I was invited onto a BBC Wales radio programme, Sunday Supplement, last Sunday, taking a look at some of the stories making the news in the last week. I was there to talk about the long term effects of war and awful situations on the health of servicemen and ex-servicemen that had been triggered by an incredible statement in Westminster by Bob Stewart MP about a bomb in Ballykelly 30 years ago. (His transcript starts at 3.34)
It was an illuminating experience as I was “sharing” the item with Madeline Moon, the MP for Bridgend. I’d not met her before and we chatted before going on air and anticipated being in violent agreement on the matter. Treatment for the wounded and needy had to be provided, more needed to be done. It was going to be clear and positive, an easy ride.
And then she brought politics into it! Her first answer involved reminding listeners that the last Labour Government had done so much to formalise the Military Covenant, as if this was a tremendous achievement to be lauded at every opportunity. She did not of course mention that the Blair years were probably the most active for military intervention that this nation has ever seen and nor did she question the legitimacy of some of those campaigns. No: this was all about reinforcing how “great they’d been”.
Boy, did that irritate me! We were there to talk about the important issue of how to support people who are suffering mainly mental challenges from conflicts like Northern Ireland in the 70’s as well as those more visibly in need from Afghanistan. Her words served only to place party politics above the real needs of those many individuals.
And on the way home I reflected about something David Davies MP had said earlier in the programme when discussing Gay Marriages. Basically he was against supporting gay marriages as to do so could alienate droves of party activists. And by party activists he meant the foot soldiers who stuff leaflets, take calls and do the hard yards to get members elected. In short: he placed (
his) election results above the need to support an issue of equality and respect.
Sometimes I really would like to see our politicians deal with the issues rather than worry about the politics surrounding them. And it is to the enormous credit of Heidi Alexander who followed Bob Stewart’s incredibly personal and emotional statement in the House when she said:
I feel quite inadequate to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart). He and I are both Members of Parliament representing south-east London constituencies. It would probably be fair to say that we have very different political views, but after listening to the speech that he has just made, some of those political views become somewhat irrelevant, given what he said about his own experience in the armed forces, and what he and many others who serve in the Army, the RAF and the Navy see with their own eyes. I feel very honoured and privileged to have listened to the speech that he gave.
She rose above politics and was an example to many.