EDITORIAL: Lack of Council Armistice at Bermondsey’s West Lane clearly an error of judgement

(23 October, 2019) Editorials

The News says Southwark Council's decision not to mark Armistice at West Lane was an error of judgement

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Are you or aren’t you?

That was the question the News was asking this week of council officials, questioning whether it would be commemorating Armistice Day at Bermondsey’s West Lane memorial.

Originally the Mayor of Southwark’s office had circulated a message stating it would not be hosting an outdoor service at the SE16 memorial for the Armistice anniversary, as it was more than 100 years ago.

This, it said, was in line with national government guidance.

Instead, it said it would have a ceremony before 11am at its own offices on Tooley Street.

READ THE STORY: Bermondsey: Southwark Council U-turns on decision not to commemorate Armistice at memorial after fierce backlash

This, in itself, is puzzling: the borough has many memorials to our brave service personnel who gave so much during two devastating wars.

Tooley Street then perhaps does not seem the most logical venue for the public to join in on November 11 with commemorating those who lost their lives in the Great War.

But now, after local Bermondsey residents with help from ward councillors and TRA members organised their own service for the Armistice at West Lane, the council says it will join in after all.

“Having noted the strength of feeling in the local community, we have listened and taken the decision to commemorate Armistice Day on 11 November, at West Lane,” it now says.

This is an unambiguous U-turn.

This is, of course, not to suggest that council officials do not also wish to pay their deepest and most profound respects to our fallen men and women. Nobody should suggest so.

After all, as council officials rightly point out, it commissioned a memorial on Walworth Square to mark the Centenary of WW1 last year.

This venue will play host to a Remembrance Sunday event on November 10, to which all are invited.

Council bosses are right, too, to note Southwark’s “long, proud record of honouring our service men and women.”

But the lack of a council Armistice service at West Lane was an error of judgement nonetheless, one which was not sensitive to the particular and well-justified strength of feeling in the Bermondsey and Rotherhithe community.

The News welcomes the council’s reconsideration – and pays tribute to the hard work of those SE16 residents who decided to organise their own commemoration anyway.

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