Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Celebrating 70 years of the NHS

My article in today’s Cornish Guardian is about the 70th anniversary of the National Health Service. It was as follows;

On 5th July 1948, the Health Secretary Aneurin Bevan launched the National Health Service at Manchester’s Park Hospital.

It is well reported that Bevan symbolically met the NHS’s “first patient,” a 13-year-old girl called Sylvia Diggory. She later recalled: “Mr Bevan asked me if I understood the significance of the occasion and told me that it was a milestone in history – the most civilised step any country had ever taken.”

The fundamental principles behind the new health service were clear. The NHS would be “available to all” and “financed entirely from taxation,” meaning that “people pay into it according to their means.” And in his seminal 1952 publication, In Place of Fear, Bevan himself wrote, that: “No society can legitimately call itself civilized if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.”

It is frankly not possible to overstate the significance of the NHS and how, over the last seventy years, universal healthcare has transformed the lives of millions and millions of people.

Writing a few years ago, the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown summed up how “Bevan’s vision has stood both the test of time and the test of change unimaginable in his day … surviving, growing and adapting to technological and demographic change” while still being at the “centre of the life of our nation as a uniquely British creation, and a uniquely powerful engine of social justice.”

Seven decades on, it is so important that we celebrate the NHS, described by many people as the United Kingdom’s greatest achievement.

But looking forward, there is a desperate need to build a strong political consensus about how the National Health Service can continue to serve the people of the United Kingdom into the future.

Over the last few years, the NHS has been a permanent fixture in the news. It has not all been good news with concerns about the lack of hospital beds in numerous areas, inappropriate pressure on junior doctors, the pressing need to better link health care with social care and, not least, the ongoing NHS funding crisis.

Political arguments abound and it has been widely welcomed that the Prime Minister has pledged to increase annual funding for the NHS to £135bn by 2023-24, a £20 billion increase on the present year’s budget. But even the head of the Government’s own National Audit Office has stated that much more money is needed.

It seems to me that all political parties need to come together to develop a truly progressive taxation system, that raises sufficient resource to provide vital public services, with big business and the well-off paying their fair share.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

South Africa National Memorial, Polygon Wood and Palingbeek Park


My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian is about some of the thoughtful ways in which the First World War is being commemorated in 2018. The article is as below:

There are so many impressive memorials and initiatives, and I would like to focus my comments on three: the South Africa National Memorial in France, Polygon Wood and an art installation at Palingbeek Park (see above), both in Belgium.

The South Africa National Memorial is located near Langueval on the Somme, within Delville Wood where hundreds of their countryman were killed in a terrible battle in July 1916. There are now walls of remembrance (unveiled in July 2016) on the approach to the Memorial and the associated museum. These contain the names of every single fallen serviceman from South Africa listed in alphabetical order – irregardless of race, colour or creed. The director of the site has rightly described this as an “important symbol of a reconciled nation.”

One of the names is that of Harry Osborn, from Summercourt, who served with the South Africa Signals and died in German East Africa (now Tanzania).

In Polygon Wood near Ypres, a Wood of Peace has been planted, which was designed to be a “place that calls to mind the terrible events of the First World War.” It comprises a total of 523 trees – which each reflect a named soldier buried in two nearby cemeteries. At the heart of the Wood, there is also a Peace Monument surrounded by a representation of barbed wire made from 1918 metres of steel banding, which is in memory of the unidentified servicemen who also rest in Polygon Wood cemeteries.

It is symbolic that the Wood is positioned in what was no man’s land during the conflict, as is the land art installation near Zillebeke at Palingbeek Park – the scene of another dreadful battle.

A total of 600,000 sculptures have been produced and placed together in the artwork at Palingbeek. It is huge, but it is also a very personal commemoration, with each sculpture representing one of the 600,000 people of all nationalities, both military and civilian, men, women and children, who lost their lives in Belgium between 1914 and 1918.

In terms of my home area of Fraddon, Indian Queens, St Columb Road and Summercourt, twelve men are remembered there: William James Bailey, Richard Henry Brewer, Christopher Bullock, William Ephraim Dunstan, Fred Langdon, Samuel May, Gerald Clair Menear, Henry Francis Osborne, Thomas James Rabey, Fred Ridgment, Samp Rundle and Albert Samuel Williams.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Remembering the fallen of 1914-1918


My article in today’s Cornish Guardian focuses on my recent visit (holiday) to Belgium and France. It is as follows:

Regular readers of this column will be aware that I am involved with a project to remember the men of Fraddon, Indian Queens, St Columb Road and Summercourt, who lost their lives in the First World War.

My wife and I have just returned from a week’s break in France and Belgium, where we visited a number of memorials and cemeteries, and took many photographs which might appear in the book that is planned.

The cemeteries and memorials certainly have great poignancy and together represent the sheer magnitude of the heartbreak experienced by loved ones, families and communities between 1914 and 1918.

There are a significant number of memorials to Commonwealth servicemen who have no known grave. Among the largest are the Thiepval Monument which records the names of over 72,000 men who died in the Somme sector; the Menin Gate in Ypres and the nearby Tyne Cot Memorial which, respectively, detail the names of around 54,000 and 35,000 men from the allied forces who died on the Ypres Salient.

This year, we also visited the French National War Cemetery at Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, and the Duetscher Soldatenfriedhof (German Soldier's Cemetery) in Langemark. The French cemetery contains about 20,000 individual graves but the remains of a further 22,000 unknown soldiers lie in eight ossuaries, while the German cemetery contains around 44,000 men, of which 25,000 lie in a mass grave.

But as well as the large memorials which often feature as the focal point for commemorations, there are hundreds and hundreds of First World War cemeteries. These lie within what was, one hundred years ago, horribly scarred landscapes that had been witness to untold human suffering,

One cemetery we visited was at Grand Ravine near Havrincourt (above). It contains 139 servicemen including Charles Force (West Riding Regiment), my great-great-uncle from St Mawgan, who was killed on 29th September 1918. It is now a remarkably peaceful place, with the burial ground surrounded on all four sides by ripening corn. There were even poppies growing naturally on the approach to the site.

But this cemetery – along with all the others – nonetheless stands as a stark reminder of the futility of the First World War. And when I think about the conflict which battered the globe between 1914 and 1918, I often find myself drawn back to what King George V said on a visit to Tyne Cot, where there is also a cemetery with over 10,000 graves. He famously asked “whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon Earth … than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war.”

In my column in next week's newspaper, it is my intention to look at some of the thoughtful ways in which the First World War is being remembered in 2018.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Remembering Robert F. Kennedy

My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian remembers Robert F. Kennedy. It is as follows:

Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated fifty years ago today, once said that “the purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.” Such a simple, but also profound, statement tells us a lot about the character of a man, who we should remember today with great respect.

Robert was one of the younger brothers of John F. Kennedy, who was US President from 1961 until he was murdered in 1963. As a lawyer, Robert was active in governmental circles throughout the 1950s and served as US Attorney General during his brother’s term of office, before he was himself elected to serve on the US Senate for the state of New York.

As he grew into his public roles, he became a powerful advocate for civil rights in the United States of America, as well as human rights around the globe. And in the 1960s, he also became a champion for America’s poor, many of whom were struggling to make ends meet, both in rural areas and the cities.

Five decades on from his death, it is right that we recall his attempts to make the World a better place as well as some of his eloquence that defined the manner in which he lived his life.

Indeed, it is perhaps best, at this time, that we let his words speak for themselves.

Early in his career, in 1954, he addressed a number of South African students and famously said: “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

Robert Kennedy’s also had a genuine ability to reach out and inspire people to get involved with public affairs or their community.

On one occasion, he said: “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”

And on another: “All great questions must be raised by great voices, and the greatest voice is the voice of the people – speaking out – in prose, or painting or poetry or music; speaking out – in homes and halls, streets and farms, courts and cafes – let that voice speak and the stillness you hear will be the gratitude of mankind.”

It is right that we continue to promote such powerful sentiments and see how we can each be a force for good.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Next MK meeting in St Austell & Newquay Constituency


The next meeting for Mebyon Kernow members in the St Austell & Newquay Constituency has been arranged to take place this Friday (8th June).

The meeting will take place at ClayTAWC in St Dennis and start at 7.30.

Party members will be planning our approach to numerous campaigns and activities in our local area – and all are welcome.

Anyone from the St Austell & Newquay Constituency, who would be interested in attending the meeting and / or finding out more about MK and its local campaigns, can call me on 07791 876607 or email dickcole@btinternet.com.