SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Civic services, town and village

Sir Peter with Hannah Shore at Worthing�s Gala Bingo Hall
Sir Peter with Hannah Shore at Worthing�s Gala Bingo Hall

The better sense of pride, a content sense of attachment and pleasure in belonging, is my feeling when I can attend one-off or regular constituency gatherings.

It came at the Zachary Merton hospital Friend’s meeting and it returned when colleagues and friends celebrated the 46 years of service at Worthing Hospital by Alan Ittoo who I met first when he led the Worthing Hospital Accident and Emergency service.

Since this paper hit the streets last week I have had more opportunities to meet people who contribute to local life.

On Friday, Joe Osborne of East Preston kindly joined me at Worthing’s Gala Bingo Hall where we were greeted by Hannah Shore.

We should welcome the safe social values for club members and I commend the good food served from their kitchen.

There is such a contrast between the club’s low stake machines and the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) sadly now spread through high street betting shops.

Fortunately, my campaign to bring FOBT stakes down to £2 seems likely to be successful.

The nearby illegal drugs dealing that was a serious worry two years ago has subsided somewhat.

The local police commander and the Sussex Police Commissioner have each helpfully talked with me of how they work to give us security and how we can all cooperate to reduce crime and disturbance.

In addition to other constituency work, on Saturday Virginia and I met two other people who matter.

In 1950, Penny was three when her family came to live in Margaretta Terrace near Albert Bridge when her father the Reverend Leighton Thomson came from Egypt to rebuild the bombed out Chelsea Old Church.

That year my parents brought us back from South Africa.

Penny and I have known each other for a lifetime. She and her brother were good to me when their parents generously had me to stay over a period of two years when my father served in Pakistan.

Our evening was with one of the nicest bravest man I have ever known. His remarkable contribution to world peace will be better told in later years. I am proud to have given him some help when it was needed.

On Sunday and on Tuesday this week, we remembered how much each of us as Members of Parliament learned from those ahead of us. I was able to travel from one in his retirement home to the Rustington Parish Civic Service in the United Reform church to recognise all that so many contribute to life together.

If I write a memoir, I should include my pride when asked to give the eulogy for the Rustington village street cleaner, one of the many known by many more than the MP or councillor?

On Monday and on Tuesday I met Bishop James Jones and campaigners for the victims of contaminated blood, before hearing the Scottish political leader Ruth Davidson being interviewed at an event for British Jews. The jest was in her name. She answered questions boldly and with sympathy.

One former MP who inspired me is Terence Higgins, MP for Worthing and now serving in the Lords. He and I were at the memorial service for Patrick Jenkin whose vicar son wrote about the ideal marriage: faithful, stable, tough, unselfish and unconditional.

That can be a humble aim for each of us and for all of us together?

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