Leigh Observer Column - 22nd October 2018

Remembrance Day is such an important event in British life, where we as a country come together to pay our respects to our fallen service men and women. Not only have our armed forces died to protect the people of the United Kingdom and our friends and allies around the world, they have also put their lives on the line to protect our freedom and our democracy.

This is a sacrifice that our armed forces have made for generations, in the First and Second World War, Falklands War, the Iraq War and so many other incredibly dangerous conflicts. As we draw ever closer to the 100th year anniversary of our Remembrance Day, it is right to acknowledge the role that they have played in ensuring that we live in the country we know today.

Our British way of life may seem to be timeless but there are always new challenges and new foreign threats emerging, whether from a more active Russia, the challenge of a resurgent China or terrorist organisations such as the Islamic State. As an MP, it’s a privilege to take part and represent my constituents in local remembrance services, so I can pay respects for the sacrifices they have made and continue to make to protect our democracy.

Marking the sacrifice of those who lay down their lives for the country would, to most, be a wholly good and reasonable thing to do on one special day a year but not everyone agrees. Some people seek to use the hard fought freedoms to attack and undermine those very freedoms.

Every year, in the run up to Remembrance Sunday, there will be stories about one extreme left-wing group seeking to make a name for themselves by opposing our traditional act of remembrance.  This year, the outstanding effort was some radical students at the University of Cambridge.

Just last week, I was shocked to see that the Cambridge University’s Student Union voted against a motion to promote Remembrance Sunday events and encourage donations amid fears about Remembrance Sunday being used to “intentionally glorified and valorised conflict”. The students who submitted the motion for the Student Union to promote Remembrance Day activities have since received death threats. 

To think that the right to be patriotic in our country and promote Remembrance has now become an opinion that receives death threats is repugnant however it does serve to highlight an aspect of political discourse, especially amongst the privileged elite. 

It’s also shocking that this discourse of disrespect has also reached our legal system. We are now seeing hundreds of veterans who served in Northern Ireland during the troubles and in Iraq being the subject of an abhorrent witch hunt which sees them at risk of being prosecuted for the killings they carried out whilst in action.

Just this year a 77-year-old Ulster veteran who has sadly been suffering with heart troubles, had his home raided by 18 police officers and was then kept in custody for around 80 hours whilst being grilled over 26 times by the police. He is now being charged with an ‘attempted murder’ that took place over 44 years ago whilst serving in our armed forces during the troubles.

It is a disgrace to think that IRA terrorists can be let off early for their crimes against the United Kingdom yet the veterans who served in our armed forces, who followed orders and fought to keep the peace and protect us all, are now faced with jail time for their actions during service.

This is why I will continue to speak out against the disgraceful pursuance of our veterans. We must ensure that the current gap in our laws that allows this to take place is fixed, so that our laws protect the veterans that laid their lives on the line to protect us and our United Kingdom.