2015 is a year of strangely resonant anniversaries. June 18th marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, whilst July will see the 70th anniversary of Labour’s mould breaking 1945 election victory. Today is another important anniversary – it’s 70 years since VE Day. So here’s a VE Day story as told to me by a work colleague many years ago. It’s a true story and it’s worth putting in the public domain.
Chris was 12 in 1945. On the evening of VE Day, he rode his bicycle to the top of Boar’s Hill, which gave him a commanding view of the surrounding area. Gradually, the light faded and darkness covered the fields, the little villages and the nearby towns. Then something happened. Gradually, small dots of light began to appear as people realised that that they no longer needed to blackout their windows for fear of attracting enemy aircraft. No aircraft would fly over tonight on their way to bomb factories or airfields or great conurbations. There was no enemy. There was nothing to fear. Curtains were drawn back, lights were switched on and bonfires were lit in a glorious celebration of freedom from fear.
As we contemplate an EU referendum isn’t it worth reflecting that, for anyone born since 1945, the idea of the nations of Europe going to war with each other is incomprehensible?
As we contemplate our electoral system and the possible reordering of the United Kingdom, isn’t it worth reflecting on the astonishing social and political change born of that ballot-box revolution?
As we look back to the creation of our welfare state and the dismantling of Empire by politicians who had little formal education; politicians who had worked in mines, shipyards and factories, yet had the vision to see that things could be different and the ability to manage the necessary upheaval, isn’t it time to reflect on the loss of ability and vision in our current political leadership? And isn’t it time to demand change?