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Resilience and recovery. Why the lessons learnt from VE Day go beyond the events of 1945.

We are unable to leave our homes. Our public services are creaking under the weight of a pandemic. There is no notion of what comes next, and we are all concerned about the wellbeing of our loved ones. Why is it so important for us to spend time thinking about events that took place long before most of us were even born?

Over 450,000 British men, women and children died in World War Two. The majority of them in the European theatre or as a result of bombing raids launched from the continent. Without this unfathomable sacrifice, the surrender of the most tyrannical regime the world has ever seen would not have taken place. Time does not erode the significance of this event, and in celebrating and reflecting, we preserve the actions of those before us. As the number of people with living memory of the events slowly slip away, the importance of commemoration grows. Not only for their sake, but for the sake of future generations who can draw vital lessons from actions that took place 75 years ago.

Lessons of resilience and stories of recovery have the ability to instil in us the hardy mentality that saw this country through the darkest period in its history. Many of the hard-fought freedoms secured by the actions of those during World War Two are the ones we find ourselves without today. Most are unable to leave their homes, loved ones are at risk of harm, and spending time with those close to us is impossible for many. In taking stock of the actions performed by those during World War Two, we will find the strength to deal with the present. The continuation of celebrations act as a reminder. This country has overcome hardship before, and we can do it again.

Reflecting on the events that unfolded in the wake of VE Day highlight that when backed into a corner and pushed to our limits, Britain is capable of transforming society for the better. The 1945 Labour landslide secured by Clement Attlee brought with it a of tide of radical social policy that has indisputably enriched our society and changed the political landscape indefinitely. Our much-cherished National Health Service, cradle to grave welfare, modern day workers’ rights and efforts to tackle wealth disparity are all firm foundations helping to fight the crisis today, borne out of the crisis 75 years ago. Spending some time thinking about this reminds the nation that we are capable not just of overcoming hardship but transforming society for the better.

The lessons learnt by celebrating VE Day go beyond inspiration and commemoration. They also help us learn the value of working together. On 8 May, standing before an ecstatic sea of people stretching from Whitehall to Buckingham Palace, Prime Minister Winston Churchill leant from the Ministry of Health balcony and declared “This is not victory of a party or of any class. It’s a victory of the great British nation as a whole”. Why is this important? Because it shows that in times of crisis, we must come together to fight a common enemy.

There is a great deal more that unites us in this country than divides us. Understanding the intrinsic nature of putting differences aside will help us now in the battle against this pandemic. Bombs in the Blitz did not discriminate, neither does Covid-19. A united front helped defeat the former, it falls on our shoulders to make sure it defeats the latter too.

Between 1939 and 1945, 383,700 British armed forces personnel laid down their lives in the fight against tyranny. 75 years later, in the midst of a very different crisis, they are still delivering for Britain. From supplying PPE to frontline staff to supporting local authorities and the NHS, three quarters of a century on our military personnel are standing up to be counted in our time of need. We owe it to all generations of service people to celebrate their actions and remind them that we recognise all they have done, and all they are doing.

So, as we hit the 75th anniversary of VE Day, celebrations are more important than ever. Lessons of resilience and fortitude can be learnt from the adversity faced by past generations. Radical social change and transformation prompted by the crisis then can help us forge new paths of compassion now. Stories of cooperation and alliance show us the benefit of putting differences aside. Covid-19 has not lessened the importance of our VE Day commemorations. It has enhanced it. The bunting must go up. The photo albums must be opened, and the stories must be passed on.

Now more than ever, as a nation, we must come together and celebrate safely in whatever way we can.

Stephen Morgan MP writing for Politics Home marking the 75th anniversary of VE Day

 

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Portsmouth MP urges people to “pocket memories” of VE Day in call for photos and stories

Stephen Morgan MP is encouraging Portsmouth residents to share their family members’ short stories and photos of celebration marking the end of the Second World War.

The call has also been put out to share memories of Portsmouth at the time, as part of the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day later this week.

The Shadow Armed Forces Minister has already called on residents to get creative and celebrate safely. Now he has urged fellow city residents to mark the occasion by gathering photos, stories and memories from those who lived through the war as a legacy of the commemorations.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“During the D-Day 75 commemorations last year, my family and I enjoyed looking through my late grandfather’s collection of photos from his time in the Royal Army Service Corp, and the images of him as a veteran with my grandmother enjoying life together in Southsea after the war.

Reflecting on these memories not only acts as window into the world as seen by our loved ones, it also paints a picture of the war that shaped everything as we know it.

The more we can do to understand the sacrifice and experiences of that generation, the better equipped we will be to take on the challenges we face today”.

Initially memories provided to the Portsmouth MP will be shared online and depending on the volume received, may be used for archive purposes to help record the city’s commemorations.

On the ask for memories from Portsmouth residents, the MP added:

“At this time of crisis for our country, I want to make sure everyone in Portsmouth has a way to pay tribute to the contributions generations before us made for the peace and freedoms we enjoy today.

Our city played a crucial part in the allied victory, a price we paid for heavily in the bombing campaigns. Sharing memories and photos of this time helps us to understand the significant damage done to our city and how much has been done to rebuild it. Portsmouth featured heavily in Britain’s post war planning and reconstruction.

Despite today’s challenging circumstances, we as a city must be proud of our past and ensure that these men and women are always remembered.

To help mark the 75th anniversary in our city, I am asking constituents to share with me just a couple of sentences of a story or memory, or a photo if you have one, to remember a loved one and give thanks for everyone who fought for our country.

I hope as many people as possible will help me pocket our city’s past memories of VE Day and find a way to take part”.

Contributions of all kinds should be emailed to stephen@stephenmorgan.org.uk for collation by volunteers between now and Saturday 9 May 2020.

The Royal British Legion Industries are also encouraging members of the public to mark the anniversary by placing 25cm tall ‘Tommy in the window’ figures at www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/remembrance/teaching-remembrance

 

 

 

 

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“Survival of Gosport Ferry now in Government’s hands” says Portsmouth MP following continued lobbying

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has joined with neighbouring council leaders, the Commodore of HM Naval Base and other MPs to lobby government into taking action to save the much-loved Gosport Ferry service.

The city MP’s latest efforts follow a string of parliamentary written questions putting pressure on Government to act and a letter sent to the Transport Secretary last week, highlighting where support must be offered. This can be seen here.

The most recent letter from the political leader and other local representatives details the measures that local authorities have been taking to save the service, including offering a deferment in licence fees and pontoon charges before urging government to step up.

In signing the letter from local leaders, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Cash strapped councils have shown leadership by offering relief to the crucial ferry service by offering the deferral of charges amounting to £42,000 per month. Now it falls on government to do their bit.

Sadly government support packages have not supported Gosport Ferry so far bringing uncertainty to those who work for the company and those who benefit from the service. Today, along with other stakeholders, I have urged government to redress this and offer a package to balance the shortfall.

This is an essential service relied upon by our region. The varied mix of signatories to the letter, led by local councils, is a testament to that. The survival of the ferry service is in the hands of government, we must now see urgent action from them.”

All signatories, including two Government Ministers who represent constituencies in the region, suggest that “the value of Gosport Ferry may not have been fully appreciated” by government and pushed for urgent action.

Stephen Morgan MP added:

“Liaising with senior members of Gosport Ferry, the trade unions, staff affected and constituents who have told me the value of this service, I have already taken a range of actions to help.

I remain committed to working with others to highlight the gaps in government support and what this means for vital transport infrastructure in our region. I will continue to lobby Ministers to ensure they take notice of just how important our region is. Government must not forget that.”

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“In looking to the past, we will find the strength to deal with the present” says city MP on VE celebrations

Shadow Armed Forces Minister and city MP Stephen Morgan has urged Portsmouth people to celebrate safely on Friday 8 May for Victory in Europe (VE) Day.

This year is particularly significant as it marks the 75th anniversary since the Allies’ formal acceptance of the unconditional surrender of Nazi forces in 1945. After the success of D-Day 75, Portsmouth was set for widespread street parties and public events.

While the major celebratory events have had to be cancelled due to social distancing measures amid Covid-19, the Portsmouth South MP has urged people across the city to celebrate and pay tribute in alternative ways.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Many of the hard fought for freedoms secured by the brave people 75 years ago are the ones we find ourselves without today due to Covid-19. That makes the recognition and celebration of their actions even more important.

In looking to the past, we will find the strength to deal with the present. The continuation of celebrations is vital. This country has overcome hardship before, and we can do it again.

The efforts we can expect this coming week will be about celebrating victory over the most tyrannical regime the world has seen and spending time thinking about those who sacrificed so much for us.

I will be spending time paying tribute to my own grandfather, who set sail from Portsmouth on D-Day and spent time fighting in the European theatre.”

While social distancing requirements have scuppered some major celebration plans, which had included a veterans’ procession and street parties, across the country people have been showing ingenuity and coming up with alternative ideas.

On this, Stephen Morgan MP added:

“In true Portsmouth fashion, people are coming together to find safe, creative ways of celebrating. Some are placing a specially designed image of a Second World War soldier in their windows, while others are planning to cut out and put up homemade bunting.

I urge people from across our city to celebrate this important landmark in not just our nation’s, but the world’s history, by getting involved in their own way.

Understanding our shared heritage of remembrance helps bring communities together. We can’t let anything get in way of recognising the sacrifice of service people.”

Official commemorations will begin at 11am on Friday with a national moment of remembrance and a two-minute silence, according to government guidelines.

A pack with ideas for homemade VE Day bunting, original recipes, games, and educational and creative activities for children has been produced by Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, so families under lockdown can create their own experiences at home. This can be found here

The Royal British Legion has also launched its “Tommy in the window” campaign, producing specially designed figures of soldiers. More information and educational material can be found here

 

 

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Covid-19: City MP takes action to save Gosport Ferry

Stephen Morgan MP has today written to the Transport Secretary urging immediate government measures to support Gosport Ferry. The action follows reports that the business runs the risk of ruin due to the financial implications of Covid-19.

Mr Morgan has called on government to address the fact that their transport funding package, announced earlier this week, does not offer any tangible support to Gosport Ferry, which has lost 90% of its normal passenger volumes.

This is just the latest of the city MP’s actions, as he has already submitted a string of parliamentary written questions and raised the issue with the local authority following discussions with the ferry company’s senior management.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Gosport Ferry is vital to not just Portsmouth, but the region. Some rely on it for business and commuting, others for their employment or leisure.

Government has a responsibility to ensure it continues to serve our community. The £17 million package, announced earlier this week, offers no guidance as to what this will mean for businesses like Gosport Ferry.

I am minded to support government in this time of crisis where suitable, but it is unclear what, if anything, they have done to help this service to date. I will continue to lobby the relevant Ministers to make announcements to help this vital regional transport infrastructure.”

Gosport Ferry has been connecting Portsmouth and Gosport since 1875, it carries over 3 million passengers each year and is a vital link for commuters, businesses and leisure travel. Covid-19 social distancing measures have heavily affected their revenue which has left the future of the company hanging in the balance.

Mr Morgan added:

“What have they done to support this service so far? What steps are they taking to ensure the continuation of the service post Covid-19? Can they guarantee the security of the business?

These are the questions that Government’s funding package failed to answer so far which is why I have today put them to the Transport Secretary. Uncertainty at this time could cost jobs and livelihoods for Portsmouth people. I will continue to push for government support for all transport infrastructure struggling under the strain of Covid-19.”

The Portsmouth South MP is committed to working with the city council and neighbouring Members of Parliament which protects this vital transport link for Portsmouth and Gosport and will be taking further action next week following concerns raised by constituents.

 

 

 

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City MP continues to take action as WASPI women hit hard by Covid-19

Long running supporter of the WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) campaign, Stephen Morgan MP, has today written to the Work and Pensions Secretary urging swift action to help women born in the 1950s suffering at the hands of the pandemic.

The WASPI movement campaigns against the way the state pension age for men and women was equalised. Prior to the pandemic, millions of 1950s women had been made worse off, some losing up to £47,000. Reports are suggesting that these women are now being disproportionately hit by the impacts of Covid-19.

Writing directly the Secretary of State after listening to local concerns, Mr Morgan has raised that women affected are facing increased loss of earnings, trouble with Universal Credit and gaps in government support before he outlined potential solutions.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“This is the generation of women that rebuilt Britain, it is unacceptable that they are being disproportionately affected by Covid-19. They suffered injustice prior to the pandemic, it is not right that they continue to have support refused.

Some face a loss of earnings as cleaners and exam invigilators whose ‘top up’ income has now dried up. Others are self-employed and have fallen through gaps in government support.

That is why I have written to directly the Work and Pensions Secretary requesting government explores the early payment of Pension Credit and State Pension to those effected.”

Shelagh Simmons from Solent WASPI said:

“Government implemented legislation that has caused severe financial turmoil for millions of 1950s women. Now we are asking them to provide emergency support during this pandemic

Early access to Pension Credit and State Pension will go some way to alleviate the pressures faced, and we are grateful to Stephen Morgan MP for taking action and asking the Government to make an assessment of these requests.”

Evidence suggests that many 1950s women work in the gig economy. The sector least supported by government Covid-19 schemes. This, coupled with low incomes undermining eligibility for universal credit, is resulting in severe loss of earnings for WASPI women.

The city MP has urged the government to assess the impacts of Pension Credit, which could offer immediate financial relief to those affected. While early access to State Pension has the potential to boost disposable income, likely to give a welcome kick to the economy as Britain gets on the road to recovery.

Stephen Morgan MP added: 

“I have been working closely with WASPI women for some time. I am committed to continuing to engage with them through this pandemic and beyond.

It is important that no one is left behind, particularly in a crisis, and that government is aware of the fact that there are gaps in the support they are offering.”

 

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“Keeping people connected has never been more important” says city MP thanking posties on National Postal Workers’ Day

Wednesday 29 April marks the ninth National Postal Workers’ Day, a day dedicated to thanking postal workers for their first-class service to the country. The annual event is organised by the Communication Workers Union (CWU), a trade union for the communications industry with almost 200,000 members.

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has commended the postal workers particularly for their work delivering essential items, looking out for the elderly and taking shopping to vulnerable people amid the Covid-19 crisis.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Postal workers are an essential cog in keeping the country connected. Whether delivering parcels containing important business equipment or keeping in touch with loved ones, we all know how well they serve our community.

The importance of paying tribute to postal workers could not be more crucial at this time of crisis. Not only are they keeping the mail moving during a pandemic which puts themselves at risk, there are widespread reports of workers going above and beyond by helping the vulnerable.

I urge people to show solidarity across the country by displaying messages of thanks in their windows and letting postal workers know how much we value their service.”

A spokesperson from the CWU said:

“Despite hugely challenging times, CWU members are keeping the country connected. From delivering essential items to checking on the elderly and taking shopping to the most vulnerable in society, we have seen thousands of examples of local postal workers stepping up.”

The city MP has also backed the CWU’s calls for Royal Mail to make their work safer amid the pandemic. The CWU has criticised the Royal Mail over the continual delivery of advertising mail and called for better provision of PPE for workers who are on the frontline.

On this, Stephen Morgan MP added:

“While paying tribute to postal workers is very important, this does not mean much unless we are prepared to stand in solidarity with them when it comes to things as important as their safety, and even their lives.

I support the CWU’s calls for an end to advertisement mail during this pandemic. Any measure that reduces risk must be taken, especially as in this case, advertising mail can be deemed as non-essential at a time of crisis.

I also vow to continue taking action on behalf of all frontline workers when it comes to the provision of PPE. The postal service is a key part of the UK’s infrastructure. They continue to deliver for us, we must now show our support for them.”

The Portsmouth MP has urged people to leave messages of support for their postal worker in their windows on the 29 April 2020 in a safe manner, and in line with government safety guidelines.

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City MP pays tribute to all those who have lost their lives at work on International Workers’ Memorial Day

Workers’ Memorial Day is commemorated throughout the world and is officially recognised by the UK Government. Stephen Morgan MP has joined local trade unions and others in remembering those who have lost their lives at work, or from work-related injury and diseases by completing a minute silence.

The city MP also called for renewed efforts to organise collectively to prevent more deaths, injuries and disease as a result of work, commending the trade unions for their work in the ongoing battle for increased employee rights and safety.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“It is a shocking fact that every year more people die from work related injuries than die in wars. This is not an inevitability that we have to accept, many of these deaths are preventable. Through appropriate regulation, increased workplace safety and creating a system where all employers care about the safety of workers, we can make a difference.

This year’s commemorations are even more important considering the coronavirus pandemic. Every day we are seeing brave frontline workers risking their lives on behalf of all of us.  Already many thousands of workers worldwide have died. More have fallen ill or continue to go to work for the good of the community.

International Worker’s Memorial Day is a vital way to stand in solidarity with those who have lost their lives, those who are still working and to highlight that much more must be done to improve safety at work.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank all trade unions for their tireless efforts and campaigning to stand up for workers’ rights and protections all year round”.

The city MP is joining the minute silence, taking a moment to pay tribute to the sacrifice made by so many workers during the pandemic, to remember those who’ve sadly lost their lives, and to thank all those who continue to do vital work at great risk.

The one minute silence is at 11am on 28 April 2020.

 

 

 

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City MP says issues remain over bringing Britons back home

From the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, UK nationals stranded abroad have been reaching out to the Portsmouth South MP for assistance. Stephen Morgan MP has so far taken action on behalf of 35 constituents stuck in 11 countries, with 12 still remaining overseas.

In each individual case, Mr Morgan has been lobbying Government hard, submitting detailed requests for action to the Foreign Office and relaying concerns to the Shadow Foreign Secretary, who is raising cases at regular meetings with Ministers.

Further action by the city MP has included writing an open letter to the Foreign Secretary urging more comprehensive support packages and raising additional measures that government could take by submitting parliamentary questions.

The city MP received a recent update on many of the concerns he raised following a meeting between the Shadow Foreign Office team and Nigel Adams MP, Minister of State for the Foreign Office. However, concerns over the Government’s response to this crisis remain.

Mr Morgan said:

“There must be little scarier and more stressful than being stranded hundreds of miles from home and separated from family during a pandemic. As well as raising individual cases, I have been feeding key themes back to the Shadow Foreign Office team who have been raising concerns at the highest level.

At a recent meeting, the Government Minister responsible acknowledged that there is a need for more accessible information coming from embassies, increased efforts put into the repatriation of vulnerable people, and more action taken over the financial losses incurred by flight cancellations.

While these acknowledgements are encouraging, we must see this translate into practical action. There are 12 Portsmouth people who have got in touch with me, and many more who haven’t, who are still stuck overseas. Every day they are there is more anxiety and stress for them and their families.

I will continue to constructively engage with government by highlighting areas for improvement while applying scrutiny to their decisions, making sure that the interests of Portsmouth people are represented.”

Some of the cases that the Portsmouth South representative has been assisting with have included elderly people stuck in Australia with limited access to medication, an individual separated from his partner in Ghana, a performer stranded aboard a cruise liner, and a man confined to his accommodation in Goa due to a pack of wild dogs left to roam the streets.

Mr Morgan also raised the issue of spiralling, and reportedly exploitative, airline flight costs with the Foreign Office. This followed one constituent contacting him to outline they had been quoted $3000 for a one way journey.

On flight costs, Stephen Morgan MP said:         

“We cannot stand for any kind of cashing in on people’s desperation and no one should get into financial difficulty through no fault of their own.  I therefore welcome government’s commitments to subsidise flights, work with airlines to stop spiralling flight costs and increase repatriation loan repayment timetables.

While I am glad government has listened to the concerns I raised earlier this month, I will continue to work closely with stranded constituents to ensure that they see these changes on the ground.”

Mr Morgan has also been acting in his capacity as Shadow Armed Forces minister, outlining how best the government can utilise the expert skill set of military personnel. He added:

“We have the most elite armed forces in the world. Dealing with crisis is their bread and butter and they are doing outstanding working in supporting services amid Covid-19.

The RAF has already been mobilised for some flights, but it was revealed at the latest meeting there is no planned mass deployment at this time.

I will continue to apply scrutiny to government decision-making on the use of our armed forces to ensure that if necessary, Ministers are encouraged to make resources available.”

The city MP has been privy to additional commitments made by government including dual nationals who hold British passports not being treated any differently, an initial 10 flights being chartered to return British citizens from Pakistan, and better communication channels being established between the Foreign Office and constituency MPs. Stephen Morgan MP continues to help a number of constituents who are still stranded abroad.

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Make a Portsmouth rainbow!

Fun family activity by Stephen Morgan MP

All around Portsmouth’s communities we can see colourful rainbows decorated by families offering a sign of hope during this challenging time for our city and our country.

Following the popular constituency colouring competition, Stephen is now encouraging Portsmouth families to turn their minds to making a rainbow for their home window.

Teaming up with University of Portsmouth alumni and graphic design freelancer Dan Mackey, Dan has used his amazing talents to produce a template for people to make a rainbow.

Please feel free to colour it in, cut it out, fold it into shape, and display it in your window!

To download the template click here

If you want to share your completed rainbow, please email a photo to  stephen@stephenmorgan.org.uk

A selection will be put on Stephen’s social media

For more information about Dan’s work click here