Herald Column: July 18

Thank you to all those who have entered my ‘Cutest Pet’ competition to mark the new Animal Cruelty Sentencing Bill introduced by the Government last week to up the punishment for cruelty to animals. Literally within minutes I was being swamped with photos of adorable dogs, cuddly kittens and everything in between from lizards to tortoises.

Now my job is not going to be an easy one and having learnt early in my career about the perils of judging a bouncing baby competition where you are inevitably alienate several adoring families for life I am going to pass the buck back to the people for a second vote (for this competition only!)

There will be 3 categories – dogs, cats and other. My office will produce a shortlist for each and then we will invite constituents to vote for their favourites after entries close on July 31st. Remember, however cute your pet the competition is only open to my East Worthing & Shoreham constituents.

Congratulations to the organisers of another great Worthing Pride – even bigger, better and certainly noisier than last year. It was also fitting that it came at the end of the week when the Commons, including me, voted by a large majority to extend same sex marriage to Northern Ireland in keeping with the rest of the UK. It seems some people still want to play party politics with what was otherwise a very happy and inclusive occasion showing Worthing at its best and I have recorded a short video to say why.

Also showing Worthing at its best I was pleased to be able to join the organisers of the ‘Remembering Srebrenica’ event at the Town Hall on Thursday along with representatives from the mosque and local councillors. This was a low point in the history of Europe and whilst we all acknowledge the magnitude and horror of the Holocaust much less is known about the genocide in Bosnia committed just 24 years ago and the main perpetrator was only convicted of the war crime at the International Court last November.

A happier event that evening was the production of the musical ‘Into the Woods’ by over 80 students of Oak Grove College at the Connaught Theatre in front of a packed audience of very proud parents. It was a truly fantastic and rather moving evening when lots of confident students put aside their disabilities and strutted their stuff on the stage and had everyone captivated. Head Phillip Potter really has done an amazing job at Oak Grove and all the staff are to be congratulated. Apparently one of the examiners who attended one of the shows to grade students taking a drama qualification said this was the best show he had seen from any special college he had visited. Hear! Hear! to that  and treble celebrations for our town all round.

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Letter to the Editor

Sir

I am sure I am not alone in fearing that the local Green Party is rapidly turning into the ‘What did the Romans ever do for us?’ party. Green spokesman Ian Davey refers to the EYE (Eco, Young & Engaged) Project which I set up in 2008 and which held its 12th Eco Summit at Worthing College recently and then complains that I should be taking the lead on climate change with practical action.

The irony is even the more bizarre in the month that the Government announced the world’s first legally binding commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and the Conservative leadership of Worthing, Adur and West Sussex councils have all declared climate emergencies and produced comprehensive plans to reduce emissions. As I said to many constituents who came to lobby me on this I am sure 2050 will turn out just to be the opening gambit and we can, and must, bring the target date forward as soon as possible.

Surely Greens would want to welcome this? Yet as with all the substantial measures on the environment from this Government from banning microbeads polluting the ocean, increasing renewable energy from 6% to 37% since 2020, extending marine protection zones to an area of ocean twice the size of England, it is always ‘what have the Government ever done for us?’

Back in 2008 the first Eco Summit adopted a 25-point plan to spread best practice in good environmental action. Since then thousands of local pupils have enthusiastically been doing their bit and spread the message about climate change, the project has been extended to Littlehampton and Chichester and in November we will be holding the first eco-summit in Crawley too. This is not ‘passing the buck on to the next generation’ – it is giving them the tools to pester the current one to do more, and the high-profile action of Greta Thunberg and others has shown how potent the voice of young people can and needs to be.

The EYE project has always been non-political, and we welcome anyone who can help us with practical measures to make West Sussex a leader in environmental best practice. That is why I took the initiative to meet Shoreham’s Extinction Rebellion Group where we found we agree on much more than we disagree on. With their help I am organising an Environment Fair in the autumn and on their suggestion have been including weekly topical eco-tips on my look-ahead videos.

So come on Mr Davey, rather than just carping from the side-lines and trying to claim some Green monopoly on caring for the environment why not join us and all those others I have been happy to work with in order to do something practical about it.

Tim Loughton MP