Friday, 1 May 2009

May Day in Norwich and remembering our Heroes

As the troops of today come back from Iraq I had an emotional reminder from a hero of past conflicts.

I was in Norwich today with another candidate for the European Elections, John Flack, and our two Westminster candidates Chloe Smith and Anthony Little. We were given an incredibly warm welcome by shoppers and stall holders in the market. "I've always voted Labour but this time it will be for you" was the message repeated again and again.

I bought some Norfolk cheese and discussed our honest food campaign with the stall holder. I discussed the red tape on small businesses with others and pensions, savings and the difficulties finding jobs with many shoppers.

We saw the despicable state of the War Memorial that is left derelict and an EU part-funded arts installation that 2 years on is left to grow weeds. Where are our priorities?

We were then quizzed on a wide variety of political issues (from who pays for your bath plug to re-hab for drug addicted muggers) by older people at a drop in day centre before joining more older people at a lunch club.

I sat opposite Derek. He is 87 and communicates through gestures, smiles and struggled grunts. Perhaps it was because of the Gurkha news and troops coming back home but the group around him started telling me about their memories of The War. Derek's gestures became agitated with tears welling in his eyes. With help from his carer he told me he had been rescued from the beaches in Dunkirk and then fought for 3 years in Burma. He lost half of his hand and was awarded the Burma Star. Though we couldn't talk, sixty years on I could still feel the pain in his face as he tried to tell me about those years. Tears welled in my eyes too.

Over the next few years we will have an increasing older population. In today's economic circumstances decisions about how to help them will be extremely difficult. We owe it to our heroes of previous years to be honest in facing up to that challenge.

Later in the day we had an open meeting in a pub to discuss the European Elections with volunteers and a chance to catch up with a lady publican about the cocktail of issues that are closing down so many locals. Then on to Cambridgeshire to a briefing about rural businesses, water, food and agriculture, infrastructure and planning from the Country Land and Business Association. Another busy day. Tomorrow Essex.

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