Where were you when you heard?

I had known for a couple of days that conversations with Ming were brewing, but I had no idea that he planned to resign. Kudos to him for taking decisive action and pre-empting weeks of will-he-won’t-he speculation.

We were in Full Council on Monday when we heard. I leave my phone on, but on silent. At some point, a friend who follows politics closely texted to ask me my views. Obviously, I didn’t have an opinion before I knew it had happened, so I slipped out of the chamber to go and check the BBC News website to get confirmation. Then I printed out the relevant story and went back in to pass it round my group.

The local newspaper phoned for a comment, and I sent a PPC out to go and give one.

Then the Labour leader of the Council got some info through a news wire or a text service, and walked across the floor to show us the news on his phone. It didn’t quite twig at the time, but he had the courtesy to come and show us the news before he passed it around his own group. A real mitzvah.

All the while Full Council was raging on around us. We discussed the most recent local government bill, a motion on HMOs, and a motion supporting a bid for a new visitors centre in Sherwood Forest.

Then, at the rise of the main meeting, we had a special meeting to consider granting the Freedom of the City to the Mercian Regiment. The Sherwood Forresters already had the Freedom of the City, but their regiment has merged with many others to form a new one, and so the Council had to re-grant the freedom.

It was important to do this at this time: the Mercian come off active service in Afghanistan soon, and once they are home, they want to be able to march through the streets of Nottingham. Six of them won’t be able to march with their comrades, because they were killed on active service.

I’m no fan of armies. I’m a classic beardy multilateralist pacifist. But I do think it’s right and proper that the servicemen and women who are called upon to go and do and see awful things in the name of Queen and Country are respected when they return. It’s vital to make the distinction between those who call the shots and those who are called upon to make them. I also have friends in the forces.

During the Council debate we heard from three councillors who have sons on active service. One intervention was particularly moving, from a councillor whose son returned safely recently. For all the time he was abroad, his parents were glued to local and national news, hearing about soldiers injured and killed abroad and dreading a phonecall themselves from the MOD.

In the end, we passed the motion unanimously. The City of Nottingham will be welcoming the servicemen and women on parade on the 4th December. I’m cross that I won’t be able to join them. Just a week ago, I persuaded the council to send me on a town planning conference that day, so I’ll be in London. I’ll have to get my friends to take photos.

With the ramifications of Ming’s resignation merging in my mind with the flurry of emotions that went through me for the military debate – not least how awful it is for the families of the soldiers who were killed – I was in a bit a of a tiz when I left the building.

But I got brought down to earth with a jolt to see merrymakers in the street carrying with business as usual: it was the annual 7-legged pub crawl event for new students.


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