Sunday, 28 June 2015

The Challenges of Greece by Ben Gummer

The Challenges of Greece

A house divided against itself…?

Article by Ben Gummer, MP for Ipswich
for the Ipswich Star 27/06/2015

The Greeks are really two peoples in one.  So concluded Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor, soldier, adventurer, and travel-writer, after spending the best part of a lifetime travelling through the Greek peninsula and getting to know its people.  On the one hand, the Modern Greek soul is the living embodiment of the ancient past.  The breathing son of the silent marble statues of the great men of the ancient world.  The heir of the Classical Athens that we like to think founded Western Civilisation.

This mask, that of the Hellene – the word the ancient Greeks called themselves – was found by Leigh Fermor to conceal a deeper, somewhat darker and perhaps more instinctive identity.  Beneath the rational, philosophical Hellene, we find the proud, violently emotional and stubborn, Romaios

You would be right to think that this word, which stopped being used to describe Modern Greek speakers only towards the end of the 19thcentury, sounds remarkably like ‘Roman’.  It is the word Greek speakers started to use to call themselves when they became a part of the Roman Empire.  It is also the word that they continued to use during the harsh centuries of Turkish rule.  It resonates, therefore, with the spirit of resistance to foreign rule that set the Greek peninsula alight in the 1820s, leading to the overthrow of imperial Ottoman power by an army of shepherds…with some help from the British navy.
The spirit of the Romaios appears to have animated the apparently everlasting, last-minute, make-or-break negotiations that have once again dominated our television screens and newspapers in the past week.  It is predictably a tragic situation.  But the cycle of drama we are constantly being told is about to explode or be solved for good is not without comedy – that other ancient Greek theatrical invention. 

It is very easy to sympathise with the Romaios.  Greek national wealth is about 20% lower now than it was in 2008.  Wages, and the standard of living, have fallen dramatically.  State employment has been cut by just under a third.  There is also something admirable about the Greek prime minister’s resistance to what some Greeks perceive as some form of foreign control over his homeland.  The flashy charisma of Marxist lecturer turned finance minister Yanis Varoufakis – who rides into work on a motorcycle wearing a leather jacket – is admittedly refreshing.

But then the Hellene kicks in.  Greece’s problems are far, far deeper than the impact of the bailout regime imposed upon them by various international bodies.  Greek governments have been historically profligate.  We should not forget that the Greeks even defaulted on the loan raised by western powers to support the war of independence against Ottoman Turkey.  Greek politicians, of all parties, have promised far more than they can deliver year after year, misleading their own people into thinking that they can expect something for nothing.  Tax receipts, importantly, never seem to be as high as they should be. 
It is unclear, therefore, how refusing to reach an agreement with the EU and other international lenders would solve Greece’s problems.  Crashing out of the Euro – not entirely an impossibility – would cause Greek living standards to collapse.  Savings held in Euros would see their value disappear as they are converted into a new currency.  Greek governments would be locked out of the international money markets for decades.  Social unrest could spiral, something that could create mass-migration into northern Europe as enterprising Greeks look to forge a new life.

As I write, it is unclear what the Greek government will do.  They may not even know themselves.  Portugal and Ireland, who were in a very similar position to Greece a few years ago, have now come out of their bailout programmes and look set to return to economic health.  After five years of reforms under the Coalition Government, Britain is now the fastest-growing developed economy in the world, where more jobs have been created in Yorkshire in the past year than in the whole of France.

I hope that the sprit of Hellene prevails, for the sake of Hellene andRomaios alike.     

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Domestic Violence, Jobs and Calais

Briefing for today from the Conservative Government:

New figures today show that a record number of people in England and Wales are being convicted of violent crimes against women.
We have made protecting women and girls from violence and supporting victims and survivors of sexual abuse a key priority. It is therefore encouraging to see more victims and survivors reporting these terrible crimes and the perpetrators brought to justice.
 Since 2010 we have allocated £40 million to help victims of domestic abuse and violence and have extended this funding for another year. Funding for female rape crisis centres has been put on a more sustainable footing and we continue to support those organisations which work with victims of sexual abuse, including child sexual abuse.  
 We hope that this increase in convictions will give victims of these terrible crimes greater confidence to come forward and to speak out about hideous offences that have too often been ignored.

Today, the Environment Secretary, Elizabeth Truss, will announce that over 8,000 datasets will be made publicly available to help create jobs across the whole country.
Our beautiful countryside is a central part of the economy and we are determined, as part of our long-term economic plan, to secure its future.
 We want farmers, rural businesses and entrepreneurs to be able to benefit from the developments in new technology so that it is easier for them to grow and create new jobs. To support this, the Government will make more than 8,000 datasets publicly available for the first time – the biggest data giveaway Britain has ever seen.
 By seizing the opportunities this will provide we can help farmers and rural businesses and entrepreneurs to flourish, creating a truly One Nation economy that gives people in every part of the country the chance to get on in life and enjoy a brighter, more secure future.

There is continued coverage of the migrant situation in the port of Calais.
As the Prime Minister said yesterday, the scenes we have witnessed in Calais are totally unacceptable. 
 We are putting additional resources into the port of Dover to enhance screenings and detections there. We have also been advised the French authorities are sending further policing to deal with law and order issues, and we will be keeping in close contact with them. This action builds on the additional investment we have already been making in Calais and other ports – which includes an extra £12 million to reinforce security, a £2 million upgrade of detection technology, and a £1 million extension of dog searching capacity.
 This action is about maintaining the safety, security and integrity of the border, which is our absolute focus.

We continue to urge our euro area colleagues to act swiftly and responsibly to resolve current uncertainty and ensure economic and financial stability
 Given the present risk in Greece of a potential default and a potential exit from the euro, we are taking all steps to prepare and protect ourselves from such eventualities.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

France comes to Ipswich market

Ipswich’s town centre market is getting a French feel next week as the regular stallholders are joined by colleagues from across the Channel.

Between 25th and 28th June, shoppers can buy French goods from cheeses and crepes  to crafts and vintage goods.  

Market Supervisor Kevin Walker said: “We are all looking forward to this Gallic flavour at our market. Our message to shoppers is: why not come and take a look at the Cornhill and check out the ceramics, drift wood, jewellery,  hand-painted textiles, candles and soaps. There might even be a  craftworker who recycles seat belts into handbags."

More information: Cari Hodkinson, Ipswich Borough Council, tel: 01473 432215

Friday, 12 June 2015

The Battle of Orgreave

Once again in the news today, the NUM is refusing to forget and forgive about the miners strike, which took place over 30 years ago.

They selectively forget the damage they caused, instead choosing to blame, the police this time, for their militant and aggressive stance that they chose to inflict on their community and the country.

Previously, they had managed to help bring down the Heath government in 1974 and, it seemed, they were determined to do it again.

Scargill became the NUM national president in 1981 and organised the strike by calling ballots at individual collieries.

He did something which was quite unforgiveable and asked Colonal Gaddafi to help finance the strike - this after Yvonne Fletcher, a policewoman, had been killed outside the Libyan embassy in London.

One of the discussion I heard today was on the Jeremy vine radio 2 show where a very shouty man blinded by only one view had the cheek and hypocrisy to think fascism only came from the police. He actually called one of them a liar, on air, without even listening properly. Oh, one can always hear a union voice as it bellows without pausing over the waves!

But he had obviously conveniently forgotten some of the facts.

Scargill used violence and rent a mobs, who had nothing to do with the miners, and in defiance of union rules, to try and prevent supplies from leaving a steel plant. The police were under siege. He called a strike without a ballot and used his position, with funds from Russia to try and bring down the government,

Even some of the miners themselves were against the NUM and therefore formed the Union of Democratic Mineworkers.

Mrs Thatcher was formidable and determined that the fascist left did not get to make our great country ungovernable and thank goodness she succeeded.

I'm sure the police didn't totally deploy legal means but then nor did the miners or the rent a mob and to ask the police to do yet another inquest into something that saw an unnecessary event at Orgreave instigated by Scargill, is just counter productive and nothing good will come from it. We need to move on from the anger and bitterness that still exists in some quarters, not prolong it long after.

It is the fact that the unions were cut down to their proper size that some are still angry about. When other uneconomical mines were closed down by a Labour government, of which there were more than Mrs Thatcher's era, where was the uproar then?

No this may have started out as a genuine  concern for the miners but by the time we'd reached this bloody episode it was about the bringing down of the government which Russia was hoping against hope would be the case. What type of person would go to countries like Libya and Russia. at that time. Doesn't that just tell you everything you need to know about the whole sorry episode.

Be very grateful to Mrs Thatcher that we didn't get to see the results of that, irrespective of what you think about unhealthy, uneconomical  mines being allowed to stay open to keep people in jobs

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Samaritans receive recycling cash

I like win/wins and this is one, for sure: 

The Ipswich & East Suffolk branch of the Samaritans has an extra £4,500 to invest in its facilities – thanks to a national recycling scheme supported by Ipswich Borough Council.
After each cremation, and with the agreement of the family, the metals from the coffin, along with orthopaedic implants, are recycled. The scheme is endorsed by the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management.
A cheque for £4,487 was presented to volunteers at the Samaritans office in St Helen’s Street by Councillor Sophie Meudec, the Borough Council’s portfolio-holder for Bereavement Services.
Councillor Meudec said: "We strive to prevent metals that are left following a cremation from being unnecessarily buried and posing a threat to the environment. It is always going to be a sensitive issue, so we are part of a national recycling scheme that enables us to nominate organisations for a donation as all of the proceeds go to bereavement-basedcharities. I am a great supporter of the work done by the Samaritans and I am sure that bereaved families would be reassured to know that this money is supporting such an important and worthwhile cause that brings comfort and support to so many people."
Alison, Committee Chair of the Ipswich & East Suffolk Branch of Samaritans, said: "We are absolutely delighted to receive this donation. Samaritans are totally dependant on fundraising and donations like this really help to keep us running. We particularly appreciate this donation as it is very timely.  The doors that partition our training room are very old and urgently need replacing.  It is vital that all our volunteers are fully trained to take on the responsible and privileged role of supporting people in distress and without adequate training facilities this would be very difficult.”
The Samaritans have more than 20,000 volunteers across the country and offer confidential, non-judgmental support to people in distress and despair. The Samaritans are available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. The Ipswich & East Suffolk branch opened in 1963 and has 87 volunteers. It received more than 13,000 telephone calls last year alone and responded to 2,600 emails and text messages. The branch also runs a charity shop in Carr Street, which specialises in second-hand books