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History is full of “what ifs”, says Borough Labour Leader, David Ellesmere. What if Kennedy had survived his shooting? What if Ronald Reagan hadn’t?

Just a few millimetres difference in the flight of a bullet could have changed history completely.

For Ipswich, the biggest “what if” must be: what if Cardinal Wolsey had survived long enough – possibly even just a few months more – for his Cardinal College to become established?

 

Imagine – an educational institution set up to rival Oxford and Cambridge five hundred years before we finally got the University of Suffolk. Ipswich would now be a very different place indeed.

This story is brought to life in a fantastic new exhibition that has just opened – fittingly – in the Wolsey Gallery at Christchurch mansion.

The centre pieces of the show are undoubtedly the four angels Wolsey commissioned for his own tomb.

Wolsey’s tomb, like his college, was never completed and the angels were eventually sold to help pay for the Civil War in the mid-1600’s.

They were not heard of again until two turned up at auction in 1994.

The other two were found in 2008 atop gateposts on a golf course in Northamptonshire. They had been assumed to be cheap Victorian tat rather than priceless historical objects!

It is a real feather in our cap that we have got them on loan from the V&A.

Around the angels, our museums team has put together an amazing exhibition.

Portraits of Wolsey, some from our own collection and one on loan from the National Portrait Gallery, are on display.

We also have the charter establishing Cardinal College and the statutes, or rules, of the college with Wolsey’s signature clearly visible. This is the first time these two documents have been together in the same room for 500 years.

To illustrate what Tudor life was like in Ipswich there are seven carved wooden faces rescued from Ipswich’s market cross before it was demolished.

This would be a fantastic exhibition anywhere, but to have it in Ipswich, Wolsey’s birthplace, in a gallery named after him makes it extra special.

“Thomas Wolsey: Ipswich’s Greatest Son” is on for three months. I’d urge you to go and see it.

Thomas Wolsey: Ipswich's greatest son

History is full of “what ifs”, says Borough Labour Leader, David Ellesmere. What if Kennedy had survived his shooting? What if Ronald Reagan hadn’t? Just a few millimetres difference in...

100 years ago, most middle-class women didn’t work, writes Sandy Martin MP.  Of course, many women did work – on the land, in factories, as seamstresses and laundrywomen, and in domestic service – but they were always paid less than men, often destroying their health and lives for a pittance.  Most married men did whatever they could to make sure wives did not work, as many saw it as their duty to “keep” “their” wives. Most families lived in what would now be thought of as abject poverty, but would never dream of allowing the woman in the family to do paid work if they could avoid it.

 

Of course, household work was far harder then.  I can remember my mother washing our clothes in a tub before wringing them out.  Many women had more babies than they do now, with no effective birth control available, and infant mortality high.  (I believe that birth control will come to be seen with agriculture and the steam engine as a turning point in history). But there was never any suggestion, apart from amongst a tiny group of eccentric intellectuals, that perhaps the man of the house could help with the housework.  And men actually promoted theories that women’s brains were weaker and their bodies were unsuited to anything other than childbirth – which didn’t stop them exploiting women’s labour in sweatshops and match factories of course.

We’ve come an enormous way in 100 years. Company boardrooms are more effective with women – not just a token woman – in positions of power.  I am proud of the role Labour has played in promoting women’s equality in politics.  We’ve had women at the top of virtually every profession.  There’s still a way to go – women are under-represented in management and over-represented in low-paid jobs - but only a tiny number of chauvinists would now claim that men were more capable overall than women.

Women did not achieve this by accident.  It took an enormous amount of determination and hard work, and changes in the law as well as changes in public attitudes. How much richer, more productive, and more humane our society is now because half its members are playing an active role.   We now need to fight for equality of treatment and opportunity for Black and Minority Ethnic people, and for disabled people as well.

Yesterday, the House of Commons debated the UN Convention on the rights of disabled people. People are all different - some have some skills and some have others.  But there are far too many people with skills that are not being used because of Society’s attitude.  People with degrees who are unemployed because they have cerebral palsy and so “sound funny”.  People who are fit and eager but who are ignored because they have learning difficulties.  People who want jobs as secretaries or computer programmers or hairdressers but who cannot reach their workplace because they are in a wheelchair. These people are mostly “disabled” by Society’s attitudes, not by their own characteristics.

On Wednesday Theresa May offered her condolences to a family whose disabled father died after 18 months of not receiving the benefits he was entitled to.  But disabled people don’t want warm words, they want justice.

For those who are incapable of any work, we owe it to ourselves, as a decent society, to make sure that they can be enabled to live as full and independent lives as possible.  But for those who can and do want to work, the uncertainty and complication of claiming the benefits they need in order to live actually stands in the way of seeking employment.  It is a nonsense to suggest that by taking away any travel support, for instance, you are going to incentivise a disabled person to travel to job interviews.  Work Capability Assessments are destroying people’s lives.  We know that the majority of the decisions are just plain wrong, because over 60% of the appeals are successful.  In fact, the Ipswich Citizens Advice Bureau tells me that over 90% of the Appeals that they prepare are successful, because they are able to ensure that the person gets the best possible hearing.

So let’s stop blaming disability and unemployment on the disabled people themselves, let’s work to take away the barriers to employment – both legal and social – and lets look forward to a Society where not only are disabled people’s rights fully protected, but they are able to contribute to society on an equal basis too.

Reflecting on House of Commons debate on disability, Sandy calls for equality

100 years ago, most middle-class women didn’t work, writes Sandy Martin MP.  Of course, many women did work – on the land, in factories, as seamstresses and laundrywomen, and in...

Ipswich MP, Sandy Martin, sets out why Suffolk needs a law centre.

Until 1948 if you needed medical attention, you had to pay for it. If it was an emergency and you were lucky there might be a doctor or a charity hospital that would provide you with care “pro bono” – for the common good. But to a large extent the common good did not exist – medical care for the poor, and even the averagely well-off, was patchy or non-existent. There was a lot of resistance to the founding of the National Health Service, in particular from the Conservative Party who said our country couldn’t afford it – I believe the overwhelming consensus now is that we couldn’t afford NOT to have it. 

 

Prior to the 1870 Education Act most children got no education at all, or a very rudimentary one. Even after that, the education you received depended very much on wealth and class. It was only during the Harold Wilson government that we introduced comprehensive secondary education, where at last most children were no longer “failed” at the age of 11 and relegated to a second-rate education. Labour believes education should not be dependent on wealth and class, and that is why we will fund pre-schools and nurseries properly to deliver free sessions to all, and make universities free for all with a maintenance grant and with equivalent support for vocational studies as well. 

But surely that sense of natural justice extends to access to justice itself. The phrase “one law for the rich and another law for the poor” is all too true even today. For the last 7 years the government has cut back funding for the Citizens Advice Bureaux, has reduced the availability of legal aid and has attempted (unsuccessfully I am glad to say) to abolish any legal support for employment tribunals.  I want to see a proper National Legal Service, taking the whole area of personal law out of the market place and putting it on the same financial footing as the National Health Service.  

But until that happens, we desperately need an organisation that will enable all those local lawyers who are so generously willing to give their time pro bono – just as the most dedicated doctors were prior to 1948 –  to help people most effectively. That organisation is A Law Centre for Suffolk. ISCRE, a non-political charity, and other organisations have been dedicated in their efforts to help those who have no other recourse to justice, but the time has come to have a fully-accredited body. 

There will be grant money available, but we need to raise substantial funds ourselves. If you want local people to have better access to justice then go to

https://mydonate.bt.com/events/alawcentreforsuffolk

Please do contribute - even a pound will help. As importantly, spread the word on social media, especiallyhttps://www.facebook.com/SuffolkLawCentreSteering/

Many ordinary people simply cannot afford to pay for a lawyer when something goes wrong, causing stress and uncertainty. This is why we are creating a Law Centre for Suffolk. Why not join us. 

Justice demands a law centre for Suffolk

Ipswich MP, Sandy Martin, sets out why Suffolk needs a law centre. Until 1948 if you needed medical attention, you had to pay for it. If it was an emergency...

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