Sunday 28 February 2010

The Bacon Loop - Labour investment on railways in Ipswich

As we get closer to an election, the differences between Labour and the Tories come under closer inspection. In Ipswich we have seen the proposed Ipswich Bus sell off by our local Tories, this just highlights what the Tories think of Public Transport. So at the same time as we see the Tory Bus sell off we have the proposed £35 Million investment in the Railway system in Ipswich (Network Rail story here).
This just part of a £53 Million investment in the route from Felixstowe to the Midlands.
The investment in Ipswich will be spent on a new 1km stretch of track, or ‘chord’, north of Ipswich goods yard, linking the East Suffolk and Great Eastern lines. This is to built on the site of the old Harris factory on Hadleigh Road. the new track has already attracted the name of the "Bacon Loop"
This is the difference between Labour and the Tories, we are investing in the transport infrastructure and the Tories just want to stop spending money on anything.
The 'Bacon Loop' will keep vehicles off the road, speed up the time it takes for good to travel from Suffolk to the Midland and plus the jobs that will be created to carry out the building work.
The 'Bacon Loop' name will probably stick but I would like to see the Loop or at least part of this new goods yard name after an Ipswich rail hero, a certain Mr Clark - if you don not know who he is, I will put up a post about this brave man later in the week.

Saturday 27 February 2010

"Contact IED... We have a casualty"

Just read an amazing account of an incident involving the Brigade Reconaissance Force in Helmand in Afghanistan, it is such an honest account of what must have been a very frightening event- you can read the whole account here, the post covers the event that led to the death of Sergeant Paul Fox. the account is by Trooper Pete Sheppard

Here is an extract from this very honest and insightful account:

The BRF is outside a small Patrol Base and the vehicles are in a close knit formation. The surrounding area is rural, a lot of farming fields around us with a series of compounds in the near distance.

Our task on this operation is to find, fix and exploit any insurgents in the area. Over the last couple of days we have been conducting clearance patrols moving through compounds methodically. There is a small canal about 3 metres wide just in front of us running north to south.

Other than that the area around is still quite dry. There hasn’t been any large amount of rain for a while, only short light bursts.

Everyone was up for 0345 hours this morning to go out on more clearance patrols. Then at about 0615, there was a big explosion. Everyone looked at each other instantly. Then over the radio net came “CONTACT IED!” another look of shock came across our faces.

Seconds later – “We have a casualty!” everyone went quiet, then “it’s Foxy!” The adrenaline and training kicked in. We started to prep the ‘9 liner’, a situation report needed to send up the chain of command to make them aware of what had happened and of the injuries sustained.

Moments later the medivac helicopter was wheels up from Camp Bastion. Over the net – “he’s in a bad way!” Again, we looked at each other.

The guys still in our position were just shaking their heads. No words were said. From my position in Squadron Headquarters it was so frustrating not being right there and able to react with the guys; I felt helpless being positioned a bit further back.

However I know my job as a radio operator is very important, passing up all the vital information, especially with an incident like this. Still, I wished I could be there to help more.

Over the insurgents’ radios we heard them congratulating each other for the attack. I let out a few expletives. “I hope the lads bloody smash these guys!” I said.

Everyone looked very annoyed at their boasting and I’m sure they were thinking similar things. After the helicopter landed and Foxy was airlifted away the troops came under small arms fire.

This is not typical of insurgent activity as we had an Apache helicopter overhead and the insurgents normally, very rightly so, are scared of it.

A few moments later they went back into hiding, unwilling to risk getting spotted by the Apache. They called over their radios for more back up. Roughly 15 minutes later the boss heard confirmation over the radio – “Your casualty is KIA”.

I looked at Donny (who had just replaced me on the radio stag) in disbelief willing him to say that I had misheard it. He just looked down and shook his head.

The troops continued to be engaged with small arms and a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) until approximately 0900, and then it went quiet. We then proceeded to advance and the lads began searching local compounds. However, nothing and no-one had been found by lunch time.

The insurgents were tantalizingly close. Over their radios they declared that they could see us, they claimed they were starting to mass troops, that they were going to stop us from leaving and that they were ready to start firing at us.

All talk, because once again it was a quiet, albeit somber afternoon. The troops on the ground weren’t officially told of Foxy’s death until they had all returned in from the patrol. This was to prevent them from not thinking straight.

The OC was told first and he then told the Corporal Major. Moments later the Squadron Corporal Major (SCM) called everyone over and told them the news.

Everyone was shocked and p*d off. It is hard losing a character like him from the team. We stayed in our small leaguer for the remainder of the day with no more patrols going out.

At about 1900 we held a service in the field, not far from where he had fallen, in memory of Sgt Paul ‘Foxy’ Fox . It started with the SCM saying “Right everyone gather round.

The Fijians are going to do a service and a few prayers for Foxy.” Jon Jon – one of the Fijians, said a few words about him. Then Rocko read a verse from the Bible, Book of Psalms, Chapter 91.

Jon Jon then went into what this verse meant. After this the group of Fijians soldiers started to sing an amazing hymn called “I need Thee, O I need Thee” They sang this in English to start of with and then for the last verse they sang it in Fijian.

Fijian choir singing is phenomenal. It really touched us all, the harmony of their song. It was blissfully quiet everywhere, all that could be heard were these soldiers singing in remembrance.

A Mortar illume round was then fired from our 81mm mortar to mark the start of a minutes silence. Everyone jumped at the loud bang it made.

Emotions were deep at this moment, thinking about Foxy and even the little things, like the last thing he said to me – asking me if I had any spare sugar for his brew, and then thanking me afterwards. Another mortar round bellowed out breaking the silence.

Then the OC came to the centre and read a poem:

“Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep;
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripening grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry
I am not there, I did not die.”

It was a very moving poem. The SCM said “Right everyone, now’s the time to go away and talk about the fond memories we all have of Foxy. When we go to Cyprus we’ll have a drink for him and when we get back to Windsor, after the medals parade, we’ll have a toast.”

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Lindsey Rawlingson for Rushmere

I am very pleased to be able to introduce the Labour candidate for Rushmere - Lindsey Rawlingson. Lindsey will be a great asset to the ward and it will be brilliant to have another Labour colleague to help me get a fair deal for Rushmere residents.

Lindsey has lived in Ipswich over 22 years and she has worked in retail within the town, she is a keen swimmer and is very concerned in the lack of money and thought that has been put into swimming in Ipswich.
We are fortunate in Ipswich to have locations like the Regent and the Corn Exchange but the Tories have no real plan in how to run them for the benefit of the people of Ipswich. The Corn Exchange to be closed for half the year, Film Theatre shut and now swimmers have to change in make do facilities.
Lindsey is also concerned about the planned Ipswich Buse sell off by the Tories/Lib dems.
Lindsey has already started campaigning for improved road safety measures outside Rushmere Hall school. She also joined me on a visit to Dundee House (along with Chris Mole MP) and is planning to join me to meet as many Rushmere residents over the next few months.
I am sure you will give Lindsey as much support as you have given me over the last two years.

Tuesday 16 February 2010

There is a spy amongst us!

Once a Spy had to go up '39 Steps' now they just have to set up a blog on Wordpress!

Since I have become involved in local politics, one of the things I have found most annoying is the little time that some politicians spend talking and communicating with their constituents. Another pet hate of mine is how some councillors fail to turn up at meetings, or if they do turn up they leave early. Now that we have very few meetings where the local press attend this has become even more prevalent. This is even made worse by the Tories running the council seeming hell bent on having as few meetings as possible with some working groups failing to meet for over 6 months. Now I will say that though the Tories are the worst offenders, some of my own Labour colleagues need to spend more time on the doorstep.

So after saying that I welcome the new Ipswich Political blog - Ipswich Spy, and hope it is here for the long term and not just the election period. This along with the Ipswich Community Radio Political site and Paul Geater with his blog in the Evening Star are all welcomed additions to the local political scene.
Now as a political anorak, of course I love these sites, but the way they report local politics can help get more people interested in politics, especially the youth of Ipswich, who I know have so much to offer and also lets hope Ipswich Spy and the other blogs keep local politicians on their toes.
General Elections never seem to fail to get people interested in politics, we just need to make sure they are still interested after May (or June!)
So well done Ipswich Spy, Ken Bates at ICR and Paul Geater

Saturday 13 February 2010

The fight is on!

Ipswich and Colchester unite - the desire to keep the Tories out that brings us together!

Not sure exactly why - but this election there seems to be a real feeling of teamwork and unity - with a desire to work as hard as we can to make sure Ipswich has a Labour MP and the country has a Labour Government.

Today over 20 of us were out with Chris Mole our Labour MP, on the streets of Chantry in Ipswich.
We even had support from our comrades in Colchester - one of whom was out knocking on door's for the first time.
With this attitude we can return Labour in for a historic 4th term - The fight is on!

Sunday 7 February 2010

When times are hard, that is when Labour is needed the most - complacency? It did get to us, but over the last few months here in Ipswich and by reading Labour blogs and looking at twitter. it seems all over the country, that Labour has had a rebirth. The need to fight had us remembering why we joined this party.
The post below from Labourhome written by John Frost says it all.

In 1945 the newly elected Labour MPs marched in to the Commons singing the Red Flag. In the 65 th anniversary year- what now ?

The 120th anniversary of the sacred anthem passed mostly unnoticed last year perhaps the new intake of Labour MPs will make amends by walking in to the Commons heads held high singing the Red Flag this year.

They could also benefit from reading the 45 Manifesto. For let there be no doubt, it will be of necessity a feisty, new and reinvigorated Labour Party that has to deal with the most austere days since then.

Well John I belive we are reinvigorated - bring on the fight.

The song will live on. All together now:

The people’s flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our martyred dead,
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold,
Their hearts blood dyed its every fold.
Then raise the scarlet standard high. (chorus)
Within its shade we’ll live and die,
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We’ll keep the red flag flying here.

Jim Connell, memorial to the man who wrote 'The Red Flag'