Sunday 29 November 2015

I believe we should take military action in Syria - but still many questions for Cameron to answer

This is not a simple question, and even though I have made up my mind, there are still a number of questions that have not been answered.

I believe the Labour Party should support the Government on their decision to start air operations in Syria.

Jeremy Corbyn has stuck to his principles and does not believe we should start combat operations, I accept his opinion but I now hope he will allow Labour MPs and shadow Ministers a free vote, if the Tories do decide to put the decision to a vote this week.

Whatever the decision, Labour will be damaged by this issue and it has not helped with the likes of Tory Minister Fallon playing party politics over such an important issue.

David Cameron did not persuade me when he spoke to the commons last week and it seems he still hasn’t got all his own MPs on side so he still needs at least some Labour MPs to vote with him or abstain.

So if Cameron has not persuaded me, why do I support Military operations? I support our involvement in the Syrian bombing campaign because I believe after the atrocities in Paris we have to show a united front against ISIS.

I do not believe Cameron and Fallon and their opinion that the RAF are needed to make the operation a success, we could just increase our bombing missions in Iraq to free up US and French planes to concentrate on Syria. In fact I am sure we are already involved in Syria, with planning, early warning and target acquisition in support of other air forces already bombing Syria.

I do wish the Shadow Cabinet could come to an agreed decision but if not I hope it is a free vote and that Corbyn does not use this important issue as yet another pawn in his battle between the PLP and his supporters. I understand why he has asked members and I applaud his attempts to allow the party membership to be more involved in policy making but when it comes to going to war, we (the public) do not have the full facts, actually MPs do not have the full facts and Yvette Cooper raised that point in parliament. But Jeremy Corbyn and the shadow Cabinet have been briefed by the intelligence services and after that briefing (rather than the points Cameron made) it seems most of the Shadow Cabinet supports military action.

Corbyn on the Marr show this morning (where he was very impressive) slated the Tories for playing party politics over this important decision but if Jeremy is playing internal politics then he is not showing the leadership that is expected from the leader of the opposition.

I for one have not received an email from the party asking me my opinion on the bombing of Syria so am not even sure this asking members their opinion is actually valid. Where Corbyn is right is that he is in the majority – I am sure the majority of Labour members do now want to bomb Syria, in fact I am sure most of the country do not want to see us involved in Syria but politicians have to be prepared to make decisions that are not always universally popular. That is why they take positions in the Shadow Cabinet, Jeremy must act differently to when he was just a back bencher.

So I support our involvement in Syria and expect the Shadow Cabinet to have studied the evidence in front of them, read the intelligence reports and then make a sound judgement.

Cameron needs Labour support because he can’t even lead his own party, his performance at the dispatch box last week was poor and he failed to show there was a real plan (I am sure there is – just he could not explain it) he also leaves a number of questions unanswered and though many may blame Blair for Iraq, the mess Cameron left behind in Libya is nothing to be proud of.

So we still need more answers, to help get the correct facts over to the British public;

1.         Where and who are these 70,000 fighter who are both against ISIS and Assad?
2.         Where is both the plan (and the money) to reconstruct Syria after peace is secured?
3.         Remember Cameron has not even got the support of all Tory MPs
4.         Remember when Cameron wanted us to bomb Syria last time, it was to bomb Assad that would have helped ISIS
5.         If ISIS are routed, will the bombing campaign end or continue against Assad?

So many questions still to be answered but I still believe we should join a military campaign against ISIS in Syria.

Many in the Labour Party will not agree with my opinion, some who are friends and i respect them for the opinion, I may even suffer some abuse from the trolls that seem prevalent in some sections of the left who support Jeremy Corbyn (they need to follow his example about taking the abuse out of politics)  

I do not just support military action because I was in the army for over 25 years; it is because I believe that on certain circumstance combat operations are needed. Remember the successful military operations (under Blair) Kosovo and Sierra Leone.

We should and must not just become an inward facing country, in 1939 it was the working classes in their thousands who joined the forces to not only defend this country but to defeat fascism, and some of my first heroes on the left were those Labour men, socialists and trade unionists (like Jack Jones) who left these shores to fight against Franco in Spain. What do you think those men and women would do now?

My week ahead, 30 November - 5 December 2015

Monday 30 November, 6pm – Labour campaigning

Thursday 3 December, 6pm – Area Committee Chair’s meeting

Friday 4 December, 11am – Talk to Public Service Students at Suffolk New College

Saturday 5 December, 10am – Labour campaigning in North East Ipswich

It will be great to be back out campaigning in North East Ipswich next weekend - has been a hard Summer for Labour but there have been some highlights- many the media forget to mention;

Tory U - turn on Tax credits- after campaign by Labour
Reversal of cuts to Police force
Cancellation of Saudi Prison contact
Ipswich taking the lead locally on devolution, Enterprise zones
Increased membership nationally and locally

But plenty more to do - and we have local elections in 2016.

Sunday 22 November 2015

My week ahead, 23 - 29 November 2015

Monday 23 November, 4pm – Culture Portfolio meeting
6pm – Labour campaigning

Tuesday 24 November, 5pm – Culture/events meeting

Saturday 28 November, 10am – Labour campaigning in South East Ipswich

Sunday 29 November, 10am – Cyclo-Cross championship

Another week of meetings as we wait to hear what further cuts George  Osborne will impose on us, but we have already heard this week that County Councils will be able to raise council tax by a further 2% to help cover the cost of social care, wonder what will Tory run Suffolk will do? They have promised no council tax rise in both 2015 and 2016.

Then again not sure many of us have any confidence in the Suffolk leadership as one of their Cabinet members decided enough was enough and packed it in, what was interesting was that she stated she was not happy with the direction of the national party as well as closer to home in Suffolk. Colin Noble must now be concerned that he will not be able to hold onto the leadership of the Tory Group, not that you would know from his twitter feed (or the twitter feeds from SCC or SCC Cabinet) that anything was wrong!

But it also has not been a great week for the Labour Party, but we must stay united and keep fighting but I am concerned of the direction we are taking – but all is not lost and in Ipswich we are determined to work hard alongside our many new members to win another electoral victory in May.

But we must sort out our differences – but in meetings and with debate not on the pages of Tory supporting papers or via the world of twitter.

What I will say is that we could become the most middle class the Labour Party has ever felt, more a party of protects, more like an off shoot of the Green Party than a party of not just opposition but a party that wants to get back into power to make the changes that are need to help all of us in this country.

I expect our leaders to get a grip and drive us forward, do not write of our chances in 2020, still plenty of time to get our cat together.

Thursday 19 November 2015

Walking Home for Christmas - 64 miles

Walking Home for Christmas

Many of our veterans have walked in far worse and more dangerous environments than we might care to imagine. The ‘Walking with the Wounded’ Charity have given us a chance to be inspired by their determination and challenge yourself to take part.

This Christmas the charity is asking us to walk 1 mile or 100 miles or more home on day between 12 and 26 December

As an ex-soldier, I have taken up their challenge and on December 15 after the Fulham – Ipswich game I will get the train as far as Chelmsford and then I will walk the rest of the way home, but too make it more difficult I will be walking on my own, starting at midnight and not using roads where I can.

I will be walking 64 miles, mostly on the ‘Essex Way’ and the first 7 hours of it in the dark.

I hope you can sponsor me – the money raised will help the ‘Walking with the Wounded’ charity with their ‘Home Straight’ project which helps homeless veterans get back into employment.

Remember for every soldier who is physically wounded, five will have a mental injury.

You can find out more about the charity here 

And please sponsor me here

Sunday 15 November 2015

My week ahead, 16 - 21 November 2015 #StandWithParis


Monday 16 November, 6pm – Labour Group meeting

Tuesday 17 November, – Audit meeting
7pm – Fabians talk on Palestine

Wednesday 18 November, 8am – Meeting about IBC/Press and social media
6pm – Ipswich Borough Full Council meeting

Friday 20 November, 8am – Launch of VETS – Employment service for Veterans at ITFC

Saturday 21 November, 10am – Labour campaigning in South West Ipswich

This week we saw how twisted this world is at times, on Wednesday I accompanied Ipswich Primary School children as we remembered those who had fallen in conflict at the War Cemetery in Ipswich and on Friday many of those same children would have helped others in the UK raise millions for ‘Children in Need’ but on that evening as we were celebrating this great charity event, people with no concern for others carried out cowardly and murderous attacks on innocent (and mainly young) people in Paris.

The murders of so many has united most of Europe, in fact the world in solidarity with the French people, just disappointing but not unexpected that some would use these callous murders as reason to insist that we do not do our part in accepting refugees from Syria.

Those innocent Syrians are fleeing from the same mad, nasty, viscous people who committed those heinous crimes in Paris. This is the time to stay united and help those in need not become even more selfish and turn our back on those in such urgent need of the help we can give.

Sunday 8 November 2015

My week ahead, 9 - 14 November 2015

Monday 9 November, 4pm – Culture Portfolio meeting
6pm – Labour Group campaigning

Tuesday 10 November, 5.30pm – Early Warning Group

Wednesday 11 November, 11am – Armistice Day Service, Ipswich Cemetery

Thursday 12 November, 6pm – North East Ipswich Partnership Group meeting
7pm – North East Ipswich Area Committee, St John’s Church – Cauldwell Hall Rd

Saturday 14 November, 10am – Labour campaigning in South East Ipswich

Autumn now in full swing as so is our Labour campaigning, we are currently informing residents that we have had to put our hold on a proposal that would have saved most Ipswich residents money. Remember up to 2010 when Mr Cameron pretended to lead a new greener Tory Party, that seems so long ago now and as well as the concern we should have for the planet the latest Tory policy change is hurting Ipswich residents in their pockets.

Labour run Ipswich Borough Council was all set to install solar panels on 2,000 Ipswich Council houses, then the Tories pulled the plug on the scheme by slashing the benefits which would have been gained from the feed-in tariffs.

The benefits would have been;

1.         A saving for tenants on their electric bills

2.         An income to council and. Therefore a saving to ALL Council tax payers

3.         Reduction in carbon emissions – good for the environment

4.         A boost for jobs in Ipswich

So the Tory policy change is a blow to tenants, all Ipswich Council tax payers and possibly the loss of up to 140 jobs in Ipswich.

Ben Gummer our Tory MP supports the Government change in policy and no surprise so does the Ipswich Tory leader, Nadia Cenci – actually it is less of a surprise that Cllr Cenci supports the removal of subsidies to the solar panel industry and she could be described as a climate change denier – then again she also questions if there is any real poverty in the UK! – Out of touch?

We will Remember them

Kohima Epitaph

When you go home
Tell them of us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today

Today we remember those from Ipswich who paid the ultimate sacrifice, I also remember those who I served alongside in the Royal Green Jackets and the Rifles who lost their lives in conflict.

Paul Harding - friend, mentor 

Mark Hale

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.

Sunday 1 November 2015

My week ahead, 2 - 7 November 2015

Monday 2 November, 4pm – Culture Portfolio meeting
6pm – North East Ipswich Parks meeting
7pm - Labour Executive meeting

Friday 6 November, 7pm – ‘Beryl’  at the New Wolsey

Saturday 7 November, 10am – Labour campaigning in South West Ipswich

Over the last few weeks we have been speaking to our hundreds of new members, to ask them why they joined. We also wanted to know what they wish us to campaign on as a local Labour Party.

I have spoken to over 50 of those new members and will speak to a number more at our Labour Fair this morning – it is obvious these new members will bring a much needed boost to the party but what was also noticeable that most of their concerns were the same and also concerns that current Labour members and councillors already held.

It might surprise the Tories and Mr Gummer, no one mentioned London in ‘60’ for our trains, or even turning the town centre round. Their main concerns were;

1.         The NHS – They fear even more privatisation
2.         Refugee crisis , most were embarrassed by the poor and weak response to the crisis                               shown by Cameron and the Tory Government
3.         Education – Not only the forced academisation by the Tories but the complete dismantling of the further education provision in the UK.

The further education question is one that the Labour Party should have raised
earlier, the members I spoke to were not on about universities but about adult learning – the Suffolk New College used to run a number of evening courses as did other educational establishments- from interests subjects such as languages, art, local history to a course that may help you find a new job such as improving your computer skills.

As I was about to leave the army I undertook a number of computer courses at a low charge at a local education centre in Nottingham, try now to find such a facility.

It is now wonder that Ben Gummer and the local Tories want to concentrate on trains and shops – I also this week have been in conversation with a number of Rushmere residents, many of whom are members of Neighbourhood Watch Schemes. All of them are very concerned about the cuts to the local police force. Our Tory Crime and Commissioner has been asked directly about police involvement with our Area Committees and elected representatives, at first we got no response but after asking again we were told it was up to the Chief Constable not the PCC- ducking the question?

The PCC, Mr Passmore is up for election in May, I hope residents question him about proposed cuts, his fellow Tory PCC in Essex has stated that local ‘bobbies’ on the beat is a luxury that now can no longer be afforded!

Did not read that in any Tory leaflet at the General Election – remember when the Tories once described themselves as the party of ‘Law and Order’?

Then again George Osborne has now re-branded them as the ‘Workers Party’ maybe better just to keep to a simpler description that we can all agree with – The Tory Party – the ‘Selfish Party’.