Seventy-five years ago this week, victory was declared in Europe. To a generation which had twice in their lifetimes witnessed millions of lives lost in global warfare, the notion that after thousands of years of bloodshed we had seen the end of war in Europe would have been inconceivable.
Yet, that is the legacy of all those who fought in that conflict, a war which we fought not out of narrow national self-interest, but to stop the rampant Nationalism of another country. A Nationalism which not only claimed millions of lives through warfare, but millions more of that nation’s own countrymen with six million Jews murdered alongside Romani Gypsies, homosexuals, the disabled, socialists and many others. All killed with the support of a public which believed that removing those they saw as different would make them feel safer.
It is right we remember the sacrifices of all those who saw service and all those who suffered on the Home Front, in doing so creating the world in which we now live.
The question for us now is what are we doing with the legacy of the greatest generation? Are we living up to the principles which this country went to war to defend? Are we doing as they did and leaving the next generation better opportunities than we inherited from those who came before? Or are we squandering that legacy?
Over recent weeks we have faced our greatest national crisis since the Second World War and we have seen some of the best of people, with volunteers and essential workers putting themselves at risk to ensure the needs of others are met, along with some of the worst. This crisis will not last forever and as we emerge from it we have to decide how we will rebuild our country. Will we do as the soldiers returning from war did, build a country with first-rate public services, where everyone has a house of their own, and where the opportunities for the next generation are greater than the last? Or will we choose to restart along the road we were on?