Monday, 13 September 2010

Sir Cyril MBE - My Personal tribute

When I turned five, a party was thrown for Sir Cyril Smith for Christmas and his service to Rochdale by my later father in the Mosque in Deeplish. I can vividly remember Cyril appear and he was the sort of man who you could not fail to notice. He stayed for over two hours talked to everyone and ate a lot of Samosas! but listened to all the problems of people and promise to help them. This was my first memory of community politics and many years later I know there was no one better than Cyril to demonstrate this.

When I decided to get active in politics I joined the Labour Party in March 1997 as I was active in the National Union of Students and it seemed like many others I wanted to be a part of history. When David Blunkett introduced Tuition fees I resigned in disgust as Mr. Blunkett visited Manchester University during the election promising not to introduce tuition fees. It was around this time that I made contact with Cyril again after an absence of many years. I rang him and he was so happy to hear my voice that he invited me to Emma Street to discuss matters and I arrived with Cyril in his front room reading the Daily Mail – not a great impression of a Liberal!

I reminded him of that first memory and my father who had died many years earlier, and after such a long time he went on to tell me about how great my father was and how he enjoyed the parties every year – now for a politician to remember such matters was something that made me realise he was special – of course he would get it wrong sometimes, but his heart was in a good place and he always put Rochdale first. I spent many hours listening to his stories about his life and what life in Rochdale was like during the early 60’s and 70’s when my father arrived, but he always tried to get me to join the Liberal Democrats which I somehow politely declined.

When I moved to London and worked for a period with Simon Hughes MP that I started thinking about liberalism, equality and social justice. The very issues that I spoke to Cyril about – in the end I joined the Party and remember ringing Cyril up and he was so excited and happy that I had joined and he wrote me a nice letter telling me how to move ahead. What amazed me was the time he was still giving to people like me, I lost count the amount of calls he took when I visited him or the letters he wrote – and he had retired from elected office!!

When some years later I returned to Rochdale he pushed me to stand for the Executive and Vice Chair, which I did. It was during this time that there were some major disagreements about certain individuals who were on a mission to destroy their colleagues, I made some na├»ve mistakes but was strongly of the view that I was making the right decisions – when things got ugly he was there for him, offering some amazing advice and support. His ability to just help you pick yourself up and get on with it was very helpful.

When I finally stood for the first time as a candidate in Bamford, he was so happy and proud. He hand wrote 900 envelopes to voters asking for their support and never stopped believing in me. I remember his advice that night, “lad you need to loose sometimes to come back stronger”
In the eight years I knew him as a friend I never really got to say thank you to him, I visited him a few weeks ago in the nursing home where you knew he was fading away – it was very sad and traumatic for me to see him. Now as we say good bye to him, I know I cant pick that phone up and hear his reassured voice and get that support and help.

So Cyril, my dear friend thank you for the friendship, help, support and company, your memory will live on for years to come.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

9/11 Burn a Quran day in United States

I strongly condemn Pastor Jones for his stunt to burn the Holy Quran on September 11th, this vile action is designed to cause distress towards Muslims and many people of all faiths and I urge him to reconsider. The burning of any religious scriptures is unacceptable and must be stopped. I welcome the strong comments of President Obama and his Government but we urge urgent action now to stop this stunt.

With freedom of choice comes responsibility and I call on the US Government to take urgent action to stop this racist bigot.

The coming of faith leaders across the United States is comforting to the Muslim communities and an indication that that the burning of the Quran is an attack on all decent tolerant people. This so called man of faith is going against the teachings of the faith of Christianity and there is no link between the Quran and terrorism.

September 11th is a day to remember the victims and not carry out stunts that will lead to community division, in this I hope he fails. The ever increasing attacks on Islam and Muslims is worrying for our communities and we would urge people to reflect on the acceptance of suck attacks as justified.

I urge a peaceful, tolerant response to his actions, our message is of non violence and I hope people understand this.”