Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pensioners-Broken Faith

The article below  [written by one of the readers of this blog]  reflects on the steely lack of compassion, understanding and honour amongst those who formulate rules in Whitehall. It should not be necessary for the very elderly to fight for what is, to any logical mind, obvious justice.

'The King's Speech’ War Veterans and The Big Society
by Dr.Sylvia Moore, 19 March 2011

A bound edition of the book ‘Broken Faith’ was delivered to Downing Street on 16 December 2010 by the International Consortium of British Pensioners, (ICPB) where it was presented to Pensions Minister Stephen Webb.

In ‘Broken Faith’ 104 war veterans who served across the globe in defence of His Majesty’s Government describe their service records. Yet, because they live abroad in countries where their pensions are frozen, they are among the half million pensioners denied their right to a basic state pension. The veterans were ready to return their service medals such was their feelings of betrayal. They were the men and women who responded to George VI’s famous speech broadcast on 3 September 1939, rallying British citizens at home and overseas to meet the challenge to preserve justice, peace and liberty in the face of ‘the primitive doctrine that might is right which would keep the people of the world in the bondage of fear’.

‘The King’s Speech’ was the centre piece of the recent award winning film, a budget blockbuster hitting big times with 7 Bafta awards followed by Oscar awards on 28 February 2011 for best actor, best film, best director best screenplay, but what about best war veterans alive today living in the King’s former dominions and elsewhere overseas?

Like them, best actor Colin Firth playing George VI, is a global citizen supporting many worthy causes - Survival International, fair immigration policies, eco industries; and he set up a film and political activism website, Brightwide.com along with his Italian wife film director Livia Giuggioli. His grandparents were missionaries in Asia, his parents brought up in India, his father taught history in Nigeria where Colin lived as child and he dreamed of going to the North Pole. His grandmother’s precise pre-war English diction helped him in his role to utter precisely George VI’s speech :

‘In this grave hour, perhaps the most fateful in our history, I send to every household of my peoples both at home and overseas this message spoken with the same depth of feeling for each one of you as if I were able to cross your threshold and speak to you myself…..For the sake of all that we hold dear; the hope of peace, justice and liberty, it is unthinkable that we should refuse to meet the challenge. It is to this high purpose that I now call my people at home and my people across the seas who will make our cause their own…. ready for whatever service or sacrifice it may demand.’

Just after the Oscar awards, David Cameron relaunched his Big Society on 1 March at Somerset House, London, saying that it was not a cover up for cuts though they had to be made across board. The Big Society was a new approach to further inclusive social and economic recovery whether ‘public spending was up, flat or down’. It would involve civil society organisations, more decentralisation, and more autonomy in partnership with the state to bring real power and entrepreneurship to the social sector. Will Mr Cameron include the war veterans in the Big Society and cross their thresholds with the same depth of feeling as George VI to give them back ‘all that we hold dear’? He would surely commend them as the ‘bravest of the brave’, as he said of the armed forces he sent off today to set up the no fly zone across Libya.

See p 2 ‘A veteran’s experience at Downing Street – Reflections on the Medals Campaign’
by Bernard Jackson published in JUSTICE for Expatriate British Pensioners Issue 1, 2011
For further information visit www.BritishPensions.com and contact John Markham, International Consortium of British Pensioners Director UK Parliamentary Affairs jmarkham@sympatico.ca