Holocaust Memorial Day took place on Wednesday 27 January. The last survivors of the Nazi death camps are now very elderly and will not be with us forever. It is therefore vitally important to listen to the emotional testimonies of those who are still alive and ensure their stories are remembered. I am privileged to know one such survivor, Mady Gerrard, who lives in Monmouthshire. Last year, Mady was kind enough to talk to me about her life and her experiences in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
“Give me an example of one single benefit of leaving the EU”, said an elderly gentleman in a call last week. To which I replied: “Have you had your Covid vaccine sir?” He had. Point made. Back in May of last year, several EU nations led by Germany were on the brink of signing a deal to make an advance purchase of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Unfortunately for them, the EU stepped in and demanded to take full control of the process for all member states. It was another three months before a deal was signed - long after the UK Government had done so. They then dragged their heels over certifying vaccines and argued with themselves over which vaccines to buy. As I write this article, over 8.9 million vaccines have been administered so far across the UK. On Saturday, almost 600,000 people were vaccinated in one day. Only Israel and the UAE have vaccinated more people per capita than the UK. In comparison, only two per cent of the population across the EU has been vaccinated. It gives me no sense of achievement to point out this failing because we will not be able to live our lives freely until everyone has been vaccinated. However, this situation should be a salutary lesson to those who told us that Brexit would mean, amongst other things, the failure of medicinal supplies and collapse of our NHS. The stark truth is the clumsy bureaucracy and petty in-fighting of the EU has left its citizens waiting longer than necessary for life-saving treatment.
The British Armed Forces make an outstanding contribution to our nation, whether defending our interests abroad or helping local communities during natural disasters such as the coronavirus pandemic. It is a great pleasure to offer congratulations to Bombardier Keith Hughes who has just completed an incredible 40 years of service with 104 Regiment Royal Artillery at Raglan Barracks Newport - and is still going strong! His citation speaks of his many qualities, including the support he has always given to young recruits coming into the regiment. Coincidently, both I and my caseworker Hannah Jarvis have served alongside Bombardier Hughes during different decades. We send our best wishes to him.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 3 February 2021 and the Abergavenny Chronicle on 4 February 2021*