SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Change for the better

The community lunch at Rustington Convalescent Home
The community lunch at Rustington Convalescent Home

Progress on issues requires knowledge, insight, thinking and action.

Every month, sometimes each week, decisions are made that will have benefits for a few or for many, now and in the future.

Sir Peter Bottomley

Sir Peter Bottomley

Credit should seldom go to one person. Achieving tasks requires individual initiative and team working. Popular involvement matters.

In my mind are two of the changes over the 20 years that Tim Loughton and I have served as local members of parliament.

The KWASH campaign, led by Major Tom Wye and by Ron Noakes of the League of Friends, successfully diffused the absurd idea that either Worthing and Southlands Hospitals or Chichester Hospital should close or lose maternity and A&E services.

Jon Buss, then editor of the Worthing Herald, and his wise son Simon Buss each gave critical support.

Since then, the Trust combining the hospitals has helped the staff, clinical and support, to earn the rare accolade of Outstanding.

They are helped by neighbouring places of care.

I attended the community lunch at the Rustington Convalescent Home, cared for by the Carpenters’ Livery Company.

The guests, usually there for up to three weeks, mix with the home staff and the guests.

I pay tribute to the local clergy who give chaplaincy support.

One religious minister led me on to the 80th anniversary of the Zachary Merton Hospital, a community place of great significance to patients and to staff.

One nurse spoke of her place in over half its history.

Perhaps there could be a series of articles that could refresh our memories of the founders, of the caring people who have founded or endowed local charities.

Zachary Merton was a thoughtful generous man.

The second change is the way we have generally, not yet completely, moved on from seeing people differently.

There was a time when skin colour or sex or age or housing tenure or school admission made too much of a difference to opportunity, to outcome, to treatment or to involvement.

Now, still with exceptions, no one is surprised when a woman or a young person or a Muslim or a Jew or someone who is black or Asian holds a public position of responsibility.

Worthing and district can be proud of the range of our inclusiveness.

It is unremarkable when it is familiar.

It has not happened just by chance.

For now, I resist retelling my teasing of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme and the progressive Guardian newspaper in the mid-1980s for their failure to employ on merit journalists of colour.

This week in the House of Commons, there were the inaugural meetings of many All Party Groups.

Two were by chance at the same time: the group for British Jews and the group for Muslims in Britain.

I gave my support to each.

My political and public service involves the word ‘and’ more often than ‘or’.

I do have to make decisions and I try to establish guiding principles.

For example, this week in East Preston at my election gathering to thank helpers, I said that in proceeding relating to the negotiation of our relationships as we leave the European Union, I expect to give consistent support to the Prime Minister who I believe to have the good nature and the resilience to lead us through.

Change is coming.

There will be ups and downs.

Let us make that change for the better.

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