Spalding Guardian letters EU was an attempt to replace dangerous Nationalism
We have just finished commemorating the Great War (World War I). This year there were more in-depth portrayals good enough to convey to younger people some of the particular horror of that war.
The UK lost around three-quarters of a million dead - nearly a million when you count in the Empire countries. France lost twice as many and had its countryside and many towns devastated. Germany also lost more, and about half a million German civilians starved to death through blockade of the ports. And there were more.
I am old enough to remember the after effects - still very present in the 1930s. My father had been in the trenches and was wounded more than once, but fortunately not with permanent physical effect. But I remember a neighbour, and the school attendance officer, and a local smallholder, each with a missing leg. And later, I remember schoolmasters, one with gas-damaged lungs and one with a hand missing. And so on, and - of course - there was the list on the war memorial.
When I was a boy, it used to seem simple to know who was to blame: Germany started the war and got what it deserved, right? Now I know it was more complicated than that. In several countries, leaders certainly 'had designs’ or reacted badly to events, until war became inevitable; but they got the support of many (if not all) of their populations by whipping up Nationalistic feelings, and black-painting other countries. I don’t especially blame those populations: they believed what they heard, but there was no bigger enabler of the disastrous result.
I think it was greatly to the credit of the European countries, that in the aftermath of the Second World War they came to the idea of embarking on a common endeavour leading to what eventually became the European Union the EU. Imperfect as it is, it is not simply a commercial arrangement, though that is how it has been most discussed of late: it is an attempt to replace dangerous Nationalism with something better - a common cause that would allow long-term peaceful co-existence. I am sorry that Britain is leaving that endeavour and I am sorry to experience the Nationalistic feelings aimed against Europe and now beginning to occur inside Europe itself.
A week or so ago, I heard Nigel Farage in an interview, extolling the virtues of the Nation State and wishing for Europe to return to a collection of such states. I would have liked to hear instead a voice determined to tackle the real problems that exist in the European project, and to seek a good realisation of the original goal, with Britain playing a leading role.
Let's all do our bit to reduce plastics
As the recent BBC documentaries Blue Planet II and Drowning in Plastic have vividly illustrated, the overuse of plastics, that persist in the natural environment, is ruining our oceans, damaging ecosystems and killing wildlife.
The scale of this problem is such that we can’t recycle our way out of it. It requires concerted action by consumers, retailers, manufacturers, designers, and local and national government to reduce the amount of plastic we use, especially single-use plastics.
I would encourage all local residents to take small but important steps to reduce their plastic use, such as using bar soap rather than pump dispensers; saying no to plastic straws in restaurants and pubs, and using refillable water bottles.
I also hope all local businesses will join this effort by thinking about how they can reduce plastic use in their everyday operations. Together we can protect our environment and our wildlife.
The Treaty of Rome is not holy scripture
I wish to respond to a couple of letters that appeared in the Lincolnshire free press of November 6 calling for a re- think on Brexit and that leaving Europe is a mistake. We are not 'leaving Europe' for a start.
The vote to leave the EU was almost inevitable. The road to Brexit started with the signing of the Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties in the 90s. Clearly our leaders were taking us into a different relationship with Europe to the Common Market of 1975.
The accession of eight new countries into the EU from 2004 changed the whole dynamics of the club. The influx of so many from those regions fuelled xenophobia and understandably so, for while there were benefits to this influx , there were also downsides. Remember it was not just the individual migrants that arrived but the relatives they brought over and the children they had. It should be noted that despite the vote to leave, many are still arriving, particularly from Romania and Bulgaria. Why?
The changes to this region are noticeable, as with Cambridgeshire and the North. Yes, some sectors rely heavily on European labour but that is no excuse for a 'free for all'. The way it works is that the more people there are in the country the more you need to support that growth. A lot of immigration into the UK is not fuelled by demand for Labour. Much of it is the bringing over of family members. The influx from outside the EU is as much a problem as from within it. Either way, the UK population is now 66.5 million.
Lastly, the difficulties in coming to some sort of agreement with EU leaders comes down to this; the EU is a political and ideological project. They regard the Treaty of Rome as holy scripture, written by God, when in fact it was written by men as a way of dealing with issues of that time. They also feel that giving Britain an easy, cost-free exit would mean other nations doing the same. I suggest the EU administrators or leaders have no right to impose this ideology on free nations without question.
What a monumental mess
Everyone can now see for themselves the monumental mess Brexit has inevitably become. We are only five months away from experiencing the increasingly catastrophic implications of Brexit for individuals, families and workplaces, for businesses facing huge extra costs, complexities and barriers, and for the country as a whole. So how do we dig ourselves out of this mess?
First, we need to distinguish between the benefits of EU membership and the day-to-day problems experienced by voters that have been created by our increasingly ineffectual, party-politically-obsessed political system in Westminster, such as: our scandalous national housing crisis, underfunding of healthcare, social care, education, policing, local authority services, the introduction of Universal Credit, control of migration and integration of migrant workers, plus long-standing underfunding of services in rural Lincolnshire compared with other counties.
These are the sort of problems that really affect the lives of people locally, not minor regulatory decisions made in Brussels with the UK's active help and support.
In case readers are sceptical about the benefits of EU membership, let me mention just four:
Prosperity. The EU has been phenomenally successful for jobs, trade, business and prosperity. It has dragged previously poor parts of Eastern Europe from poverty to prosperity, thereby creating huge new markets for our own goods and services.
Ireland. Without both the north and south of Ireland being in the EU, the Good Friday Agreement would never have happened. Peace in Ireland is an amazing legacy of shared EU membership.
Benefits for young people. Young people today have grown up knowing nothing other than EU citizenship. This has enabled them to travel, study, live, work, fall in love, marry, settle and build fantastic lives anywhere across the largest, most successful, most prosperous trading bloc in the world. It has also enabled us to become a true world leader in scientific research.
Peace. People tend to forget it was Sir Winston Churchill's visionary speech in Zürich in 1946 that led directly to the 73 years of peace we've enjoyed since the ending of two catastrophic World Wars only 21 years apart. I'd like to think that, if anyone were given the choice between living in peace and anything else, they'd choose peace.
Unfortunately, we do seem to have become complacent about the benefits of peace in Europe in a way our forebears wouldn't even begin to comprehend. 73 years of peace represents the longest-ever period of peace among major powers in Europe over 3,000 years – and we should be hugely grateful to Winston Churchill, the European Movement and the EU for this unprecedented success.
Having understood that EU membership is not the cause of today's fundamental problems in the UK, whereas Westminster is, it becomes easier to see a constructive way forward.
Short answer: ask voters if they'd prefer to accept Theresa May's Brexit deal or to remain in the EU on the beneficial terms we currently enjoy. Then start building a fairer, more just, more equitable society in the UK.
Please let me be proud of Spalding Remembrance once again
I read many letters over the weeks and months talking about how much Spalding has changed over the past few years, and they are correct. For those of us born here, and in my case over 55 years ago, the town is a very different place, but there again so is anywhere. We just notice being long term residents here.
However, the one thing I have always been VERY proud of, and have happily told anyone when the subject has come up, is how incredibly proud I am to be a Spalding man regarding the Remembrance Service held in the grounds of Ayscoughfee each year.
I have attended this service for many many years, and have travelled over 40 miles in the past to make sure I am at Ayscoughfee for the special day despite passing many other parades/services closer to me on the day. Well put together, from the town centre, to the service, and back into town. The respect shown by all for a very special day for those of us with parents or other family involved in the various conflicts around the world, and to be a part of the applauding crowd when the veterans make their way back to town is a moving moment I never missed.
However, it is with a sad heart that I feel I have to put down my feelings regarding this year's event.
When I arrived in good time on the Sunday morning, it was with both disappointment, and almost anger on seeing the Cenotaph Stone in such an appalling state.Why oh why did someone not think that this was an essential job to sort before the event ? If I had known in the week, I would have happily offered to do this on my hands and knees if needed, it was nothing other than a disgrace. I almost shed a tear in disbelief.
Why oh why didn't they think to keep checking the sound system every 10-15 minutes before the service. It's all well and good setting it up, testing it, and walking away thinking all is well, but for such an important and vital part of the whole ceremony to have the farcical situation we had was unacceptable. I was there 40 minutes before and no testing to make sure all was still okay was done. Why?
One of the most poignant moments of the service is the lowering of the Union Jack when the last post is played, (played very well by the way), and then raised after the two minute silence. The flag remained at the top of the pole. Why?
The reading out of the regiments, services etc, for the wreath laying part was, I'm actually sorry to say, farcical. I felt embarrassed just being there as a member of the public. I can't imagine how the people waiting to be called, or in some cases not even called, felt.
There will, no doubt, be a response offering me the chance to do better myself if I wasn't happy etc, but actually this is a letter I never thought I would ever need to put together, and hope more than anyone else, I never need to repeat it.
If I was reading this as a part of the team putting it together, I would take note and ask myself why we gave someone the reason to write anything other than a thank you
PLEASE let me be proud once more of the Spalding Town remembrance service, and help us all to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the relevant conflicts. Please.
Spalding Born and Bred and proud of it