Celebrating heroes past and present as country marks VE Day

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Our heroes past and present are on our minds. This week, we commemorate 75 years since VE Day, when we freed western Europe from fascism. Every week, we applaud the heroism of our NHS staff and care workers, writes MP for Peterborough Paul Bristow in his weekly column.

With this newspaper, I’m also giving local people a chance to nominate their Peterborough heroes. Those who have gone the extra mile during this coronavirus emergency to look after our communities and do their bit. We now have hundreds of entries. If you know someone who deserves it, you still have time to complete the simple nomination form here: www.paulbristow.org.uk/pborohero

The winners will be judged by me and Mark Edwards, the Peterborough Telegraph’s editor, and get the recognition they deserve.

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Recognition is good. Like tens of thousands across our city, I’m so pleased to be able to clap on Thursday nights for our NHS and social care heroes. Amid the tragedy of people dying from the virus, one great positive is that the standing of our NHS and care workers has been raised.

Captain Tom Moore (99), who has raised millions of pounds for the NHS by doing laps of his home EMN-200417-093345001Captain Tom Moore (99), who has raised millions of pounds for the NHS by doing laps of his home EMN-200417-093345001
Captain Tom Moore (99), who has raised millions of pounds for the NHS by doing laps of his home EMN-200417-093345001

That parity of esteem for social care is a particular, overdue pleasure. When I wrote about that issue here in February, I couldn’t have imagined that events would cause perceptions to change so fast. Nor should we forget others. There are so many key workers keeping our country going at this difficult time.

For example, our teachers aren’t just keeping local schools open, so parents can work in our hospital, or in care homes, or in essential jobs, they are also supporting the many other children stuck at home and organising vouchers for those who normally get free meals.

Supermarket workers are keeping the shelves stocked with food, while delivery drivers ensure that crucial supplies get through to shops, pharmacies, GP practices and the places on which we rely. These workers often put their own health at risk to keep Britain moving. They are unsung heroes.

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When commemorating the sacrifice of the wartime generation, President Reagan famously noted: “Those who say we are in a time where there are no heroes, they just don’t know where to look.” We know where to look in Peterborough. Our community spirit is still here, and our generation is willing to match the example of those who went before.

Victory over the virus will be as heartfelt as victory in Europe. Some of that wartime generation are still around. For Captain Tom Moore, defending our country in the Second World War wasn’t enough and he set about raising money for NHS Charities Together. That incredible effort has raised over £32 million.

It will leave its own small legacy just outside Peterborough, where a fishing lake has been named his honour. Others are following his example, some literally, like fellow centenarian Dabirul Islam Choudhury, who has taken to his London garden for 100 laps. But Captain Tom’s footsteps are also trodden in daily acts of selflessness.

That is what I see in our city. It’s a tiny minority who ignore the lockdown, putting people at risk. It’s a tiny minority who seize on setbacks or try to talk down successes. They have missed the mood. In this national effort, we have proved ourselves formidable again. As we mark VE Day together, I hope you’ll forgive me if I declare myself, for another time, proud of Peterborough.

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