Respect


I have lost count of the times that I have driven along the ‘D-Day route’ in Normandy and visited the American war cemetery at Omaha beach. The beach at Omaha consists of golden sand, and there are few reminders of the bloody battle that took place on 6th June 1944. The reminder is the cemetery with its near 10,000 service people buried there. It is a beautiful location, wonderfully maintained, and quite simply heart breaking. I have taken numerous school parties there, and not once have I had to tell a young person how to behave. It demands respect. It is a shock to young people to see so many graves and realise that the servicemen interred here are not much older than themselves. The only other place that has this impact on young people is Auschwitz.

The 80th anniversary of D-Day is the last big celebration that will have veterans in attendance. It was moving and inspiring to hear the stories of the veterans who attended. It was particularly noticeable how they interacted with members of the Royal Family, and happily told their stories. The landings on 6th June were the beginning of the end of the Second World War. As a nation, we can be proud of the resilience, determination, bravery and ‘keep-going’ mentality of the people. We had a prime minister in Winston Churchill, who used the English language to inspire servicemen and civilians alike. He is seen by many as the greatest Englishman of all time.

Britain did not win the war on its own – it needed help from its Commonwealth, other European countries, and, eventually, the USA. We came close to defeat in the Battle of Britain – the RAF had pilots from numerous countries, including Poles and Czechs. The Poles were very successful squadrons of fighter planes even if they struggled with the language. For all these reasons, I found it incomprehensible that the current Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, failed to attend the international event of the celebration. We did not win the war on our own – we did it in partnership.

The Prime Minister has since apologised for his huge mistake in not showing respect to the thousands who died on this crucial day and to the survivors. Sadly, I do not see him as a role model to young people. I said to Graham Brady, a few years ago, that I thought politicians needed to be role models for young people. He disagreed, he thought they were. I see little that changes my mind. Lying and continuing to lie seem to be part of some politicians’ playbook. They continue to dig holes. I don’t get a feeling that some want to serve their country – it is their own career that comes first. There are some wonderful exceptions to this e.g. James Arbuthnot with the Postmasters; Diana Johnson – Contaminated Blood.

I want all politicians – whatever their party – to be role models for young people and to demonstrate what service to your country truly means.


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