SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Inspired practical leadership

Sir Peter Bottomley
Sir Peter Bottomley

One of the great benefits of the newspapers, the print media, is the speed of reaction.

One example was the work and writing needed to explain the unexpected results of the EU Referendum and Donald Trump’s election last year followed by the outcome of the General Election earlier this month.

A second is the coverage of the London terror attack on worshippers near the Finsbury Park mosque.

The young Imam acted in the way I hope each of us would have tried.

After the sad murder of PC Keith Palmer in Parliament’s New Palace Yard, people came for a walk together across Westminster Bridge, led by Muslim girls with the simple banner ‘Islam means Peace’.

We owe much to the police, the security services and to those who rightly pass on information, worries and concerns.

We owe much to community leadership by Imam Mohammed Mahmoud and to Brendan, husband of the late Labour MP Jo Cox.

The Imam said: “By God’s grace we managed to surround him (the attacker) and to protect him from any harm. We stopped all forms of attack and abuse towards him.”

Brendan Cox reminds us of Jo Cox’s declaration of how much more unites us than divides us.

My approach was inherited from the MPs I have succeeded. The first, Bill Hamling MP for Woolwich West in southeast London, sadly died early in 1975, after twice getting more votes than me in the previous year.

On Saturdays during the 1974 campaigns we would meet in a pub at lunchtime, buy each other a small drink before agreeing to restart electioneering on Monday.

We openly agreed on a number of issues. The truths in public and political service include the fact that we need a system that can be decisive, can adapt and can be based on underlying agreement.

In recent years, there has been agreement on a National Health Service, first proposed early in 1944 by the Conservative Health minister Sir Henry Willink as a free universal healthcare system. Support came from Labour and the Liberals.

Later, Labour’s Aneurin Bevan made two changes: he made general practitioners, family doctors, into contractors rather than NHS employees as proposed by the Conservatives; also he decided to nationalise the hospitals. Within a few years, the Labour government brought in prescription charges.

There has been agreement on membership of the political, military and parliamentary aspects of NATO, on maintaining the nuclear deterrent, and with ups and downs the benefits of the European partnerships.

There have been cross party concerns for public protection. I have for years helped to lead the all-party group on transport safety.

In addition, I have taken part in initiatives to tackle the causes of community conflict and to identify the actions that lead us to live together, inclusively.

On another occasion, I will offer my thoughts on mass campaigns. That will be after I have invited the 38 degrees activist leaders again to come to my parliamentary office where they can see how their habit of creating email blizzards do risk serious harm to the needs of individual constituents needing help.

An extra 200 emails can require an extra ten hours of work. If a reader receives campaign encouragement to write, do please consider asking the good cause to write once.

This Thursday, before Friday prayers and before the celebration of Eid, I shall have followed my conversation with our local Imam with a meeting when I shall say how much we value the responsible teaching and practical leadership given by so many, and especially by the Imam in London.

His actions prevented very different headlines.


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