SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Build bridges, not walls

Sir Peter Bottomley

Sir Peter Bottomley

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This week’s special parliamentary session in memory of our colleague Jo Cox included every member wearing a white rose. This recognised that she was a Yorkshire lass.

Our history includes the Wars of the Roses, with battles between kings from Lancaster (the red rose) and from York.

I am Parliamentary Warden of St Margaret’s Church, Parliament Square, the Parish Church for the House of Commons.

On Monday the Speaker led the Commons and Lords to the Jo Cox service. Within hours of her sad death I had suggested that would be appropriate.

A former Labour Member of Parliament, Jo’s friend for 18 years, sat beside me.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, gave a moving address based on the Bible reading. The congregation included Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Humanists and Christians of every denomination – people united, not separated.

Jo knew that every day a Member of Parliament can make a difference to the lives of others.

Without criticising the wider media, I do wish there were occasional articles and broadcast programmes that illustrate that there are many people like Jo in each major party, doing good in ways that are unfashionable or at the time unpopular, in addition to the necessarily confidential casework for individual constituents.

This week I had intended to write about the two issues dominating my activities.

The European Referendum: I have enjoyed courteous discussions with constituents and with colleagues, particularly with Tim Loughton MP and with Henry Smith MP, the former leader of West Sussex County Council.

I have explained that we should make our choice by what we judge to be good for the world, good for the wider Europe as well as for EU countries, for what we think will best help those in our United Kingdom who are worse off than ourselves, also by what we believe to be in our individual and family self-interest.

Self-interest without selfishness, like taking responsibility for ourselves, helps to make our world a better place.

The rail situation, with all the miseries for travellers, is my priority now.

I have had three meetings with rail ministers, four discussions at Govia and I have talked or met with ASLEF, the drivers’ union, and with the RMT, the union for other rail staff.

Cancellations and overcrowding have created conditions which are unsafe and intolerable.

I have been calling for a period of respite, normal working and a review group, helped by ACAS.

Nobody is gaining from the present conditions where the travellers feel they are being held to ransom and where customer-facing rail staff are under stress.

The rights and wrongs of modern, safe operating can be discussed peacefully.

Jo’s way – speaking up, speaking clearly, being positive – is my way, too.

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