Two weeks ago a letter was printed from an eastern European resident who was harassed by an elderly local man as she entered a local store with her baby. As someone with a strong interest in local history I have been struck by the stoic character of the people of Grantham who have always rallied in time of adversity to support their nation. However, to verbally abuse a woman in front of her child simply because of her nationality is something else. Something deeply disturbing. Britain is a nation of travellers. People who dared to dream. People who were willing to take a huge chance and start a new life. Immigrants and migrants alike. Our language is the ‘lingua franca’ of the world. Our own historic desire to travel and trade with other nations, even dominate them, has led to the spread of a common language used in law, science, politics and the arts. Our own governments have recognised the importance of this for economic growth and to develop strategic alliances. The underlying cause of the behaviour of the gentleman concerned should be examined.
We are going through an economic crisis and the vote to leave the EU has both left a significant sense of uncertainty but also emboldened those with more basic prejudices against other peoples. Grantham has seen a significant change over the last decade as more people have moved into the area from other countries. They have also moved here from other parts of our own country. Indeed, this is something the local council is hoping for given the need to regenerate our town centre and boost local services. But we also have a shortage of affordable housing affecting everyone. Whether you are a beneficiary having seen an increase in your property price, or someone struggling with increased rent and mortgage prices. There is huge pressure on our local services. It is difficult to get a GP appointment. Social services are under huge pressure and elderly people struggle to find appropriate care. Our local A&E unit faces closures. Our county police force has had a significant cut, our lights go out at night and there has been a 50 per cent cut in our bus services over the last decade. Our roads are inadequately gritted and are full of potholes. We have jobs but they are generally low paid in comparison to the rest of the country. There is significant competition for them. Our welfare benefits safety net is so full of holes it does not now sustain the life of those dependent upon it. Especially our most vulnerable disabled people. These are extremely important issues. They need tackling. But they are the result of government policy – past and present. Governments who have put the interests of large corporations and the wealthy above the needs of their people. They are not the fault of a woman walking down the street with her baby. And as much as some may not like to hear this, thanks to another failure of government, planning, we desperately need people from overseas to fill our skills gap.
n As we fight for our hospital services this is against a backdrop of a national shortage of key NHS staff. A report in The Guardian highlighted that the number of nurses and midwives coming to the UK from Europe has plummeted by 89% since the Brexit vote. At the same time the number of UK nurses and midwives leaving the NHS has increased significantly as staff are required to work in intolerable conditions and treated shoddily by this government.
Our petition to save our A&E is heading to Downing Street and Jeremy Hunt shortly. If we are to retain key staff we need to appreciate those upon who we depend more. No man is an island. How we treat all people will be a consideration of anyone we need to work here. Whether we like it – or not.