Thanking our veterans for today’s General Election announcement

Lee Corden

Director - Advent

What started out as an exciting day in Westminster quickly turned into a historic one.

As part of our work with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), I was at Portcullis House by invitation of the Speaker of the House of Commons who was keen to welcome the Torch of Commemoration to Parliament.

The torch is travelling the length and breadth of the country before heading over to Normandy for D-Day commemorations in June and is a physical symbol of the need to pass on responsibility of remembrance to the next generation.

Fittingly, the CWGC had organised for war veteran Ken Hay MBE and 17-year-old youth ambassador Bill Squibb to take part in the event and while the torch drew the attention of a whole host of MPs – from the speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, through to Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt – Ken and Bill stole the show.

Everyone wanted their picture taken with Ken who, at 99, was full of energy and enthusiasm while Bill spoke incredibly eloquently in an interview we’d organised with BBC Radio 4.

Radio 4 also caught a word with Ken – who fought in Normandy as a Private before being captured by the Nazis – before speaking to CWGC director general Claire Horton CBE on the significance of the torch and the importance of remembering events such as D-Day.

A fight for freedom. For democracy.

Democracy that would come firmly to the fore as events unfolded today.

There was a glint in the eye of experienced broadcaster Andrew Marr as he approached Claire to say he’d been talking about the CWGC’s campaign on his show the previous evening. Surely he knew what was coming.

As did the BBC’s political editor Chris Mason, who was stationed in Portcullis House as rumours began to circulate that a General Election was about to be called.

The CWGC team extinguished the torch flame ready for the next stop on its tour of the country and hours later the gossip became fact, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – who a week ago launched the torch roadshow at Horse Guards Parade – set the date for us to go to the polls.

And, thanks to Ken and thousands of others like him, we’ll get to freely cast our vote in July.

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