Sunday, 30 November 2008

Back to the Army

Back to the Army and possibly Afghanistan!

Some of you may have read in the Ipswich Evening Star that I may possibly be off to spend 6 months in Afghanistan . Currently I am going through the process of mobilisation hopefully to join the Infantry Battalion, 2 Rifles in the new year.
The Battalion are currently in Northern Ireland but have been warned off for a 6 month tour of Afghanistan and if deployed will be spending the Summer in Helmand Province.
I left the army 6 years ago so it is with a sense of trepidation that I await to join the Rifles, I had previously spent 24 years in the Royal Green Jackets. The Green Jackets reformed into The Rifles in 2007.
I will hope to keep readers of this blog informed about the training and what it is actually like in Afghanistan, on the front line.

Little did I know when serving as a young 18 year old Rifleman in 1980 that in 2008, I would be preparing to go on another operational tour.

A young "Councillor -to be" in Cyprus on a UN Tour in 1980

I do believe we are making a difference in Afghanistan, we must not let that county fall back under the influence of the Taliban, you just had to read the recent news reports of the acid attacks on young girls to see why we must stay.
I am sure also that I am re-joining one of the best trained forces in the world and that coupled with the recent experiences of soldiers in Ireland, Bosnia, Kosova and Iraq will serve us well. one thing I know that will not surprise me, and that is the superb example young servicemen set for all the youth of this country.
It is not confirmed that I am going yet, and with army paperwork- anything could happen! Whatever happens I hope to be able to resume my council duties on my return, I will also hope to be able to go to local schools and organisations and give them an insight to life on the front line.

Fix My Street

FixMyStreet - report, view or discuss local problems
You may have noticed a new link on the side of this blog to 'Fix My Street'. This is a website set up by 'My Society' and enables residents to report potholes, graffiti, street lighting not working and damage to pavements via the website to their local council. 'Fix My Street' then send an e mail to the local council and then you can use the site to monitor progress on that issue. and put on updates and even inform the site once the fault is rectified, you can also use the site to see what other issues have been reported in your area.
Now some councils are not too keen on 'Fix My Street' and there are those here in Ipswich who would rather see the back of it-why? well Ipswich has had the most reports sent to them recently by 'Fix My Street'. the current amount of reports sits at over 180, with only Falkirk and Kent County Council anywhere near that total. But Ipswich Borough Council should turn this round and see it as a plus point. A Council in Hampshire has linked 'Fix My Street' to their own computer systems and now can reply to the resident instantly and they use 'Fix My Street' as a public service.
Of course maybe the administration at Ipswich are not so keen as it shows that Ipswich does not get a fair deal when it come to money for road repairs from their friends at the Tory run Suffolk County Council!

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Billy Bragg warns the cynical!

Last night my wife and some other Ipswich Labour Party members went to see Billy Bragg in concert. the gig was held at the Corn Exchange and it was over 20 years since the last time Billy played Ipswich.

The night started with the talented and funny American- Otis Gibbs, who was a great warm up for Billy and has also left me with the desire to go to Cawker City, Kansas to see the largest ball of twine. You had to be there to understand!

Billy came on after the break and was still going strong at 10.45pm. A good mixture of new stuff, some old classics, and interspersed with humour and political thought. His last bit left the audience in no doubt that Billy wants to see a 4th term for a Labour government, and in his eyes it is only our own cynical attitude that can stop it.

So as Billy said at the finish-"Keep the faith!"

Sunday, 23 November 2008

George W Bush has left the White House

One sunny day in 2009 an old man approached the White House
from across Pennsylvania Avenue,
where he'd been sitting on a park bench.
He spoke to the U.S. Marine standing guard and said,
'I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.'

The Marine looked at the man and said,
'Sir, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here.'

The old man said, 'Okay' and walked away.

The following day, the same man approached the White House
and said to the same Marine,

I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.'

The Marine again told the man,
'Sir, as I said yesterday, Mr. Bush is no longer President
and no longer resides here.'

The man thanked him and, again, just walked away.

The third day, the same man approached the White House
and spoke to the very same U. S. Marine, saying
'I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.'

The Marine, understandably agitated at this point,
looked at the man and said,
'Sir, this is the third day in a row
you have been here asking to speak to Mr. Bush.
I've told you already that
Mr. Bush is no longer the president and no longer resides here.
Don't you understand?'

The old man looked at the Marine
and said, 'Oh, I understand. I just love hearing it.'

The Marine snapped to attention, saluted,
and said, 'See you tomorrow.'

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Hitler on BNP list!

And he is not very happy about it! As you can see here.

Friday, 21 November 2008

32 BNP members in Ipswich but 32 too many!

' Not many of these to be seen on the streets of Ipswich'

First of all I will say that BNP members should be angry that their details have been released by a disgruntled member of their party, and the Police should take action against that person.

But even so it is interesting to see how many members of this "Far Right" party are in Suffolk and Ipswich in particular. According to local papers we have just over 100 in Suffolk and 32 either in or close to Ipswich. First of all this is 32 too many. But compared to other towns of our size it is a low total. But we must not get complacent, within the last two weeks the BNP have held street stalls in both Colchester and Harwich and earlier in the year held one in Norwich. There are over 600 BNP members in Essex, though many seem to be in the south of the county, with Loughton a surprising "Far Right" stronghold!

The current financial climate is just the sort of opportunity the BNP will use to recruit more recruits- we must make sure that does not happen and to do that we must (and in Ipswich WILL) continue to campaign all over the town and to continue to offer a good service to our constituents. Maybe if the Tories and Lib Dems also got off their backsides and campaigned as well, there would be even less opportunity for the likes of the BNP or UKIP to get out on the streets of Ipswich and peddle their lies.

As an ex soldier I was not happy to see a number of soldiers on the list, when I served in the Army, I was led to believe that you could not be a member of a political party but it seems now you can be a member but not an activist. I wonder what the Fijian and other Commonwealth soldiers feel about having a member of the BNP in their section or platoon!

Thursday, 13 November 2008

More old Labour pictures.

Two more pictures from the history of the Ipswich Labour Party,

The first is of Ken Weetch our former MP, campaigning in about 74, alongside him is Lord Elwyn Jones, the then Attorney General (I am led to believe). Behind them is the campaign camper van that my mum (Annie Ross) spent many hours driving.

The second picture is of my late father Peter Ross, holding the Ipswich CLP red flag at a May Day event in the 70's.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Giles cartoons: Drawn to Suffolk

I have been critical of the Tory administrations lack of direction when it comes to the provision of both leisure and culture in Ipswich. Examples include the sudden debt at the Ipswich Regent and the complete horlicks they have made of swimming provision where they have told us they were going to save the Broomhill Pool, build an Olympic 50M pool at Portman Road and whilst talking about those two proposals they ran down the Crown Street pool and this week they have now said the 50M pool is dead in the water (sorry about the cheap pun) and that they are going to give Crown Pools a makeover!

But I will praise them for the opening of the Town Hall Galleries, it has given the people of Ipswich a chance to see visiting exhibitions and also to display some of the items that are often hidden away in the depths of the museum or the Mansion.

I enjoy most the items that have a local slant, and was happy that I could contribute to the 'Played in Ipswich' exhibition held 18 months ago. This week we see the opening of another exhibition with a local slant and one of interest to me as Carl Giles was a friend of my Grandfather. The exhibition features the work of the legendary cartoonist, Carl Giles. He lived locally and also created most of his cartoons in a small office above where the statue of 'Grandma' now stands. Because he lived near Ipswich he often produced cartoons for the Football club, local businessmen and charities. From this week through to the 17 January 2009 you have a chance to see a display of his work including a number of items from the Cartoon Museum in London. Get along and see these fantastic cartoons many featuring 'grandma' and her famous family.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

We will remember them.

Kohima Epitaph

When you go home

Tell them of us and say

For your tomorrow

We gave our today

Today I made my annual pilgrimage to the Ipswich Cenotaph in Christchurch Park. Slightly different this year, as I am now a Councillor and so I had to march behind the Mayor and found myself close to those laying wreaths.

For me this is one of the most important days of the year, not only because I am an ex serviceman but because this day was always so important to my late father. Because of that reason it was nice to be able to have a chat with my fathers old comrades in the Ipswich Branch of the Korean Veterans.

The people of Ipswich as usual turned up in their hundreds and it was great to see so many children. But things do need to change, the British Legion are losing members and many of the more recent veterans see no need to join the legion, with most finding it more beneficial to be members of their relevant regimental association. At Ipswich I still get annoyed that the Scouts and Guides wreath is laid by two of their adult leaders, I feel strongly that this act should preformed by children. It was nice to see two school pupils from the town lay a wreath and to hear that a number of Ipswich pupils were attending a service in France to mark the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

This will always remain a special day in my family, even more so this year with my younger brother nor being able to attend as he has just deployed to Afghanistan.

They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old

Age shall not weary them, not the years condemn;

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning

We will remember them.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Ipswich Labour- helping Obama

Ipswich Labour agent and councillor John Cook is on his way back to Ipswich after spending a week helping the Obama campaign, and whilst there he met Julius, a former Rushmere resident also supporting Obama and Julius even got the opportunity to vote for the President elect!

John, Rushmere resident Julius and Obama poster!

Back on the radio!

I have previously blogged about appearing as a guest on the Naked Football Show on Ipswich Community Radio (ICR), well I was back at the station today making my first appearance on the weekly run "Councillors" show. Each of the three main political parties gets a show and then every 4 weeks they all get together for a political discussion/argument!

Today we were hoping to go live to Ohio, where my fellow Labour Councillor, John Cook has been over in the States helping on the Obama campaign, but we were either let down by a technical problem or John was still out celebrating a fantastic win for Obama. So what did we talk about?

The main topic was Remembrance Day and how as a town and council we need not only to remember those who have lost their lives in previous wars and campaigns but what we can do to help serving soldiers and more importantly what we can do to support their families whist their husbands, (or wives, fathers, mothers) are serving in either Iraq or Afghanistan. We also discussed the Ipswich Bus service and the £5 million that Ipswich Borough Council may have lost after investing in an Icelandic bank. We had so much to talk about that we ran out of time, so it was a pity we could not get through to the USA to talk to John and discuss the Presidential election but we found there were plenty of local issues that were of as much more importance to the Ipswich public.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Soldiers remembered from Belfast to County Mayo

Today in Belfast we will see something that many of us never thought we would ever see, the Army parading through the streets of Belfast. This is the homecoming parade for servicemen returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. But as would be expected in Northern Ireland, it can never be that simple and the day will also see a separate parade by Sinn Fein who said their parade was to protest about the British Army presence in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan. Many on the left in Ireland and some in the Nationalist and Republican communities felt that Sinn Fein should have just ignored the parade rather than put in a separate march. There have been concessions on both sides with no RAF flypast and the soldiers marching without weapons and Sinn Fein agreeing to changes in their march route. But why did Sinn Fein march at all? Two main reasons that I can think of, they feared that the loyalist community would hijack the British Army parade and turn it into a re-run of July 12th but I believe the main reason was that when they heard of a planned dissident republican march they felt they had to form some sort of protest. I believe they were wrong and should have not organised their own protest and should not have linked the 'troubles' and the role of the Army in it with the return of British/Irish troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

But in the Republic the peace process has seen changes to the way those in the Republic remember their war dead. As with Sinn Fein today, the Irish Government has felt it hard to remember the Irish servicemen who have laid down their lives in both the First World War and since. of course those who volunteered to fight in WW1 were doing so when Ireland was still governed by the British, and maybe understandably that in the 1920's and 30's it was not seen right to remember those who had been seen to lay down their lives for the British Empire but many Irish also volunteered to fight with the Allies in the Second World War and many Irishmen have also served since in Korea and even in Vietnam as members of the US and Australian armed forces. Now those in the Republic feel that they can remember those who lost their lives in the conflicts of the 20th century with no concern for whose county they were serving at the time.

on October 17th this year, the Irish President, Mary McAleese performed the official opening of the County Mayo Peace Park in Castlebar, county Mayo. This fantastic memorial remembers all those from County Mayo who have lost their lives in war, whether they were fighting in the 1st World War with the British Army or since with the British, Canadians, Australians or with their own army in such places as the Lebanon.

So it may take a little longer for Sinn Fein to remember that the soldiers we are welcoming home today in Belfast are Irish soldiers who have been trying to give peace to Iraq and Afghanistan and that it should not be seen as an opportunity to make a political statement about their view of the army's role in the 'troubles'. It has taken many in the south over 80 years to realise that the 11th November and war memorials in towns and villages are there to remember those who have given their lives so that we have the freedom to protest on what we want and where we want.