Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 2nd October 2019

There’s a well-known phrase often attributed to George Orwell: ‘People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.’ While it’s disputed whether he used the exact phrase, it certainly represented the socialist author’s views, expressed both in his works and–more importantly–his actions: taking up arms to fight Fascism in the Spanish Civil War and repeatedly attempting to join the British Army in the Second World War, only being rejected on the grounds of his health.

Almost seventy years since Orwell’s death–at 46, from tuberculosis–the truth of his words and actions live on. Our society lives free from violence and oppression only thanks to men and women putting their lives at risk to defend us from harm. The question for our community is how we should repay that debt.

Last week, a national campaign was launched to reduce the number of homeless veterans to zero. This is something I wholeheartedly support and Crawley Borough Council are already undertaking the actions suggested by the campaign. After all, we were one of the first councils to sign-up to provide support to current and former servicemen and women through an Armed Forces Covenant, and I was proud to introduce the Veterans Interview Scheme at the council to ensure veterans had the chance to highlight their unique abilities in a way CVs to not always easily show.

There’s always more which can be done and, as a member of Labour Friends of the Forces, I look closely at what others are providing elsewhere to see what we should do next. Yet, not every problem can be tackled on the council-level and earlier in the year a report produced by the House of Commons Defence Committee showed: “there is no doubt that some serving personnel, veterans and their families who need mental health care are still being completely failed by the system.” In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, that simply isn’t good enough. It’s time the Government did their bit to ensure our veterans get the support they deserve.

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