Letters - Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Strong family bonds essential in a crisis

Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 3:45 pm
Rt Revd Julian Henderson Bishop of Blackburn

Re: Queen’s Speech. I note that references were made to strengthening the ties of the union, making the United Kingdom stronger, healthier and more prosperous than before. All are noble aspirations to strengthen what is currently not as strong as it could or should be.

The pandemic and the period that follows gives a unique opportunity to ask what sort of a society we want to be and what changes we need to make for our own future good but, more importantly, that of the following generations. Not so much going back to how things were, but planning for a better future. So, it is encouraging to hear that the Government intends to achieve this strengthening by levelling up opportunities across all parts of the United Kingdom.

The North West, like other parts of the union, often feels like another part of the world, distant from the power bases in the South. It is a problem that despite moves to devolve power and decision-making, our government is too London-centric and as a result appears and feels divorced from the economic, social, and political realities of life in the rest of the UK.

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This has led to the elevation of mayoral roles in some regions, a strong voice arguing for Scottish independence, possible moves of government departments away from the South and controversial votes at Westminster on Northern Ireland concerns. The union of the UK continues to be challenged on many fronts, not only at a geographical level, but also ideologically, as was seen in the divisions over Brexit and in recent elections.

So levelling up is a key strategy which must be translated into action and delivery. It applies to NHS provision and removal of the postcode lottery. It applies to children having the best start in life. It applies to levelling up the resources available, reducing poverty in all its forms.

Levelling up opportunity does not imply a uniformity of outcomes, but at least it means there is a more level playing field to start with and that must be the aspiration of all in government.

Following both Brexit and pandemic, the country needs a time of reflection and leaders to create a desire for a consensus within our fragile union about the way ahead.

Our diverse UK has much in common with the family unit. Even when members of the human family become independent, they still remain part of the family. Diversity within the family of the UK is something to celebrate, not remove. The loss of one part affects the whole and there’s an argument for decisions about independence and devolution being taken by all parts, not just one. The present legal and education and ecclesiastical systems are different in the different lands of the union. Surely this gives hope that there is room for carefully crafted and greater devolution without total separation.

The pandemic has one other vital lesson. The heroism of many, the brilliance of science and a wonderful sense of community spirit have taught us that we need each other and that together we are stronger. But we have other global crises to face, climate change, poverty, injustice, freedom of expression and belief. As the UK we can face some of these challenges in a devolved fashion but we will have a far better chance to mitigate their impact if we cooperate and support each other.

In a crisis, strong family bonds are essential. I commend the intention of strengthening the ties and integrity of our union by levelling up opportunity and providing good devolution without total separation.

Rt Revd Julian Henderson

Bishop of Blackburn

RESPONSE

If they hate Britain why live here?

General Sherman said in 1862: ‘war is hell’. He could have added that civil war is a particular kind of hell. And so it was in Northern Ireland in the 70’s.

People were being killed, knee-capped and tortured in an environment that was described by a leading Irish politician as a ‘cauldron’.

The tragedy that took place in Ballymurphy was the result of the actions of young soldiers who had been under fire for days, who had witnessed atrocities and lived in constant fear. Everyone was suspect for good reason.

Critics who have never been under fire or heard a shot fired in anger do not have a clue about the reality of real warfare.

In such circumstances, errors, misjudgments and bad decisions are regrettably inevitable. There were numerous such incidents in the Second World War and in every war zone since.

That is why letters like those of Royston Jones and Andrew Sproulle (Your Say, May 14) display a gross ignorance of history and the military. But far worse is the claim that 1 Para are like the Waffen-SS. To compare a battalion whose battle honours cover decades with an evil and savage unit formed to murderer at will men, women and children is monstrous.

Such an appalling assertion that besmirches brave and gallant young men is appalling. Mr Sproulle should hang his head in shame. But I doubt that word is in his vocabulary. Both writers confirm their dislike of anything British. One wonders why they continue to live here.

Colonel ( ret’d) Barry Clayton

Thornton Cleveleys

DEATH

Blackpool has the heart of a village

As Blackpool has united in mourning the tragic loss of the inspirational Jordan Banks, another of his gifts is to demonstrate that although Blackpool is a town, it has the heart of a village. As we emerge from Coronavirus, this ability to pull together is a critical strength of our community.

Rev’d Canon Dr Simon Cox

Hon. Assistant Curate, ‘The Trinity Parish’

APPEAL

Create a better life for working animals

The last year has undoubtedly been one of the hardest many of us will ever have to live through. However, one positive that shines through for me is my reignited appreciation for community.

When I look back on those early days of the pandemic, I remember the feelings of dread, but I also remember the community Whatsapp groups that were formed, and those who checked in on their elderly or vulnerable neighbours. We also saw a huge increase in pet ownership as people turned to their four legged friends for an escape.

As a supporter of working horse and donkey charity Brooke, I’ve seen the importance of working animals to people’s lives. Together with communities, Brooke builds lasting change for working animals. From community vets working on the ground to keep horses and donkeys healthy, to community fundraising groups here in the UK teaming up to raise awareness, there’s a role for everyone in creating a better life for hard-working animals, and a more compassionate world for each other.

Jodie Prenger

Lancashire

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