The two minutes’ Remembrance Day observation is rightly emotionally charged. It is our time to consider the fallen, the maimed and their families and to honour them, whether from current and recent action or from wars long past.
I find the silence very powerful. We are left to our own thoughts unclouded by the syrupy sentimentalism that often accompanies media commentary. It is right to remember them, and to remember their families.
Newham is not a traditional garrison town, but, next year, some of our own go to the front line. Fifteen soldiers from Newham 7 Rifles will leave for Afghanistan to join the Regulars on a tour of duty.
I will let you know once they are there, with the address to which correspondence can be sent.
Regardless of our thoughts on war, and on the justification for the current war, I am sure many readers will want to join me to let our soldiers know they are not forgotten.
Sadness and humility are not the only emotions to have smitten me over the past weeks. I felt real anger and incredulity as the spending review, and plans for welfare reform, were announced.
I admit to feeling rage – rage when, at the end of a speech announcing reductions of billions of pounds in public spending, meaning unemployment and misery for hundreds of thousands of people, the Chancellor sat there grinning, slapped on the back by Cameron and Clegg.
We are constantly fed images of this Government making war on feckless and lazy families living in grand style, with the bill paid by us, the tax-payers. We all want to see those truly swinging the lead forced to pay their own way. Labour’s reforms in this area were harsh and thousands of people had their benefits withdrawn for not working, when considered fit.
But this Government is taking 18 billion pounds out of the welfare budget. Surely, nobody honestly believes the work-shy, the “scroungers,” cost this country that much.
The real losers are those in low-paid work, who will see their tax credits reduce; the students from many of our families who won’t get the help to continue in education post 16, with the loss of education maintenance allowance. Families with one disabled adult will lose their incapacity benefit, if they are married to someone earning even a minimum wage.
And this week, when Parliamentarians stood to attention on Armistice Sunday, and the Prime Minister insisted on wearing his poppy in China, one story from the press particularly caught my eye.
A Vice-Admiral discovered that war widows will lose hundreds of pounds, because the Con-Dems changed the way inflation is calculated for all benefits and pensions, ensuring war widows and everyone else, lose 2% a year, every year, for ever.
My mum and dad ensured that, from a very small child, I understood and respected the meaning of Remembrance Sunday and I have early memories of keeping the two minute silence. But they also taught me that the brave men and women we honour, fought for something important; for a country that protects the weakest: a homeland that is fair to all and fit for heroes.
Let’s work together to ensure this Government comes to understand the real values our service men and women fight for.