Uncommon sense? Simple solutions?

Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for West Worthing
Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for West Worthing

At the end of the summer term, students across the age range volunteer to come to help at Westminster.

This is difficult for a number of reasons: each needs a constant escort; Parliament is in recess so no debates and no committee meetings; my dedicated team have holidays.

One colleague gathered students for a day course.

I spoke with them about the tasks an MP can try to achieve.

To engage their thinking, I asked the deceptively easy maths question.

If 15 of them took part in a singles knockout tennis tournament, like Wimbledon, how many matches would be played?

The answer and explanation are at the end.

Then I led a discussion about the purposes of democratic politics.

The Greeks might briefly say it was creating the good society.

Too brief to be useful?

My provisional suggestion in a few more words is that we can try to reduce avoidable misery, handicap and difficulty while aiming to increase wellbeing, a mix of wealth and welfare.

How to and when to avoid war, civil or international?

Undemocratic politics have left us with too many examples of unnecessary war, slavery, oppression and holocaust.

I ask when would have been the right time to confront Adolf Hitler and his Nazi National Socialism when it became clear that he intended to fulfil the aims of his 1925 book Mein Kampf.

He wanted to destroy democratic politics, communism and Jewishness.

The Italian Fascist leader Mussolini dismissed the book as boring, a collection of commonplace clichés.

If only the democrats in interwar Germany had not allowed Hitler space to assume and then to abuse power.

If only the Russians, known to be targets of Hitler’s expansionist aims, had not concluded the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact? If only... if only?

Should democracies have threatened military confrontation many years before September 1939?

How, in a democracy, can the general population face an explicit decision to fight if necessary, with casualties and destruction?

When I first represented Worthing West in Parliament, I met local members of the United Nations Association branches in the constituency and in Brighton.

A number remembered Virginia’s grandfather Dr Maxwell Garnett who had served the earlier League of Nations Union for many years before being sacked by the appeasers in 1938, as it became obvious to most that Hitlerism had to be confronted, that Britain needed greater defence and that it was our duty to work with others to save Europe from militaristic racist domination.

It was already known that Hitler had the perverted view that it was altruistic to destroy the weak and the handicapped.

This is my introduction to the duty of the elected representative to stand against oppression, to speak up for the vulnerable and to be prepared to confront national leaders who might drive their countries to disaster.

It does not need war. Read about Venezuela’s recent descent to disaster.

Be wary of simple solutions; remember common sense (which is not as common as it could be).

Everyone except the winner has to lose; one loses in each match; the answer is one less than the number at the start – so in this example 14.

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