The Plastic Hippo

March 11, 2010

Lest we forget

Filed under: Politics,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 1:25 am

When the Prime Minister decided to make a “surprise” but pre-planned visit to Afghanistan immediately following his lacklustre performance in front of the Chilcot inquiry, opponents bellowed accusations of lies, deceit and of using the armed forces as political props. At about the same time that grumpy Gordon was touching down in Laskhar Gar, something horrible took place much closer to home.

The damage caused to the memorial on Barr Beacon is indefensible on so many levels. The reaction to the incident, though, seems to be a reflection on how we, as a society, view remembrance, heritage, sacrifice and criminality.

For those not familiar with the sad tale, a person or persons unknown scaled the memorial and tried to remove the copper dome in the dead of night. The bungled attempt at metal theft saw very little copper removed, but left a whole lot of damage that will cost an awful lot of money to repair.

The abject horror and futility of the sacrifices made by men and boys who fought and died and survived the obscenity of the First World War has to be commemorated. Lions led by sheep, they fell in their thousands. They deserve a remembrance.

Nicking the roof off a war memorial is just plain wrong. Vandalising a piece of communal heritage is equally out of order. Reaction to the deed has ranged from apathy to anger with a great deal of sadness thrown in. But the most hysterical display of apoplectic rage was reserved for our own dear leader, Councillor Michael Arthur Bird.

Describing the perpetrators as “sewer rats” who “need taken out of society”, the leader with dulcet tones uttered with such decorum, suggested that the villains be shipped out to Afghanistan to serve in the front line against the Taliban. Some of his cabinet chums joined in and lots of words like despicable, disgraceful, shocking, outrage and sickening were being bandied about.

This laudable defence of the sacrifice of the fallen comes from a leader who defended issuing parking tickets to war veterans and the families of the fallen on Remembrance Sunday last November. When words like despicable, disgraceful, shocking, outrage and sickening were used, Mike was forced to offer a half-hearted public apology. So why is the leader so angry now?

The answer is simple and shrewd. No-one likes to see a war memorial vandalised, unless you make your living as a war memorial repair-man, and the leader, battered from all sides for his and his cabinet colleagues incompetence, has seized on the public mood of outrage to try and make him look like the good guy defending the honour of those who sacrificed their lives. If Gordon Brown is using the armed forces as political props, at least he is using the live ones.

The other reason the increasingly unbalanced leader is so purple with rage is that the council will now have to spend loads of dosh to fix the damage. After a bodged attempt to gain lottery money to do up the place failed because the council refused to stump up any cash, grand plans for a visitors centre were kicked into the long grass. When graffiti was cleaned off the monument, it was not the council who picked up the bill, it was Aldridge Rotary Club. It seems that remembrance is vital, as long as somebody else pays for it.

The outrage expressed by members of cabinet that a favourite haunt of doggers, druggies and boy racers has been desecrated is a completely honourable and understandable reaction. However, it seems a shame that such sentiments were not expressed when other precious heritage sites such as Shannons Mill, Mellish Road church and The Bell Inn in Willenhall were allowed to rot and then burn when cabinet were in a position to tackle their owners to do something about it.

It is also a shame that the vociferous leader and cabinet members have taken decisions to close care homes, increase the price of meals-on-wheels, introduced transport costs for elderly people who attend day centres, close leisure facilities and increase the council tax. It would seem that the sacrifices people made during the second war will continue. Perhaps the leader and his cabinet colleagues should consider the words of Laurence Binyon, the poet of For the Fallen:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

The old soldiers who survived, the widows, the children, the sisters and brothers of those that died, will remember the way this council operates.



  1. I’ve ranted several times about how Walsall MBC stand idly by while our heritage is destroyed. I think maybe this one may have received attention because *they* have to fix it?

    Comment by stymaster — March 13, 2010 @ 7:14 pm | Reply

  2. I think Captain Clueless has again shown how surreal his thinking is becoming.
    We’re talking about a war memorial here, so sending the vandals to stand beside the brothers-in-arms of those comemorated by the memorial is akin to feeding a pig a ham sandwich.
    It is also highly insulting to those serving in Afghanistan, suggesting that it is a base punishment to be sent there, somewhere you would send scum with no honour or moral compass when clearly, the bravery and courage displayed by our forces on a daily basis, the opposite is true.
    The good Captain’s outrage is understandable but his inability to express himself clearly leads one closer to the conclusion that it really is about time he shut his stupid mouth.

    Comment by Martin — March 15, 2010 @ 2:20 pm | Reply

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