Roger and his views > Bear in the Woods
Gales View - 20th April 2014

I was, before I became an MP, a television producer and director. One of the questions that I find myself frequently asked is why I gave up this “glamorous” and over-paid profession to seek election to Parliament. Current events in Ukraine have a bearing upon the answer.
 
In 1956 Imre Nagy became, for three days, the leader of a momentarily free Hungary. Then the Russian tanks rolled in, Nagy was spirited away to Moscow and never seen alive again and I heard, as a thirteen year old listening to the wireless, a voice screaming “for God`s sake help us” from a Hungarian to whom the promised assistance was never delivered.  My first politically motivated action was to raise funds and blankets for the refugees and a year later I purchased James Michener`s “The Bridge at Andau” which, as a record of Hungarian life, torture and death under Stalin, ranks with “The Scourge of the Swastika” and “Knights of the Bushido” as a catalogue of man`s capacity for inhumanity to man.
 
A dozen years later came the first Prague Spring. Alexander Dubcek lead Czechoslovakia to fleeting freedom before, again, Russian tanks arrived to crush the spark of revolution. Dubcek survived to become an exiled village postmaster.  I took part in an anti-soviet demonstration in London and marched on the Soviet Embassy. A CND organiser running a loudspeaker van at the locked gates to “Millionaire`s Row” saw my lank actor`s hair, mistook me for one of her number and invited me to follow Tarik Ali’s ”thanks to the brave Russian Army” for “liberating” the Workers of Czechoslovakia from the counter-revolutionary reactionaries.
 
Addressing some fifty thousand people I learned the hard way that it is much easier to start a speech with a flourish than to end on a suitably high note.  I said what I had to say and then resorted to chanting “Dub-Cek Dub-Cek”. As the chorus swelled down the length of Bayswater I jettisoned the microphone in awe of what I had started, got the hell out of it and swore that as long as I had breath in my body no child of mine would ever grow up under Communism.
 
That is why, fifteen years later, I found myself elected as the Member of Parliament for North Thanet and that is why I hope and expect that I shall shortly be in Ukraine as an international election observer of what will, I trust, be free, fair and democratic elections.
 
I know that people sometimes query the fact that MPs go on foreign “jaunts” when we “ought to be at home looking after the people that elected us” but just occasionally what is happening abroad can have a profound effect upon the whole future of mankind.  Leopards do not change their spots and, to mix a metaphor, “there is still a bear in the woods”.  If Putin is allowed to annexe Eastern Ukraine as he has seized Crimea then Georgia and Moldova will very probably follow and the icy grasp of the neo-Soviet empire will reach out across much of Eastern Europe as it has done before. We cannot resort to armed force, of course, and there will be a price to pay for the imposition of economic sanctions, but if Europe and NATO do not pick up the gauntlet that the ex-KGB officer that now rules Russia has thrown down then a new Cold War will be with us with all of the consequences for the free and democratic world that I want my grandchildren and your grandchildren to be allowed to grow up in. Unless the European Union, whose “Parliamentary” elections we shall shortly be required to participate in, does not rise to this occasion then our status in its’ future will be academic.  It will not have a future.
 

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