Mercury column – November 2017

A century ago today the battlefields of Europe were still ablaze with a bloody conflict that engulfed the whole world. Around the Belgian town of Ypres the brutal Battle of Passchendaele was still grinding onwards – an offensive that would see over half-a-million casualties on both sides. In Russia, the Bolshevik revolutionaries were set to seize the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg and within days would abolish private property ownership and introduce press censorship. These events were the precursor of the mass arrests and executions of the “Red Terror” that swept the country.

These were momentous events that shaped European and British history for decades to come – arguably they still exert an influence to the present day. As we buy our poppies and wear them with pride this November, we once again remember the tragic events that affected every household, every family, across Europe. We remember those British servicemen who sacrificed their lives during the First World War and have done so in conflicts ever since. As a Member of Parliament, I have had the privilege of participating in Remembrance Day events both here in Great Yarmouth and at the Cenotaph in Whitehall. It is both a humbling and poignant experience to lay a wreath of poppies. Whenever I do so, I always reflect on my duty to uphold the British values of democracy and sovereign self-determination that countless British lives have been lost to defend these values.

In a continuously unstable and uncertain world, I cherish that in Britain we enjoy the freedoms that allow us to vote in fair and free elections. That we can go to the newsagents or online to check the latest news from a free and independent press. That our cherished right to freedom of speech means we can debate the issues that matter to us individually without fear of state reprisal.

All these years later this simple Act of Remembrance continues to unite us all; whatever our political opinion, whatever our social differences, whatever our individual backgrounds. It’s a moment when we can all come together as we say, “We will remember them.”