Shropshire Star

Political column – June 8

As the echoes die away on the D-Day commemorations, they have added poignancy because we know that there can never be a major anniversary like it again.


Ten years from now there may be just one or two left to give voice to their experiences, the final chains in a living link.

So we can count ourselves lucky today to have the privilege of saying our thanks directly to the surviving veterans.

I have been to Normandy once, back in 2004, the 60th anniversary commemorations, mingling with veterans of the King's Shropshire Light Infantry who travelled across and were given a wonderful reception by the French, a combination of gratitude and reverence.

The 2nd Battalion had distinguished themselves on D-Day by advancing the furthest inland of any of the Allied troops. Caen has naturally grown, and the woods those soldiers reached were by then on the outskirts of the modern city.

In Baron-sur-Odon, a handful of veterans of the 4th Battalion, which landed in the days after the initial invasion, revisited the site of their first engagements with the enemy, fanatical SS troops on the hill overlooking the village. One of them pointed to the very spot where he bayoneted the German soldier who had shot him.

There was a ceremony in which the village square was named after the battalion. When it came to the national anthems, they were too polite to say anything when the opening strains of "Deutschland Uber Allies" blared from the speakers, until things were quickly corrected – one of the hazards of relying on recorded music.

My parents were of the wartime generation and the war shaped their lives, bringing them together in the first place. Out of curiosity this week I checked to find where they were on D-Day. My father was abroad, but according to her service record my mother was a Wren at HMS Daedalus, a naval air station near Portsmouth which was heavily involved in the operation.

As to what she saw and did, I don't know, as I never thought to ask her.


You would have to have a heart of stone – or be a politician yourself – not to laugh when one politician calls another politician a liar.

Sir Keir Starmer pulled out the l-word this week to describe Rishi Sunak's claims about Labour tax plans during the leaders' head-to-head. The BBC piled in to support Sir Keir with its BBC verify "service," which perhaps under Sir Keir will be nationalised and rebranded The Ministry of Truth.

The umpires differ on who won this televised bout, although for my money Sir Keir won it hands down. Rishi made all the mistakes he made in the Tory leadership race with Liz Truss – interrupting, mansplaining, and so on – and came across as a desperate challenger, not as a Prime Minister.

You will not need reminding that Liz Truss won the Tory leadership. Rishi was second. Out of two.

Sir Keir and Rishi both should have told Julie Etchingham where to go when she read a list of statements and ordered them to put their hands up if those statements were wrong. We're not performing seals or a primary school class, they should have said indignantly. Modern leaders generally don't as they are afraid of looking bad on telly, but somebody like Clement Attlee would have.

She also asked if they would ever go private, and Sir Keir unequivocally said no. Good on yer Sir Keir, a champion of the NHS.

But it all depends how you phrase the question, doesn't it? If it had been put like this: "If your children were in agony and medical distress, would you go private to ensure them prompt treatment or would you put your political ideology first and wait 18 months for an NHS appointment and let them suffer?" then his answer would look less commendable.

Meanwhile Labour has positioned itself as the party of national security which will increase defence spending to 2.5 per cent "when conditions allow."

Objectively conditions will allow on July 5 when an incoming Prime Minister Starmer will be able to decide his budget priorities.

But he doesn't mean it to mean that. He means it to mean anything – up to and including "never."

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