Across Britain, buildings and monuments were bathed in purple light on Saturday to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. Held every year on 27th January, it commemorates the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945 – the largest Nazi concentration camp – and remembers the six million Jewish lives lost during the Holocaust. Against the backdrop of the Israel-Gaza conflict, this year was a stark reminder to not take freedoms for granted and to honour the victims of subsequent genocides around the world. I joined the Friends of Monmouth Library at their Holocaust Memorial Day event, where I was kindly invited to give a reading from “When The World Was Ours”. Inspired by the true story of her father’s escape from Nazi-occupied Europe, this extraordinary novel by author Liz Kessler shows how the bonds of love, family and friendship allow glimmers of hope to flourish, even in the most desperate of times. As I lit a candle to symbolise the fight against prejudice and hatred, how poignant that the repercussions of such a seismic event in history are still felt today. My role as Secretary of State for Wales also took me to Cardiff for an important discussion with Jewish university students about the worrying rise in antisemitic attacks, both in the UK and globally. We all have a duty to actively challenge prejudice, stand up to hatred and speak out against persecution wherever we see it.
There is nothing I enjoy more than getting out and about to meet various groups and organisations. On Friday, I was delighted to accept an invitation from Haberdashers’ Monmouth Schools to talk to sixth form pupils about UK democracy and my government role. I must say I was put through my paces by a superb group of students who asked some candid questions! I offer a non-political ‘A Day in the Life’ presentation, which gives a behind the scenes look at the workings of Westminster, and details what MPs get up to in their constituencies and in London. Afterwards, I open the floor for a Q&A session and it is always a lively affair! I am often told more could be done by politicians to engage people with the democratic process and I relish the opportunity to give these talks throughout Monmouthshire, from school classrooms to Women’s Institutes and Probus clubs. If you are interested and would like to arrange a date, please email email@example.com
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon and Abergavenny Chronicle on 31 January 2024*