SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Who turns the ‘M’?

Sir Peter Bottomley with his extended family
Sir Peter Bottomley with his extended family
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Many children have August holidays with grandparents and cousins.

It is a joy to see families in Coastal Road linking Kingston with East Preston, knowing they have been gathering there for generations.

Sir Peter Bottomley

Sir Peter Bottomley

Many come in retirement to live in Worthing because they as children had come here to stay with their elderly relations. They know they too can share happiness with the coming generations.

During the parliamentary recess, I hope to be in the constituency each week. The solemn commemoration of the European massacre at Srebrenica held at the Town Hall has been the most serious.

Moving speakers included the mayor, representatives of our local Islamic society, the Rabbi from our nearest synagogue and our Deputy Lieutenant Tom Wye, who had served in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda where mass killings took place.

Imagine having a leader who stirs up one group to single out peaceable neighbours for slaughter or for abuse.

We can be proud that Worthing is the centre of a district where few would think another person is not one of us because of the colour of skin or of faith.

That is because ordinary residents and civic leaders have taken the important steps to bring folk together and to respond positively when any group welcomes others to become familiar with belief, ritual and way of life.

For three days, I shall be helping with a holiday scheme for young children.

While the teenagers go sailing or study theory when the weather is rough, the youngest experience nature watching or go in a group to the playground.

One morning I was one of the helpers when our daughter welcomed three sets of 12 who came to paint the parts and then assemble simple small sailing boats.

I have known some of their grandparents for over 50 years – others are new to the area. All are welcomed.

If my family had allowed me to make a speech at a family gathering to recognise this year’s birthday and last year’s 40th anniversary of the year I was first elected to Parliament, I would have spoken of the trust I had had in my parents and in their parents. They never let me down. They helped me to move from thinking about ‘me’ to considering ‘we’. The idea of describing someone as ‘not one of us’ is not one I share.

‘Me’ suggests I deserve to be treated in particular and in favourable way.

‘We’ suggests that we are going to do things that either are good in themselves or that the shared activity will be of benefit to others.

Turning the ‘M’ in me upside down to make we is a task that the elders in a family and in a community can share. We do it more by example than by exhortation.

I can testify that just about every councillor of each party I have known in Arun, Adur and Worthing has been a person dedicated to the common good. Be proud of that.

Whether or not we have children or grandchildren of our own, we probably gained by the attention of grandparents and parents.

When we enjoy family life and share activities with long-term friends, we can remember to draw in the new arrival and the people who might otherwise be on holiday alone with a child.

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