a statue.

After the dismal news about Peter Hain yesterday, at least we have a story here to put a smile back on your face. To read more about the bear check out the full story here .

Reselection of Richard Howitt MEP

Last night I attended the Management Committee of the Ipswich Labour Party, we had a a larger than normal attendance as we had the company of members from our neighbouring Labour Parties, Central Suffolk and Suffolk Coastal.

Richard was reselected unanimously- no surprise as he has been an outstanding MEP- I have been fortunate enough to have been campaigning with him in Rushmere and other parts of Ipswich, but it is not just as a campaigner that he shines - he is one of the few MEP's from any party that you hear about in the local and national media- he is passionate about Europe and the benefits it can bring the Eastern Region.

It will be great that at the next European election that we can send Richard back to Europe and manage to get a second or third labour MEP elected to serve with him.

The remainder of the meeting was run as a "Question time" with the panel made up of Chris Mole MP, and the Parliamentary candidates for Central Suffolk and Suffolk Coastal- Bhavna Joshi and David Rowe they were also joined by David Ellesmere the Leader of the Labour Group on the Ipswich Borough Council.

Topics discussed included: Faith schools, Trust schools, NHS, Political funding, Iraq, Police pay and Unitary Ipswich.

It was great to see so many members of the Party participating in a political debate, I was also impressed by the dedication of Labour members who have to live in Tory hot beds like Suffolk coastal but who do not lose their desire to help those in their community.

Sunday 13 January 2008

In Shackleton's footsteps. (well - sort of)

Each week to friends and supporters, I send by e mail a quotation of the week. (If you wish to join the mailing list to receive this weekly snippet of knowledge - just drop us an e mail.) Last week there were two quotations one about Antarctica and one by Sir Ernest Shackleton.

In my opinion Shackleton is a true British hero and one of the finest explorers ever. but what really stood out was his leadership and management style. When I was younger it was Captain Scott who was seen as a true example of a great British hero but in recent times he has been overtaken by Shackleton- It may have something to do with how our views on what makes a hero has changed. Both failed to reach their destinations but where we saw Scott as a hero because of the sacrifice he and his team made it is now Shackleton we look up to because though he failed to reach the pole he did bring all his team home safely (only for many of them to perish in the First World War). On the BBC recently there has been a debate about who is more of a hero? Shackleton or Scott. This debate was aslo highlighted on Friday with the death of another great leader/explorer in Sir Edmund Hilary.

This week my fascination in Shackleton caused me to get some extra deliveries! Currently in Ipswich we are delivering Chris Mole MP calenders across the constituency and this week we have been working in St Johns and Rushmere but last week we were in the South east of the town and as we finished, my quote of the week was mentioned and I then ended up being given an extra delivery round- where? - Shackleton Road and Shackleton Square on the Racecourse estate- and they even threw in Drake and a couple of other roads named after explorers. I will now be checking that the weekly quotation does not come from someone with a road named after them within Ipswich!

So though I may only have ended up walking along a road named after Shackleton and not in his footsteps a former colleague of mine from the Royal Green Jackets will soon get the chance to not only follow in the great mans steps but to actually reach the South Pole, a team leaves at the end of 2008 to retrace Shackleton's steps as part of a centenary expedition. More fascinating is that the key members of the team are all related to members of the original expedition. To find out more about this fantastic trip, visit the expedition website here.

For anyone who wants to find out more about Shackleton- I would suggest the best place to sart is to read his own book about that 1908 expedition- 'South' - it is one of the most inspiring books that I have ever read.

Wednesday 2 January 2008

2008 - a Challenging year for Ipswich and Labour

2008 has started in what should be a challenging year for both Ipswich and the Labour Party.
That is the Labour Party both locally and nationally.
In Ipswich we have to get over the disappointment of not getting Unitary status and continue where we left off in 2007, of campaigning hard all over the town. We have been the only visible party on the doorsteps over the last 12 months but I already can see the Lib Dems and Tories starting to peer out from where they have been hiding, (in the Tories case for the last 8 months and in the Lib Dems case the last 18 months!)
Nationally and locally I believe the Labour Party is up for the challenge and especially in Ipswich are way ahead of both opposition parties in finding out and acting on the views of Ipswich residents.
Concerns for Ipswich residents?
1. The continuation of the Tory policy to keep allowing flats to be built rather than family homes.
2. The Closure of Cranes- another Ipswich manufacturing firm planning to leave the town.
3. The Tory plan to build a waste incinerator in Suffolk
4. Ipswich to get promotion.

Labour are the only choice when it comes to concerns 1 to 3. Ipswich getting promotion? After the Christmas games away from Fortress Portman Road it looked as unlikely as the Tories building houses on the northern fringe but after a fantastic New Years day win over WBA- Who knows?
But like many Town fans, though I welcome the cash injection into the club, I am concerned about the long term interests of our new owner.
So my hopes for 2008?
Labour to regain control of Ipswich - (including the return of a Labour Councilor to the Rushmere Ward)
Family homes to be built rather than more dockside flats.
A new major manufacturer to be found to take over the Crane site on Nacton Road.
The Tories and Lib Dems to return to the rocks they have been hiding under.
And of course promotion for Ipswich Town.
Have a happy 2008.