James Grundy MP: Remembering Lord Peter Smith
Firstly, I should like to pay tribute to Lord Peter Smith, who recently passed away.
Peter served for many years as a local councillor in Leigh on Wigan Council, and served for many of those years as leader of the council.
Although Peter I and often disagreed on a range of subjects, often fervently so, we got on well outside the council chamber, in part because his wife, Lady Joy Smith, was one of my old teachers at Lowton High School, and Peter would often make joking references to this fact when we spoke in public together.
It is important to remember that politicians are human beings, and not mere ciphers.
It is easy to see politicians as merely the badges we wear at election time, but at times of tragedy like this it is important to remember that Peter was not merely a politician, a councillor and a peer, but a beloved husband and father, and his loss will be deeply felt by his family.
I should like to extend my deepest sympathies to Peter’s widow, Lady Joy Smith, and his daughter, Anna, at this most difficult of times, and I am sure that all decent people will do the same.
The other day, I was pleased to receive my second Covid 19 jab at one of the excellent local vaccination centres in the borough.
The staff at these centres have been working tirelessly since the start of the year to ensure that local residents are protected from this deadly disease, and I pay tribute to their unceasing efforts.
Whilst at my age I am only moderately at risk from the virus, my 80 year old father, a lung cancer survivor, is at high risk of death or serious illness from contracting the virus, and I cannot tell you what a relief it has been to finally be fully vaccinated.
I was, however, concerned to hear from staff at the vaccination centre that younger people are lagging behind the older generation in coming forward to receive their vaccinations.
I would strongly exhort more young people to come forward for their vaccination.
Whilst those under 30 are at limited risk of serious illness or death from contracting the virus, they can keep it circulating amongst the public, or worse still, unknowingly pass it to an elderly relative through asymptomatic transmission, potentially with dire consequences.
I would urge the elderly to encourage those younger relatives of theirs to get the vaccine if they have not already done so. It is vital that the vaccination rate in the borough is as high as possible to prevent the outbreak of a new variant, the chance of which increases the more the virus is able to spread.
Let us ensure the Delta variant of Covid is the last variant we have to deal with by our combined efforts to maximise vaccination locally. It is down to all of us to play our part.
Finally, I would like to turn to the subject of Afghanistan.
In my view it was a grave error for the Americans to withdraw from Afghanistan. It was very clear that this would precipitate the collapse of the Afghan government, and lead to the return of the Taliban, a militant Islamist terror group, running that country.
The situation before the withdrawal was not ideal, but it was stable, with at least some semblance of normality. Once the Americans decided to withdraw, it became impossible for Britain and other western nations to maintain a presence in Afghanistan, and our hand was forced on the issue.
In a short-sighted attempt to save money, the American government has upended all the progress made over the last two decades, and set at nought all the sacrifices made by our armed forces, and their own.
Not since the fall of Saigon has the western world suffered a setback of this magnitude, and an entirely avoidable one at that.
This situation demonstrates clearly that a world in which America is perceived as weak is a terrifying and uncertain one.
We can only hope that lessons have been quickly learned from this disaster. The cost has certainly been high enough already
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