My constituency service in past days and this week has included tackling Southern Water on waste water management and severe flooding locally, discussing ongoing concerns and issues with postal delivery with senior managers and staff at Worthing's Royal Mail Sorting Office, and learning more about inclusive education provision at EducateU for those who fit into neither mainstream nor special educational needs schools locally.
This week began with meeting my new whip for a coffee following last week's reshuffle. My whips and constituents will recognise that I am independent and singular when it matters most. I have never acted in the interest of personal gain within Parliament. I represent Worthing in Westminster, not Westminster in Worthing.
The advice I often give to incoming MPs based on my experience is to hear what your whips are saying; consider their guidance and do what you think in the best interests of all.
My experience has included active membership of the Transport and General Workers Union branch in the Labour Party’s headquarters. When I served as industrial relations minister in the Department of Employment, it was because I respected the role of shop stewards and because I had by good fortune achieved distinction in the examination of the then Institute of Personnel Management and because my father-in-law was the remarkable John Garnett, director of The Industrial Society.
Some problems do not appear to have an obvious human solution. One was the running dilemma of Southern Rhodesia. A combination of effective outside pressures induced Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF and other nationalist groups to come to a London Conference led by Lord Carrington, encouraged by Margaret Thatcher. The tragedy is how Zimbabwe was later led to disaster. I regret Nelson Mandela could not tell Robert Mugabe how to behave.
Developments in Ireland, north and south, east and west across the Irish sea, have been better. Some are surprised by the current involvement of Sinn Fein in active democratic politics in Belfast and Dublin. Peter Brooke was the Northern Ireland Secretary of State when I was a Minister for Agriculture there. He opened the door to possible developments and reconciliation with courageous speaking and personal efforts.
Some Middle East issues will remain unresolved until peace is acceptable by both sides. Israelis will be justified in expecting all hostages to be released, assurances that such an atrocious attack will not be repeated and that Palestinians and neighbouring states will acknowledge and recognise a State of Israel. Palestinians will want security and sovereignty. Neither is incongruous with the other. Reconciliation cannot be reached from both extremes, those who are moderate are in danger when leading voices move further to the extremes.
I knew Said Hammani, the London head of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO). His background was in journalism, diplomacy and politics. He promoted peaceful coexistence between Israel and Palestine, perhaps one of the earliest suggestions of the two-state solution. He was assassinated whilst in London by an extremist breakaway part of the PLO.
In the current conflict escalated by the deliberate unrestrained killings and hostage taking of the Hamas attack of 7 October, there is the urgent need to stop the suffering now and in the future. My recommended steps can include truce, suspension of violence and steps towards ceasefire or other descriptions of not fighting, with the expectation that murderous attacks will not recur. Humanitarian aid, whilst conflict freezes vital services in Gaza, must be allowed to reach where needed most.
Residents have been vocal in their condemnation of atrocities on both sides of the conflict. I respect, respond and recall every message and every view shared. Varying views are shared – it is right to recognise each view and act on behalf of all constituents, not just those able to speak the loudest.
On Friday at 10am I look forward to welcoming local residents to my regular Drop-In Advice Session in Ferring ASDA where I will listen to further views as well as offering advice and solutions to issues and concerns. Do view my website for further information: www.SirPeterBottomley.com/events/ferring-drop-advice-session.
Coming to terms with history requires coming to terms with each other, today and every day.