Category Archives: Background

From Gallipoli to Guildford

Sgt S Fitz

My great-grandfather Sgt S Fitz. I’m told I look like him.

I watched a bit of the ceremony at the Cenotaph today marking 100 years since the start of the Gallipoli campaign in the first world war. My great-grandfather was there, 100 years ago, as an infantry sergeant. It made me wonder what he thought of the war then and what he would make of Britain and the world today.

Back then, he wouldn’t have thought of it as the first world war. To the men thrown into the slaughter it must have seemed like the war to end all wars, or to end the world. They must have thought that the whole world order must surely change now. The empires and the aristocrats must surely come tumbling down after creating such a man-made tragedy of death and destruction.

What would my great-grandfather, Sgt S Fitz, have thought if he had known in 1915 that another world war was just 24 years away? What would he have thought if he could see the dukes and the earls leading ceremonies at Remembrance Days? What would he think about his great-grandson being an airline captain and standing for Parliament for the Labour Party?

Sometimes, we all have struggles in our lives, or think we have done something courageous. I will be thinking of my great-grandfather when the election result in Guildford is declared on 8 May 2015 and remember where he was exactly 100 years before.

Books, Films and Football

The Surrey Advertiser recently asked all the candidates to be the next MP for Guildford a number of questions about sport and culture. Here are the questions and my answers…

What sports do you follow and what teams do you support? Would you support Guildford City FC’s bid to secure their own grounds?

What is your favourite book, album, film and play? What does the constituency need to do to improve the arts culture it offers?

What is your idea of the perfect night out? How does the constituency’s night life need to be improved?

I follow lots of sports but particularly football and cricket. I still support the football team from the town I grew up in, Hamilton Accies, but since I moved away 27 years ago I haven’t been to see them live for a long time. Being an airline pilot gives me the chance to go to matches abroad. I really like going to German Bundesliga matches on nightstops. It is cheap to get in, there is always a great atmosphere and the football is pretty good too. The clubs are owned by the fans, which makes a big difference.

Nowadays, I support Guildford City but the last time I had a chance to go to a match was last season. They were having a tough season on the pitch but it was great to be there to support our local team. I would like to see even more supporters in the stands and, preferably, the club owning their own ground.

I am looking forward to seeing Kevin Pietersen play cricket for Surrey this summer. I hope he comes to Guildford.

My favourite book of all time is probably Great Expectations. In recent fiction, I loved reading The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen because I lived in the mid-west of America at the time the novel is set. In non-fiction, I can recommend A View From The Foothills by Chris Mullin. It is a funny and irreverent diary of Mullin’s time as a Labour MP. I am currently reading The Martian by Andy Weir which is great fun. It is about a manned mission to Mars which doesn’t go to plan.

I used to work in a bookshop at weekends when I was at university and my mother was an English teacher so I still spend time with my nose in a good book when I can.

My musical tastes are half-6 Music and half-Radio 3. I have Dvorzak’s New World Symphonies on in my car and The Marmozets album The Weird and Wonderful on at home at the moment. I was very glad to speak in favour of The Boileroom music venue staying open at the council’s Licensing Committee last September. I think it is a cultural gem for Guildford.

My favourite film is Where Eagles Dare, the Second World War film starring Richard Burton. I have a sneaking suspicion that my parents named me after him. “Broadsword calling Danny Boy, over!”

If I had to choose a favourite play, it would probably be Macbeth, such a grotesque story due to the common human weakness of ambition.

A perfect night out for me is a good meal with fascinating company. After the election, I would like to dine with some of the most interesting politicians I have met during the campaign: Andy Burnham, Caroline Flint, Ed Balls, Chuka Umunna, Stella Creasy and Ed Miliband. I expect they will all be too busy for the next five years however!

Hello, Good Evening & Welcome

Question: Why does Surrey Heath require another community and political blog? After all there are so many other worthwhile blogs here. Um, OK, there are a couple.

Answer: There are so many pressing issues that will affect people in Surrey, it is vital that they are all covered and nothing is missed out because of the huge volume of changes and threats facing us.

Welcome to Red Sky at Night, the new blog for discussion of local, national and international issues covering government at all levels, society, ideology and parish notices.

Over the next few weeks, here are a few of the items on the agenda:

  • The proposed developments on Chobham Common at the ex-DERA site at Longcross
  • Surrey County Council’s threat to Bagshot and Lightwater Libraries
  • Lightwater Surgery’s use of a revenue-sharing phone number, contrary to their contact
  • Sustainable transport, or the lack thereof, in Surrey
  • How “Zero Tolerance” policing could benefit from a bit more, um, tolerance
  • The privatisation of the NHS and how we can combat this in Surrey Heath
  • Benefits and how Tories locally and nationally are castigating the poorest people
  • Foodbanks and the free meals that our councils provide for their richest supporters
  • Planning applications like Tesco and the Lightwater dance studio
  • Council Tax levels for the next year
  • Housing shortage and preserving the environment
  • Use and misuse of social media
  • Misconduct by local councillors
  • Surrey County Council elections on 2 May
  • Vacancy on Chobham Parish Council to be filled

We are governed nationally by the most ideologically-driven government ever, more so even than Thatcher’s. They are privatising the NHS and other public services, transferring wealth from the poor to the rich, entrenching privilege and pandering to xenophobes. Also, when central government says, “Jump!” our local councils ask, “How high?”. They share the extreme right-wing ideology but combine it with their own brand of mismanagement and incompetence. By scraping the bottom of the barrel for many of their councillors, the local Conservative Party has taken incompetency, confusion, waste, illiteracy and self-interest to new levels.

However, the tide is turning. People are organising locally and online. Labour are 15 percentage points ahead in the latest polls and preparing for the next general election in 2015 already.

Last week saw the darkest hour, the Tory-Lib Dem government voted to cap benefits below inflation and make the poor poorer. In Surrey Heath, the borough council executive voted for the change in Council Tax benefits which hits the poorest hardest too.

The darkest hour comes just before the dawn.

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