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The Referendum (2) I grew up in a refugee camp


I am a fairly middle England sort of person. I’m white, middle-class, born in Yorkshire but brought up in Melton-Mowbray, rural England, where the pork pies come from. Yet I also grew up in a refugee camp.

That’s over-egging the pudding somewhat. During and after the war Melton was the central place for the resettlement of Polish refugees. One of the camps was at the back of our house. It consisted of a group of nissen huts in a field with pretty much no facilities. It was a hard life. I must have been about four or five at the time and I would go through it sometimes on my way to school. Those were the days when children were allowed to run free and people didn’t think of all their neighbours as paedophiles although there must have been as many around as today.

There is a fair bit about this on the web but mostly about the larger camps to the south of the town.

Those people didn’t come here to be plumbers. They came to fight and die and we were lucky to have them. Yet after the war they weren’t made very welcome. People can be very crabby.

There is still a Polish community in Melton stretching back to those times. The picture is of aircraftsman Marcin Wojtak who died in Afghanistan in 2009.

Melton will be taking 2 refugee families a year from Syria

The Referendum (1)

I haven’t done much with respect to the referendum. My work has rather piled on top of me lately and just at the time when I really want to do a bit less.

I thought I’d write a few things in this last week which I think might be relevant. I didn’t want them to be “you must do this” pieces because although I’m for stay in, I also feel something for the leave – I’d say, kick-yourself-loose , crowd. I haven’t written much for some time, so bear with me.

I thought I’d base these on my own life and how Europe has affected it. I’ve spent my life working for and running SMEs, small and medium enterprises. I’m a motorcyclist (I spent a year as member of council of the British Motorcyclists’ Federation), one of the first “ordinary blokes” groups to feel seriously disadvantaged by the EEC (as it was) and I’m a comics fan. All of those things define me as much as anything.

I thought I’d start with the idea of scaremongering. Both sides have been accused of this, but it’s always seemed to me a bit of a shallow accusation. If you’re scared you want to share it

There’s nothing more scary, the stuff of nightmares, than being frightened of something and realising that everybody else is oblivious to it. But scares are also the reverse side of aspirations. “We must hang together”, as Ben Franklin said, “because, otherwise, we shall assuredly hang separately”.

I shall start with my parents who are dead and thus cannot contradict me (although they would often do so in life). I do not think that anyone can think of them as cowardly. They both stayed in London during the blitz. My father was an anti-aircraft gunner. Were they frightened? I think they were. I remember my mother saying how wearing the blitz was as time went on, especially when the rockets came. They were traditional and patriotic but they also felt that their parents had wrongly turned their backs on Europe and that that was also because of fear.

Europe as a trading block has been pretty successful and it’s had some bad consequences. It’s promoted competition and cheap goods and I think it’s also promoted low wages to the detriment of some of its population. We had to fight to get in and we’ve had to pay for it. If we didn’t that might be a sign of it being a scam. They didn’t want us in – they thought we’d cause trouble – and how right they were. Put that on one side (I’ll come back to it). The principle aim of the common market, the EEC and the EU is to protect us by preventing war. That’s a bit of scaremongering too but I think it’s one my parents would have agreed on.

Some people say that we can rely on NATO. Well, we have a presidential candidate in the USA who isn’t keen on Nato and we have an expansionist leader in Moscow who isn’t keen on it either. The EU can also wield a lot of soft power that Nato cannot. I know some people think that the EU has been too expansionist and has created an adverse situation with Russia. Suppose that is true. Do we want to be in a military alliance with a block of partners over whom we have no control?

So I’ll leave you with the thought of Philip Zec.  Zec always stressed the contribution and suffering of the common man. He got into trouble for it.  Let’s hope we keep it in imnd.


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