Sunday 27 September 2015

Ipswich remembers its Victoria Cross heroes whilst the Tories tell me I should be ashamed of myself for not singing the National Anthem

Yesterday I attended and participated in a civic event at the entrance to Christchurch Park, Ipswich. The event saw the laying of two paving slabs to commemorate the brave men from Ipswich who won the Victoria Cross during the Battle of Loos in 1915.

The Mayor made a short opening speech than I was asked to read out the two medal citations then local military historian Taff Gillingham gave a far more detailed and interesting talk about the two Ipswich VC winners – Private Samuel Harvey and Sergeant Arthur Saunders.

Taff was quick to point out that what made this event special was that it was a ‘civic’ event – it was the people of Ipswich remembering two of their own. The most striking part of the ceremony for me was when young relatives of the two men, came forward and revealed the paving slabs by moving the covering flags.

It is very important that when we remember the sacrifices made by many in the First World War that we include our youngest residents.

After the event I tweeted some pictures from the ceremony and also indicated that I was disappointed that neither of our Tory MPs were in attendance at this important civic event. I understand that both are busy and in particular Mr Gummer as he is now a junior minister, but Westminster is quiet at the moment as it is the conference season and Mr Gummer had been in town on the Friday to promote his plan for the Wet Dock Crossing. You would hope that Mr Poulter and Gummer could have arranged between themselves for one of them to attend but it does seem that even though they are both MPs for the town there is little co-operation between the two (as indicated by one wanting a northern road and a wet dock crossing whilst the other states there will be no northern road and wants a tunnel)

Some may have thought I was mischief making by highlighting their absence but I do believe they should attend as many civic events as possible – it does seem that in the run up to the election they can get to most events but find it harder to attend in Years 1 to 4.

A number of local Tories took to twitter to mention that there may have been good reason for Mr Gummer not attending, they seem to forget we have two MPs they also mentioned that the Labour Council leader was also absent ( he was on holiday) – so I repeated my earlier comment, that I understood they may both be busy but that I was just disappointed they were not there, what happened next was both a shock and left a very bad taste in my mouth.

The next Tory tweets then commented that they had noticed I did not sing the National Anthem at the end of the event – I was flabbergasted – I was then accused of disrespecting our Armed Forces and that I should be thoroughly ashamed of myself.

I joined the army at 15 and served for 26 years in the Regular Army and still serve as a volunteer Cadet Instructor. As a soldier we were taught to stand silently to attention during the national anthem, in fact in my regiment we do not even toast the queen, as our loyalty is never in question.

I felt both anger and also very sorry for those who accused me, why did they think I read the citations? Did they not see my medals? Or do they see little beyond a Daily Mail headline; because Jeremy Corbyn did not sing the national anthem they thought they could attack me for the same? Or were they just trying to deflect us away from asking where our MPs were?

A veteran was asked did he feel angry that Mr Corbyn did not sing the national anthem. He said the reason why he fought in the war was to give people the freedom to choose what they want to do, and that included not singing the national anthem’

I feel I served my country with honour as do many in the armed services but also so do nurses, doctors, bin men, thousands of people in very different jobs and as far as I am concerned what they do every day to help this country is far more important than if they sing or don’t sing that national anthem.

My week ahead, 28 September - 3 October 2015

Monday 28 September, 4pm – Culture portfolio meeting
6pm – Labour Group campaigning

Wednesday 30 September, 7pm - Ipswich Labour Party, All members meeting, Ipswich Library

Saturday 3 October, 10am – Labour campaigning in South East Ipswich

On Wednesday we have our first all member meeting since the leadership election and we hope and expect to see many of our new members at this meeting. We look forward to their input, I am sure they will be made welcome and will see that the Ipswich Constituency is a modern one, our meetings give everyone a chance to speak – it is not all minutes, agendas and motions, it will include important debate and that means Ipswich are already doing what Jeremy Corbyn wants all Labour groups to do – involve members, debate and let them help set policy.

We have had an amazing influx of new members since May and that was boosted further in the last two weeks since Corbyn won. Then last week we saw a surge of new members join us and Labour Students at the UCS Freshers Fayre.

In the country we have now more new members than there are members in the whole Lib Dem party, here in Ipswich we probably have more new members than the total membership of the Ipswich Tories, Lib Dems, Greens and UKIP branches all joined together.

Now it is our duty to keep those new members motivated and get them out with us campaigning against this vicious Tory Government. 

Sunday 20 September 2015

My week ahead, 21 - 26 September 2015

Monday 21 September, 6pm – Labour Group meeting

Wednesday 23 September, 6pm - Ipswich Borough, Full Council Meeting

Friday 25 September, 10am – Opening of World War One exhibition at the Town Hall

Saturday 26  September 9.45am - Laying of paving slabs to commemorate the two Ipswich residents who won the Victoria Cross during World War One

Saturday will be a proud moment for as I have been given the honour of reading out the citations of the two Ipswich men who won the Victoria Cross during WW1. The readings will be part of the ceremony when we lay two paving slabs at the Sloane Street entrance to Christchurch Park to honour our two VC winner.

Our local ‘memory loss’ Tory has defended his comments about Syrian refugees but still seems unable to explain why it is wrong for us to campaign about a development just outside the Borough that will effect a number of Ipswich residents whilst they (himself and the Tory leader) could campaign about the building of a wind turbine also situated in Babergh.

He did seem to imply that maybe no need to campaign as there is a ‘Master Plan’ in place for the Chantry Vale development, but that is not a Babergh Council developed plan it is one from the developer.  This week the local Parish Council in Pinewood were critical of the development in particular the lack of a workable traffic plan. Now I would expect Pinewood Parish Council to be the home to ‘radical’ socialists – but they (like us in Ipswich Labour) have some serious concerns about the proposed build – but at least the local Tories are happy with it!

Sunday 13 September 2015

Ipswich Tory activist- can't even remember what he said last week

An Ipswich Tory activist seems to have a slight memory problem, earlier in the week in a tweet he declared that some Syrian refugees were just men dodging conscription!

We are helping genuine refugees rather than better off Syrians who did a bunk when they got their conscription papers.

Even for Kevin this was a quite shocking statement , so I tweeted:

An Ipswich Tory activist/candidates description of refugees > "better off Syrians who did a bunk when they got their conscription papers."

But Kevin today seems to forget that he had described certain refugees as conscription dodgers:

No Tory activist has described Syrian refugees like that. You're being disingenuous.

It seems Kevin has a memory issue, then again when we highlighted that the Tories had been silent over the new development planned for Chantry Vale, but today he seemed to use the excuse that the development was outside the Borough, strange then that he has tweeted and posted on his blog a number of posts about the building of a wind turbine - also in Babergh and actually further away from houses in Sprites and Gipping. In April 2013 he even boasted that it was only himself and fellow Nadia Cenci who had stood against the turbine.

Is that why senior Ipswich Tories like their MP and leader block me on twiiter? Do they also have 'memory' problems!

15,000 new members in one day – and some still say it is the end of the Labour Party

I did not vote for our new leader, Jeremy Corbyn and I still have some serious concerns about both his past actions, his views on NATO, Europe and Northern Ireland and some of his close ‘entourage’ and many of those who may join (or in most cases re-join) the party because he is now our leader.

But I will not be leaving the party, or throwing my toys out of the pram – I will give him my full backing and the actions and words of David Cameron and the Tories after the result makes me even more determined to work hard to gain a Labour Government.

The words of David Cameron were certainly not the ones you would expect from the Prime Minister, to declare that the Labour Party were now a threat to national security and our families security was an act of pure arrogance.

Of course in Central London, it could be said that Cameron and the Tories are a threat to peoples security as David Cameron has increased the number of members of the House of Lords so there are now more Lords in London than on duty firemen!

As I stated I have not been a Corbyn fan in the past but happier to accept his behaviour in the 80s – being arrested in a demo against the South African apartheid regime that that of Cameron and Boris Johnson smashing up Oxford restaurants!

The comments from Cameron were made worse as MP’s like our own Ben Gummer dutifully repeated the Tory HQ tweet on their own twitter line – does Gummer now believe we are a threat to national security or does he just do what he is told by the Tory hierarchy?

Where I was wrong as many MPs also were, is that we had lost what our members and supporters wanted or possibly (and I hope more likely) we had not got our message over to them, to explain why we have to be seen a competent enough to run the economy and that does not mean becoming ‘Tory lite’.

Jeremy won a with a fantastic majority among members, supporters and union affiliates but he has little (or did) support from MPs and I guess the same may be true of MEPs, Cllrs, Council Leaders and more importantly the activists who are out every week on the doorstep canvassing and delivering. Jeremy must not forget us – we understand our members want change and we must now work together to make it happen.

The 15,000 who joined yesterday is a fantastic boost to the party and we welcome them into this great democratic organisation but for those re-joining, a warning, we can’t and won’t go back to the Labour Party of the 80’s – endless CLP and ward meetings, motions proposed to support some little known left wing organisation in South America, we are not going to run a council like Liverpool Militant did in the past, just look at the mess the Green Party have made in Brighton and we are also not going to be ashamed of what Labour achieved in 3 terms in power – if you’re not happy with that then maybe we are not for you but if you wish to join an organisation based on community campaigning, a party that wants to get things done not just talk about it then we are the party for you.

But most of those 15,000 members from yesterday will be new, not many will even remember Thatcher and the 80s – they do not care what Corbyn did or said then – they just want something new, not just a rehash of old policies – that is why this may just work – it is up to us already in the party to take that enthusiasm of those new members (many of them young) and take the fight to the Tories. In Ipswich this week we are holding two social events with new members – finding out why they joined, what they want to happen and what they can offer to the party and to the people of Ipswich.

Jeremy Corbyn showed the way this morning, he was not sat on twitter, he was at a local mental health event in his own constituency – a great example to many, that is how we will beat the Tories – campaigning hard rather than calling fellow party members, new labour, old labour, red Tories, Tory lite, Blairites, Corbynistas - we are all just LABOUR members and supporters.

But of course it will be a difficult time for the party, many are concerned about the direction we may now move, the strength of the Shadow Cabinet but I was impressed by our new leaders acceptance speech, the proof wil be in the pudding when we see who is on his front bench, and Jeremy is not the youngest and he may just be the person to help turn us back into a mass movement to regain power in the future.

I hope he quickly decides to put the whole party behind the pro-Europe campaign, and that he does not allow people like Galloway to sneak back in.

But we will stay loyal to the party and we will keep fighting for what we believe in.

What about the others? The Green Party probably last as many members as we gained this week and they will be just left with those of the far left who will never come back and those we would not want back. The Lib Dems continue to lose members – mainly to the Tories here in Ipswich, as we always thought many were just ‘yellow’ Tories. The SNP seem now set to go for another vote on independence, probably hoping to get it in before a Labour resurgence north of the border.

The Tories? Will laugh but they should be worried maybe not by Jeremy but by the opposition now being one of the largest political (and campaigning) parties in the Western World. They should also remember a certain IDS – he got over 60% of the Tory vote and was gone in two years. They also have their own impending civil war (or 2) over Europe and their 2019 leadership election.

So we fight on, taking the battle to the Tories, 15,000 new members in one day – I would be worried Mr Cameron, very worried.

My week ahead, 14 - 19 September 2015

Monday 14 September, 11am – Labour Party ‘coffee meeting’ – Pump and Grind, Great Coleman Street
4pm – Culture Portfolio meeting
6pm – Campaigning in South West Ipswich

Tuesday 15 September, 5pm – Early Warning Group

Wednesday 16 September, 5pm meeting with National Portfolio Arts organisation – Pacitti Company
7.30pm – North East Ipswich Labour members and supporters ‘get-together’ – The Old Times, Cauldwell Hall Rd

Thursday 17 September 6pm, North East Ipswich Partnership Group meeting
7pm – North East Ipswich Area Committee meeting, St John’s Church, Cauldwell Hall Rd

On Saturday we had a strong team out campaigning in South West Ipswich, we were informing residents of the large scale development planned for Chantry Vale – the area to the west of Chantry Park. The development is poorly planned, (there is no master plan) and the houses are of bad design – but the issue is that Chantry Vale is outside the Borough, it is in Tory run Babergh. It is their planning committee who will decide if the scheme is approved and if it is, it will be Babergh Council who will collect all the council tax but it is Ipswich where the new residents will look to for services not Sudbury or Hadleigh.

Now on the Northern Fringe we are making sure there is a master plan but we still face stiff opposition from the local Tories and both our Tory MPs. Mr Gummer was also against us building much needed affordable home in South East Ipswich. But when we come to Chantry Vale we are met with a deafening silence from the Tories.

Expect Mr Gummer to come up with the excuse of ‘not in his constituency’ – but it is his constituents who will face more traffic congestions, whose schools will have to take the pupils from Chantry Vale (Tory run Suffolk seem happy not task for any money from the developers towards secondary education). Mr Gummer was also quick to comment about the purchase of the old Sugar Beet factory (and that is also in Babergh)

Then we have the Tory leader, Mrs Cenci – whose main election campaign seemed to be about stopping the erection of a wind turbine (also in Babergh) but we have heard nothing from her or her fellow South West Tory councillors about the proposed Chantry Vale development – wonder why? Not up for election this year?

It is only Ipswich Labour who campaigns for resident’s week in week out, Mr Gummer has only been noticeable by his obvious absence from Ipswich this summer and the only time we seem to hear from him is when he is tweeting something prepared for him by Tory Central Office.

Then again why would be surprised that the Tory Party is still the party of ‘self interest’

Ipswich Labour will be passing on residents concerns about the Chantry Vale development to the Babergh Planning Committee.

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Stanley Baldwin and David Cameron - Two Tory Prime Ministers afraid to show compassion

The lack of compassion by Tory politicians over the Syrian refugee crisis has even shocked me, would expect UKIP to try and use this humanitarian disaster for their own means but disappointed when even here in Ipswich, local Tory leaders attempt to use unfounded claims about ISIS terrorists attempting to make their way into Europe (and the UK) pretending to be refugees fleeing from Syria.
The facts certainly show that this is not likely to happen but as senior Tory Ministers are also willing to peddle this lie it is of no surprise that local Tory politicians will also repeat it. In my opinion they are using this poor excuse just as a reason to do nothing – because they want no refugees, migrants, immigrants in this country- a case of ‘shut the door, I am in’ or more simply put ‘I’m alright Jack’.

Bu the attitude of the Tories nothing new, the similarities between the behaviour of Cameron now over the Syrian crisis and Baldwin during the winter of 1937 over the possibility of Basque refugees arriving here from the Spanish Civil war are quite striking.

This week Ian Herbert of the Independent wrote a fascinating article about how a number of those Basque refugees ended up playing professional football in the UK – more here. It shows how a refugee, Emilio Aldecoa blazed a trail for Spanish footballers to ply their trade here that would later be followed by millionaires such as David Silva and Cesc Fabregas.
The article also mentions the refugee status of the father of Fabrice Muamba, whose half-brother is now on the Academy books at Ipswich Town.

Fabrice, a refugee himself once informs us (wisely) that refugees are just “ like us, they have all the same hopes and fears. They are part of humanity.”

I have been proud of how football is coming together to help in this crisis, British fans are keen to do their part, happy to follow the example of German supporters where our own Tory Prime Minister has no wish to follow the example of the German political leaders.

Philosophy Football are currently collecting old football scarves and hats to transport ‘from Wembley to Calais’ to help prepare the hundreds of migrants who will be facing a bleak winter in the Calais ‘jungle’.

The support of football fans is important as it is obvious that Cameron can be swayed by public opinion, and currently it is a battle between the general public forcing him to do the ‘right’ thing and the views of his Tory activists like their leaders in Ipswich who will use any excuse possible to get out of doing what we all know we need and must do.

But as Ian Herbert states in 1937 we had a “humanitarian crisis and a Conservative Prime Minister unwilling to open the door to those in need of escape” and in 2015 we have exactly the same!

Sunday 6 September 2015

My week ahead, 7 - 12 September 2015

Monday 7 September, 10am – Meeting with ActivLives
4pm – Culture Portfolio meeting
6pm – Campaigning in South West Ipswich

Saturday 12 September, 10am – Labour campaigning North East Ipswich
2pm – Tour of Britain arrives in Ipswich Town centre.

A few weeks ago I tweeted that I found it surprising that the Suffolk County Council used their official twitter feed to promote County Councillors own twitter account that would obviously be political. At Ipswich Borough Council this does not happen and it seems similar with Central Government.

I was pleased to get a reply from both the Tory leader of the council, Colin Noble and the County Council Press team. The council gave a satisfactory answer, Colin Noble also gave the same explanation but could not resist the opportunity to have a quick snipe at me.

It seemed the reason given for use of councillors twitter names was so that they became more known to their constituents, I was happy with this answer and just hoped that all councillors would be treated equally.

The Suffolk County Council held one of their ‘Listening to you’ events in the Ipswich Town centre on Saturday and well done to them for promoting the event by using the twitter accounts of the Ipswich based Labour County Councillors along with promoting the Tory leaders twitter account.

So you can imagine how disappointing it was to see on Saturday that in 6 Suffolk County Council tweets from the event, the only name mentioned (and only twitter account included) was that of Tory leader – Colin Noble – no mention of the Labour Councillors present ( even if they were in the photographs) does make you wonder if the County Council twitter feed is there to promote the county or just its Tory leader? Certainly seemed strange that all the Labour Councillors seemed to be ignored?

They may have decided not to mention Ipswich Councillors names when the only Tory County Councilor in the town (I am told) was not present at the event.

The other story that is of much more importance is the continuing humanitarian crisis spreading over Europe as Syrian refugees make their way towards Germany – more on my view on this issue here – but it does seem now that even Tory Ministers including the Chancellor are stating we should do more, the only people who still seems set against taking anyone are UKIP and a large percentage of Tory activists – they can add Syrian refugees to their NIMBY list of council houses and wind turbines.

I do understand some of their concerns but when they use the pathetic excuse of stopping refugees coming here as they be ISIS infiltrators then you lose any little respect you had for their views.

Friday 4 September 2015

#kiyiyavuraninsanlik - the picture that may have shocked Europe into action

The distressing picture of the young Syrian child washed up on a Turkish beech has shocked the world - will it become like the 'Napalm girl' from the Vietnam war- a picture that will go down as one that defines a generation, one that marks us down for what we have become- selfish?

There has been plenty said over the last few days on what we have done to help, or how little we have helped or what we should do to help. We know that many people no longer believe politicians - but the speech from Yvette Cooper seemed to hit the nail right on the head and her call for this Government to do more have been echoed by church leaders, politicians, celebrities and more importantly - the public - so much so that within 24 hours, Cameron has had to make an embarrassing climb down after stating that we would not let more refugees settle in this country today he has stated that the UK had a "moral responsibility" to help those displaced by the four-year conflict in Syria. But then again Cameron has always been more of a PR man that a PM!

His behaviour (and more distressing - his silence) over the last week has been far from we would expect from a world leader let alone our Prime Minister. We have not done enough as a country, a few local commentators have been quick to say how much money we have spent helping those in war torn zones but where we could and should help more is allowing refugees into this county.

The figures do not lie- we have done very little - but of course the mixing of the words refugee, migrant and illegal immigrant by the media do not help the public to understand that we have been pathetic in our attempt to help those from Syria.


People applied for asylum in the UK in the year ending June 2015


Were from Syria

87% of Syrian requests for asylum were granted

216 Syrians have been granted protection under a special scheme to relocate vulnerable people - this is the most embarrassing figure of them all- 216!

4,980 Syrian asylum seekers and their dependents have been granted asylum since 2011

145 Syrian asylum seekers have been removed from the UK since 2011

Now David Cameron is right on one thing we should take from Syria and the camps in Jordan and Turkey - but trouble is he should have done that 3 years ago- now it is too late, so Cameron the PR man lets the media dictate policy, Germany will take 800,00, in Sweden for every 1,000 of their population they will allow an asylum seeker in and hear Cameron says we will take more but no figures and a plan will come out some time next week - how many more will die whilst he keeps a low profile?

Recently the British hero Nicholas Winton passed away- one of the people behind the Kindertransport, what would he think of some of the selfish attitudes displayed by many over the last few weeks. When you’re next in London at Liverpool Street station, seek out the statue on the station forecourt that celebrates the actions of many that saved those children from persecution, and maybe compare that with the scenes being acted out today in railway stations in Austria and Hungary.

History is an important subject, but only if we learn from it- where it seems with the likes of Farage and the far right of the Tory Party that many wish to re-enact the 1930's rather than learn the lessons from that era.

We have those making any excuse they can to stop refugees being made welcome - the worst one - peddled by many in the Tory Party including their local leaders here in Ipswich is that some of those fleeing Syria maybe from ISIS! That terrorist organisations seems to have little problem brainwashing people already here in this country to commit hideous crimes not sure they need to sneak them into the country. in fact with their oil wealth, pretending to be a refugee would be their last option of getting terrorists into Europe.

Then we have our own MP- Ben Gummer trying to blame the crisis on the opposition refusing to back Cameron in his proposal to bomb Syria- forgetting to mention that the PM did not even have the full support of his own party. I always thought Mr Gummer was a more 'liberal' Tory but his actions - or lack of them over this humanitarian crisis have shown him to be as bad as his leader.

We should do more, we should welcome refugees into this country - as we did in the 19th Century and in the early 20th century, as we did those fleeing Uganda and Sri Lanka.

But as long as we have a PR man as our Prime Minister- be prepared to always take the easy option
We must allow refugees in and we must act now.