by your MP Sir Roger Gale
I was, before I became an MP, a television producer and director. One of the questions that I find myself frequently asked is why I gave up this “glamorous” and over-paid profession to seek election to Parliament. Events in Ukraine have a bearing upon the answer. In 1956 Imre Nagy became, for three days, the leader of a momentarily free Hungary. Then the Russian tanks rolled in, Nagy was spirited away to Moscow and never seen alive again and I heard, as a 13-year-old listening to the wireless, a voice screaming “for God’s sake help us” from a Hungarian to whom the promised help was never delivered. My first politically-motivated action was to raise funds and blankets for the refugees and a year later I bought James Michener’s The Bridge at Andau which, as a record of Hungarian life, torture and death under Stalin, ranks with The Scourge of the Swastika and Knights of the Bushido as a catalogue of man’s capacity for inhumanity to man. A dozen years later came the first Prague Spring. Alexander Dubcek lead Czechoslovakia to fleeting freedom before, again, Russian tanks arrived to crush the spark of revolution. Dubcek survived to become an exiled village postmaster. I took part in an anti-Soviet demonstration in London and marched on the Soviet Embassy.
A CND organiser running a loudspeaker van at the locked gates to Millionaire’s Row saw my lank actor’s hair, mistook me for one of her number and invited me to follow Tariq Ali’s thanks to the brave Russian Army for liberating the workers of Czechoslovakia from the counter-revolutionary reactionaries. Addressing some 50,000 people I learned the hard way that it is much easier to start a speech with a flourish than to end on a suitably high note. I said what I had to say and then resorted to chanting Dub-Cek Dub-Cek. As the chorus swelled down the length of Bayswater, I jettisoned the microphone in awe of what I had started, got the hell out of it and swore that as long as I had breath In my body no child of mine would ever grow up under Communism.
That is why, 15 years later, I found myself elected as the MP for North Thanet and that is why I hope and expect that I shall shortly be in Ukraine as an international election observer of what will, I trust, be free, fair and democratic elections. I know that people sometimes query the fact that MPs go on foreign “jaunts” when we “ought to be at home looking after the people that elected us” but just occasionally what is happening abroad can have a profound effect upon the whole future of mankind. Leopards do not change their spots and, to mix a metaphor, “there is still a bear in the woods”. If Putin is allowed to annexe Eastern Ukraine as he has seized Crimea then Georgia and Moldova will very probably follow and the icy grasp of the neoSoviet empire will reach out across much of Eastern Europe as it has done before.
We cannot resort to armed force, of course, and there will be a price to pay for the imposition of economic sanctions, but if Europe and Nato do not pick up the gauntlet that the ex-KGB officer who now rules Russia has thrown down then a new Cold War will be with us with all of the consequences for the free and democratic world that I want my grandchildren and your grandchildren to be allowed to grow up in. Unless the European Union, whose parliamentary elections we shall shortly be required to participate in, does not rise to this occasion then our status in its future will be academic. It will not have a future.
Herne Bay Gazette, April 24th 2014