Like everybody I was shocked and sickened by the death of George Floyd. Quite rightly the world reacted with anger and those policemen have been charged with his murder. Following such a tragedy, it is crucial that we have difficult conversations and absolutely look to address racial inequalities that still exist in society.
Whilst the Swindon protest was well organised, peaceful and respectful – a credit to the cause and our town, it was unfortunate to see in other areas that a lot of the anger was wrongly taken out on our own police men & women. They do so much to keep us all safe, and have worked especially hard during this period, putting themselves on the front line in order to continue to protect us. We must always remember that they run towards the danger. Whilst I hope that the full force of the law will come down on those American officers responsible for George Floyd’s murder; it is completely unacceptable to attack innocent officers here.
The incident in the US has also gone on to spark debate here about the historical figures who we continue to commemorate in our towns & cities. At the weekend we saw the statue of slave trader Edward Colston pulled down by protesters in Bristol. Like many, I don’t think that the statue should have still been in place given Colston’s deep connection to the slave trade. However, I believe that this decision should have been taken democratically through the Council & Mayor – not illegally.
This has triggered wider debate about other statues throughout the UK. Before any impulse decisions are made, I think it is very important that we need to see historical figures in the context of their time. We cannot apply 21st century standards on those who lived centuries ago. We must learn from the past, including our past mistakes – it is that that enriches our knowledge and actions today. Not historical figure was perfect, whether Ghandi or Churchill that had views that would be out of step today, but we cannot wipe out all they achieved.
This week is Carers Week – which is an annual campaign to raise awareness and show our appreciation for the brilliant work of our unpaid carers. During the week, as Minister for Disabled People, I took part in a virtual coffee morning with Carers UK and nine carers with different caring experiences, a great opportunity to share and understand their experiences.
This Saturday was supposed to be the Swindon Carers annual Walk A Mile In My Shoes event – which normally sees a big group of people (including myself and Robert Buckland MP) walk a mile round the town centre, raising money as we go. Due to current Covid-19 restrictions, organisers have had to turn the event into a virtual walk, with people being encouraged to walk a mile at home, or outdoors while observing social distancing. Robert and I will be taking part in the virtual walk and hope many others will join in too.
Finally, a massive congratulations to Swindon Town on being confirmed League 2 Champions! It is a shame that players and supporters weren't able to celebrate together in person – but, nonetheless, we are still very proud – a much needed moment for us to all enjoy!