Remembrances, sorrow, shame and thanksgiving

Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for West Worthing
Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for West Worthing

Srebrenica Memorial Day is on Saturday this year. I support the More United belief in a tolerant, free, diverse society where our differences are respected and celebrated.

Inclusivity and diversity make us stronger and more resilient as a nation. We are not a race, except in the sense given by Winston Churchill in his history of our nation.

It is curious that the British are now the Welsh, that the Irish were originally Scottish and that the Scots were Irish.

It was odd to hear from a racially intolerant telephone caller that he hated immigrants, proudly declaring that he was English and pure Anglo-Saxon, not knowing that the English had been brought in by the Romans from what is now Germany and that the Angles and the Saxons had come uninvited too.

It is important for us to work together and to stand together against prejudice and discrimination, against ignorance and apathy. History matters. Tolerance and understanding can be contagious in a good sense.

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Also in the news – a standards probe into an ex-mayor has been closed by private investigators, work is continuing on a cable route for the Rampion wind farm, and Deliveroo has announced it is set to roll out its services in Worthing.

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I am proud that locally, the community in and around Worthing do share, do care and do include each other at events, such as Wednesday’s town hall remembrance commemorating those who died at Srebrenica – time to reflect on how we as individuals, groups and communities can come together to build a better future free from hatred.

Some appear to emphasise difference, to divide, to confront. I am more in the tradition of trying to understand, to bridge, to create harmony. I will call out injustice, I will care for the weak and I do care.

This week, we shared a meal with a Baghdadi Jew born in Bombay/Mumbai whose father had come from Burma/Myanmar.

Our friend’s family left India for the USA because the coming independence threatened their future.

He had years in a British boarding school before becoming a distinguished contributor to American foreign policy and to teaching at Stanford University. That is world citizenship?

We discussed Israel and the difficulties some experience in helping Palestinians without questioning Israel’s existence. Thousands of years of Middle East history, hundreds of years of the experience of Jews in this country and decades of European holocaust should warn us against indifference. This does not require blindness to wrong or to questionable actions by governments in Israel.

It was because of injustice in Europe between the wars that so many intelligent people fell for the Soviet communist system, with a number damagingly becoming agents.

While I have breath and position, I shall try to keep our country, our continent and our world protected from those mistakes and their consequences.

When I was first selected to be a candidate here for the 1997 general election, the association chairman was Hugh Braden, former mayor and a distinguished senior civil servant in the Defence ministry.

He took me for a walk on the downs at High Salvington, giving the advice that I should remember that most in our party and many in other parties put the national interest above party dogma.

He said that if I always tried to do what seemed proper, life would not be easy but it would be right.

This Friday I shall join his family at Broadwater for the funeral of his devoted widow Phyllis. Her loving lifelong care for him was outstanding.

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