SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Christmas is coming

The Poverty Tree
The Poverty Tree
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St Mary’s church in East Preston seeks to be a loving friendly community that worships God and serves others through words and actions.

The church building goes back to the mid-12th century, about a hundred years before the present Westminster Abbey.

The Christmas tree festival brings together local groups, businesses and individuals.

The community effort is to raises funds for the maintenance of the ancient church.

It was an honour to switch the lights on – with help from the professional skills of Southern Water’s electricians.

I was moved by the words for the Poverty Tree.

I recalled that in December 1973 I first met a Prime Minister.

With working colleagues, I was clearing up the debris after an IRA bomb at Selfridges on Oxford Street.

Next day, a newspaper published a photograph of him congratulating me for not worrying about the possibility of another bomb.

I thought my courage was occasionally standing in a wind-rocked cradle high above the street changing a sign outside a West End cinema or theatre.

I feel dizzy if I stand on my dignity.

It was one of the times I thought that an MP seldom carried heavy loads and did not often work outdoors in heavy rain.

18 months later, though the chance of a successful by–election in Woolwich West, I first joined the House of Commons.

Curiously, modern plays mention that by-election; fortunately, not one names me.

The new production of “This House” about the Whips’ offices 1974-79 has transferred to the West End with rave reviews.

We had been in the Chichester audience. I join the praise though like others I found the frequent on-stage smoking and swearing were wearing.

The odd Pygmalion expression may have impact and merit.

‘The Audience’ was a brilliant portrayal of the succession of Prime Ministers at their weekly discussions with The Queen.

Rail troubles and leasehold issues take much time. Additionally, I am involved with the other Arun MPs, Nick Herbert and Nick Gibb on the bad way the central planning system seems to have forced Arun District Council to require the renewal or replacement of local neighbourhood plans for expanded housing planning provision.

A professor at the University of Sussex explained that differential house prices have led Londoners to come south to Brighton, causing a knock-on movement along the coast to Worthing and Arun. We do need to adapt.

This week we MPs told the housing minister that the space between the blue sea and the green National Park cannot all be concreted over without destroying the special character of our local areas.

This week I have twice been in the Speaker’s House. After Monday’s lecture on Clement Attlee, I was present to celebrate 100 years of Cub Scouting.

I join in praise and appreciation of the group leaders and the parents who join together to make possible the life enhancing activities of youth.

I am proud that Worthing Borough Council has a good age range of councillors, with candidates aged over-80 and under-25.

That leads me to the impressive British Youth Council select committee report: “Young people and the issues of racism and religious discrimination.” I was once one of its vice-presidents.

We do need to notice and to care about opportunity and inclusiveness for all, in every region.

Every faith I know looks outwards with respect to others.

The ways faith and church leaders cooperate is an example to us all.

Let us hope that those who follow us make fewer of our mistakes and that they build on the things we got right.

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