Many of you will have attended remembrance services. This year’s activities have been particularly poignant for me as I recently lost my last, closest relative who experienced the Second World War.
My nan passed away aged 92 and her funeral was on 5th November. It has been an amazing privilege to lay wreaths this year on Borough High Street and at the Imperial War Museum on behalf of all the people of Bermondsey and Old Southwark – and see friends at the British Legion.
Our community has a long connection with our armed forces and all those who have fought for our country and our collective peace and security deserve acknowledgement, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice. It is very welcome to see so many local people pay tribute.
Many local people give time to ensure events go well and pay tribute in other ways, including driving ‘Poppy Cabs’ – taxi drivers who give veterans free lifts to remembrance services. Others organise poppy sales – and it was great to join community stalwarts Gary Magold and Sue Sexton at Bermondsey Station one Sunday to help. They put hours into raising vital funds for the Legion and too often go unrecognised.
It is fitting that so much is done to honour the fallen locally. The original poppy factory was just off the Old Kent Road – opened to make the UK’s first poppies to remember the fallen and provide work for injured veterans. There are plans to ensure the site is recognised for the centenary of the end of the Great War.
The News last week passed on the great news that my wife Sarah and I expect our first baby in April. We’re pleased and excited and grateful for all the congratulatory messages. I’ve also managed to be productive in Parliament (!) as the Government is accepting an amendment I tabled to the Welfare Bill. Ministers confirmed they will add my change to the legislation in the House of Lords to help some terminally ill people get help more swiftly from the Department for Work and Pensions.
Only someone with a prognosis of living six months or less will benefit, but I’m glad that people facing such difficult circumstances will have waiting times for help reduced from eight weeks. Time is precious when dying and should be spent with families. The amendment is worth £1 million to the people who will get help – and I’m glad the Government accepted my proposal from the Labour backbenches. It can be frustrating to be in Opposition, but this small success lets me imagine what I’d hope to achieve if part of a Labour Government in the future.