2021
WORTHING HERALD ARTICLES
A SELECTION OF MY RECENT WORTHING HERALD COLUMNS CAN BE FOUND HERE
 

Join To Stir Or To Be Stirred

22nd July 2021

If anyone wants a calm life in political service, think again. It is physically demanding; it can be emotionally draining. If you are the rare person responding to a request to meet a special interest group, expect to come away with extra responsibilities to investigate unfairness or to promote the worthwhile activities they say, often rightly, will contribute to better lives for them or for those for whom they care. Opening the post, I realise that the wealth generating sectors of the economy seldom write. That is why I welcomed the business day at Wilton Park, Wiston where MP colleagues Andrew Griffith and Tim Loughton welcomed Trade Secretary Liz Truss.

Helping the World's Poorest

15th July 2021

The argument that charity begins and ends at home does not convince some people I respect most. The story of the Jericho road was not about the richest or the most learned helping the victim of mugging. The least regarded gave practical help, gave money to the innkeeper and was trusted to return to pay extra if necessary. I regret not being on the side with most votes on Tuesday. The savings to people in the United Kingdom are the interest on the withdrawn aid: say one hundredth of less than one percent of our national income. Life includes losing. I would never have been a captain of the House of Commons football team if we had to win every time. 

Staying in Touch

08th July 2021

Decades past, constituents might have to arrange a conversation with their member of parliament by exchange of letters to agree where and when to meet. Forty years ago, a third of households had no telephone. Mobile radio technology, Clansman and Ptarmigan, was used by the military. Mobile phones for civilians came later. The Members’ Lobby in the Commons had distinguished Badge Messengers who could lodge incoming telephone calls and individual letters. Then they could move around the Palace of Westminster with ‘green slips’ from people who chose to attend the Commons in the hope that their MP could be found and would be free to come to the Central Lobby for a conversation.

Alternatives, Opponents, Rivals,
Not Enemies

01st July 2021

Hundreds of children in communities across the constituency and country are involved weekly in sports. A few paid organisers and great numbers of volunteers including parents are reliable guides and helpers. I thank all involved. At matches, I quietly suggest over-enthusiastic touchline supporters moderate their shouts of encouragement. Children should see the other side as opponents or possibly as rivals. Neither the young nor newspaper editors should repeat the expression ‘enemy’. If intentional, it is a mistake; if a mistake, it should be spotted and deleted.

24 Hours in Public Service

24th June 2021

We had 24 hours with two grandchildren under the age of ten. When I think a day and night in politics is testing, I remember some of the excitements of chasing around with the young, when they are enjoying life, meeting friends, getting lost at Chessington and seeing them play with other children after a Covid compliant christening. Tuesday started with my thoughts on HMT Empire Windrush. His Majesty’s Transport arrived in Tilbury 73 years ago with over 1,000 paying passengers and two stowaways. Most intended to settle in the United Kingdom. I count some as friends.

Human Faces in Political Lives

17th June 2021

In each political act there will be consequences for fellow humans. Many are not party based. In general, I believe that people change things; systems do not. Systems may be changed; people may be unchanged. The G7 meeting showed leadership styles vary. Successful ones include elements of respecting individuals, building teams and achieving tasks. I am more of a follower though not always guided by the same person for more than one element in life. A sect leader might find me unreliable, if I started to follow at all. Justice and opportunity are the issues that are common to many of my public activities.

Human Faces in Political Lives

17th June 2021

In each political act there will be consequences for fellow humans. Many are not party based. In general, I believe that people change things; systems do not. Systems may be changed; people may be unchanged. The G7 meeting showed leadership styles vary. Successful ones include elements of respecting individuals, building teams and achieving tasks. I am more of a follower though not always guided by the same person for more than one element in life. A sect leader might find me unreliable, if I started to follow at all. Justice and opportunity are the issues that are common to many of my public activities.

MPs Serve Their Constituency,
Not Vice Versa

10th June 2021

Most members of parliament come to love their constituencies and the residents. MPs are recognised as the last resort when an issue cannot be resolved in other ways. Voters know their representative at Westminster can be active in the community interest locally, nationally and internationally. Virginia wants me to adopt the quotations she offers to students. Disraeli said the greatest honour for a person in this country is a seat in the House of Commons. Burke said your MP owes you their industry- but if they substitute your opinion for their views, they fail instead of serving you.

Top Houses and Gardens in West Sussex

03rd June 2021

Since 1996 we have enjoyed a pleasant small home in central Worthing at the corner of Ambrose Place and Portland Road, opposite Christ Church. When C-19 and rain allow, I am an enthusiast for the charming back gardens of Ambrose Place, opened for the National Garden Scheme fundraising for medical charities. It is possible to stroll to the Town Hall, to the Pier and to nearby amenities, including the Dome. Tim Loughton and I as local MPs produced £10 as token money when the Trust was created to save it. Worthing Borough Council have contributed more to our country’s greatest chalk garden, given by Sybil, Lady Stern.

 
 

The Next Generation of Parents

27th May 2021

When he retired as Archbishop of York, I said John Sentamu should be appointed back to the House of Lords. This week he was reintroduced, supported by Lord Popat and Baroness Hale, the first woman to be top judge in the UK. Dame Rosalyn Higgins had been president of the World Court at the Hague. Her husband Terence was the notable and respected member of parliament for Worthing. Popat’s autobiography, A British Subject: How to Make It as an Immigrant in the Best Country in the World, included a kind reference to the offer Virginia and I made to the Home Office as we supported the decision to welcome thousands of Asians when the awful Idi Amin expelled them penniless from Uganda.

The Next Generation of Parents

27th May 2021

When he retired as Archbishop of York, I said John Sentamu should be appointed back to the House of Lords. This week he was reintroduced, supported by Lord Popat and Baroness Hale, the first woman to be top judge in the UK. Dame Rosalyn Higgins had been president of the World Court at the Hague. Her husband Terence was the notable and respected member of parliament for Worthing. Popat’s autobiography, A British Subject: How to Make It as an Immigrant in the Best Country in the World, included a kind reference to the offer Virginia and I made to the Home Office as we supported the decision to welcome thousands of Asians when the awful Idi Amin expelled them penniless from Uganda.

Maths Matters

20th May 2021

Nira Chamberlain is the President of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications. He was advised to be a boxer; his child was told to be a singer. Each wanted to be a mathematician. His calm description of his progress towards a doctorate age 45 is inspiring. His challenges were great. His work to remember and to recognise black engineers and mathematicians is important and interesting. Listen on playback to his conversation with Professor Jim Al-Khalili in The Life Scientific series. Hear how he worked out the replacement cycle for large military kitchens. Learn how he helped to save the large carrier programme.

The Queen's Speech

 

13th May 2021

The State Opening of Parliament starts the parliamentary year, sometimes it extends to two. It is the main ceremonial event in the calendar, There were no guests for the reduced ceremony. The Queen and the Crown came by car for her first appearance in public since the death of Prince Philip. As a schoolboy I would stand to cheer opposite the House of Lords’ Sovereign entrance as the coach turned under the Victoria Tower where Acts of Parliament are stored on vellum. The Private Bills promoting the building of canals and later of railways include fascinating maps with incredible details.

Political Choices Within Parties

06th May 2021

When Speaker, John Bercow was generous in allowing many to use the fine public rooms in the Speaker’s House. He extended the tradition of his predecessors, with a series of interesting lectures and talks on parliamentary history, the lives of MPs or on constitutional topics. Lord Fowler has hosted similar occasions in the Upper House. Norman Fowler’s last speaker was his friend Ken Clarke, answering prompts by Peter Mandelson. Their histories go back over 50 years. There are many people who could have led their parties and perhaps served as prime minister.

Voting Against Government, Not Often

 

29th April 2021

 

On Monday the decent minister tried to say to the House of Commons that the Lords’ amendment to help ‘mortgage prisoners’ was not needed by some and would not work for others. I disagreed and voted accordingly. The details are complicated. The simple point is that too many are trapped with inactive lenders: the borrower could not switch to a lower normal rate of interest. I swallowed my doubts on other points that night. Tuesday brought the Bill on the leaseholder’s fire cladding costs crisis with the Bishop of St Albans’s helpful amendment.

Fairness in Work and Education

22nd April 2021

There is a broad range of interesting issues that matter to members of parliament and to their constituents. They often link, especially on race, religion and ethnicity. This week I chaired The Future of Work meeting for the Economic and Social Research Council. Politicians and academics came together at the Social Sciences all-party group. Experts reported changes in work arrangements as the C-19 crisis widened and deepened. Some points matched our experiences or our guesses. Work can be as productive at home as in an office.

Community and  Prince Philip

 

15th April 2021

Muslims are now observing daytime fasting, abstinence and reflection. A fortnight earlier than last year, Ramadan runs from Tuesday 13 April to Monday 12 May as days lengthen by two hours. The fixed Sikh (and Hindu) festival of Vaisakhi takes place this week: it usually falls on 13 or 14 April every year. In 1928 a UK law was passed to make possible fixing the Christian Easter as the Sunday after the second Saturday in April. This would be compatible with a Vatican proposal that was conditional on other denominations agreeing.

The Power of Unconditional Love

 

8th April 2021

 

This country is a finer stronger place as we understand and share the traditions and festivals of world faiths and national cultures. Some traditions are relatively modern: Queen Victoria’s Albert is credited with developing much of the Christmas we now know and celebrate. Easter is popular though its depth and breadth is not known to all. The significance of Holy Week and the agonies of Good Friday can be experienced in a lengthy vigil and by the reflections of a priest or minister.

Conflict and Chaos or Cooperation and Kindness

1st April 2021

The Police Inspectorate’s conclusions on the policing at the Sarah Everard Clapham Common bandstand vigil came out on Tuesday. I welcomed them. No one should have been surprised. The strikingly dramatic image of the woman on the ground had already been explained by The Times photographer. For hours, the gathering was reasonably Covid compliant. The twilight crowd grew with groups including Reclaim the Streets. Direct action protestors seldom cooperate with the police, the women and men who keep us safe.

 
 
 

Reflections on a Life in Politics

28th January 2021

 

Careers teachers or students ask me about paid jobs in politics. Most roles are unremunerated. Councillors may receive an allowance. A constituency activist can find politics expensive, whether seen as a hobby or lifetime occupation. Unlikely events led me in 1964 to the Singapore home of Admiral Sir Varyl Begg, our Far East Commander-in-Chief.

When asked what I might like to become, I was thinking that being Chancellor of Exchequer could be a worthwhile responsibility and fun, watching the rich and the poor, wondering how tax and transfer payments could make lives better.

Actions Lead to Remarkable Results

 

21st January 2021

 
 

In normal times, there are popular walks along the South Downs. One of my favourites is from the top of Bury Hill. The Arun river and railway wind through the valley to the north of Amberley castle. To the south the Rampion wind farm lies in the sea beyond Arundel and the coastal communities of our constituencies. The difficulty with day-to-day political activity is that it is often hides actions that can compound up to great benefits. There were arguments in the 1970s about coal miners and the industrial disputes. I kept trying to include the question: why were we burning coal and why were we choosing to continue deep mining?

Campaigning Charities, Common Sense

14th January 2021

 

At the weekend I enjoyed the online quiz evening led by Katie Sanderson of Brighton and Dan Coxhill of Worthing. The other MP was Sara Britcliffe: she was elected age 24 in 2019 for Hyndburn, Lancashire; this was two years after she had been mayoress alongside her father before succeeding him as the local councillor. Unsurprisingly she beat me in the quiz on topical culture events. We enjoyed answering questions together on the purposes, practices and lives in politics. It reminded me that in each major party in each constituency there are overlapping groups of people contributing within communities and nationally.

Partnership of Pupils, Parents, Teachers

07th January 2021

 

The fascinating BBC radio 4 discussion on education, schools and parents on Wednesday morning reminds me of a diagram by Toby Weaver; he had been the Ministry of Education civil servant whose signature was on my ‘O’ and ‘A’ level certificates. He drew circles around the student: the closest influences were parents and family. Teachers and friends mattered too. We want every child to grow, to prosper and to recover from difficulties. Adult authority matters. Forgiveness and love make a difference. No household can hang out a sign claiming truly that everything is always all right.

Social and Printed Media Matters

25th February 2021

 
 
 

We noticed the spat between the Australian political system and Facebook over fair payments for use of the product of traditional journalism. There are reports it is being resolved. The powerful realise that no one remains above the law. Big industry moguls in steel, railways, oil production have each felt the impact of regulation and monopoly challenge. My concern about the new giants is their advantages in taking so high a proportion of advertising revenues. Most of our public service broadcasters are funded by those revenues; most of our newspapers and magazines are too.

Best Leaders Drive Taxis and Cut Hair

18th February 2021

 
 
 

Newspaper leader-writers have the answer to most insoluble dilemmas. So does the cabbie and so do the barber and hairdresser. I welcome conversations with constituents, gaining good modern common sense and plenty of old-fashioned wisdom. Combining discussions and radio broadcasting keeps us informed, learning about sources of help.  Ministers respond to members of parliament who bring forward questions and experiences within each constituency. Here are illustrative examples that are now winging their way to Whitehall departments. 

Think New Things, Make Connections

11th February 2021

 
 
 

Thank you, Sir Tom. News this week has not all been cheerful. The army in Burma, Myanmar, tipped out the government that recently won 80 percent of the popular vote. The excuse was familiar. The general claimed ‘election fraud’. Heard that elsewhere recently? The real reason: was he apprehensive about a possible war trial at the Hague court on charges related to the appalling treatment of the Rohingyas? Sadly, expect the Chinese and the Russians to block effective action by the Security Council of the United Nations. A Russian court imprisons Alexei Navalny for breaking the conditions of a previous suspended sentence.

Cpt.Tom Bringing Our Nation Together

04th February 2021

 
 
 

Thank you, Sir Tom. News this week has not all been cheerful. The army in Burma, Myanmar, tipped out the government that recently won 80 percent of the popular vote. The excuse was familiar. The general claimed ‘election fraud’. Heard that elsewhere recently? The real reason: was he apprehensive about a possible war trial at the Hague court on charges related to the appalling treatment of the Rohingyas? Sadly, expect the Chinese and the Russians to block effective action by the Security Council of the United Nations. A Russian court imprisons Alexei Navalny for breaking the conditions of a previous suspended sentence.

Be Active Against Unfairness

25th March 2021

 
 

What I say in parliament is not always popular with ministerial colleagues. Years later, what was controversial may become the new orthodoxy. If the policy works, it becomes the brilliant child of the late adopter; otherwise it remains my orphan. Around 1980, government mistakenly brought forward a regulation that I thought was or could be interpreted as racially discriminatory. I prefer other words ending with the tory letters, including story, rectory, nonstory, dormitory, promontory, celebratory, satisfactory, perambulatory, circumlocutory, non-contributory…

Free Societies Flourish When They Care

 
 

18th March 2021

 

The week started with a series of successes for individual constituents. Our helping service is confidential: that is why we do not give details. Efforts to resolve difficulties work often, not always. Sometimes we can suggest an alternative way to view an issue. It can be helpful to change the question. Most organisations, private or public, want to do what is right, if possible and fair. The people with the computers can say yes. On Tuesday, the Prime Minister reported on the Integrated Review of security, defence, development and foreign policy.

Contributions To Our Lives Are Visible

 

11th March 2021

 

International days and special months matter. They provide a focus on achievements and on necessary progress. Black History gave newspapers and broadcasters prompts to remember overlooked pioneers in science, academia, music and healthcare. When Virginia was responsible for the National Health Service, it gained from the talents of women and skilled staff from many countries, heritages, skin colours and backgrounds. Missing were leaders of colour in the professional bodies and unions. She encouraged positive action.

Making the Future Better, Together

04th March 2021

 
 
 
 

I hope to contribute in the Budget debate on issues that matter to leaseholders here and around the nation. Urgently I ask government to suspend the threat of forfeiture on residential leaseholders who cannot pay. Most of the flats in the constituency are safe and saleable. All should be. The staggering sums of money needed to make some city blocks safe was discussed this week at the Housing Select Committee. A minority of leaseholders, more accurately termed lease-renters and by law only tenants, face section 20 notices of costs.