Last Updated: 27 July 2011
Created: 27 July 2011
The phone-hacking scandal which has engulfed the media, the police and politics has now been the main focus of attention in Westminster for more than two weeks. It culminated in Wednesday’s statement by David Cameron and the emergency debate, which itself was overtaken by events as Rupert Murdoch announced he was pulling out of his bid to take control of BSkyB. The revelations about the behaviour of a small number of journalists at Mr Murdoch’s newspapers have been truly shocking. Celebrities, sports stars and politicians are one thing; but when the alleged phone hacking extends to Milly Dowler, the families of the Soham schoolgirls, and the bereaved relatives of dead service personnel, it’s a disgraceful situation. Quite rightly, a police investigation is underway and a public enquiry, led by a senior judge, is to be held. Whatever the outcome, this episode will have huge repercussions for newspapers, for Scotland Yard, and for future relationships between politicians and the press. A lot will have to change, and change quite radically, to make sure there can never be a repeat of this shocking episode.
On a happier note, last week I visited Coleshill near Highworth. As you may have read in the Advertiser, there are some very exciting discoveries being made there. The area was used during the war as a training base for ‘Churchill’s Secret Army’. Ordinary civilians were taught sabotage tactics to be used in the event of a German invasion. They would melt back into their communities undercover, and then use their new-found skills to wreak havoc and undermine the occupying forces. The project was so hush-hush that many members of the auxiliary units, to give them their proper name, took their secrets to the grave. Only now are a group of dedicated volunteers uncovering the truth, with archaeologists finding underground bunkers and other historical remains around the village. Highworth was central to the whole project, with the fabled postmistress Mabel Stranks being the gatekeeper to Coleshill. My father and my grandfather before him were both history teachers, so I’ve caught the bug. I found this fascinating, and look forward to working with Tom Sykes and his group, CART, to seek proper recognition for the brave people involved in this remarkable story.
Another event I really enjoyed last week was the Big Arts Day at Lydiard Park. The weather was kind, and around 20,000 people turned up for a fantastic day out. This is exactly the sort of event that puts Swindon on the map. Our town is often unfairly accused of being slightly lacking in culture, but that’s nonsense. There is so much going on here, and the Big Arts Day was a perfect showcase. Long may it continue.