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View from the Gandhi Foundation Summer Gathering 2014

Room with a view…on the Gandhi Foundation Summer Gathering 2014
by Linnet Drury, 11 years old.

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The Gandhi Foundation Summer Gathering (GFSG) is a great way to combine sharing, peaceful thinking, practicality and ideas on fitting Gandhi’s practices into the modern world. This year we all had great fun exploring the Summer Gathering’s topic “Gandhi and Education” and it was hosted at the beautiful Abbey and its grounds in Sutton Courtney, Oxfordshire.

The GFSG this year had people of all ages (8 months to 80 years!) and people from many nationalities, even from India! We had great fun sharing games and delicious food from around the world. It was also excellent for our discussions as we had contributions from such varied backgrounds, as well as ideas and points of view about education from many different sources. In our discussions we shared our personal experience with education, and it was interesting that those who had experienced the Comprehensive system seemed to have enjoyed it more and met a broader range of people. We looked at how schools have improved, how they can still improve and about how we can include Gandhi’s practices in education even more. We picked up on different styles of education, ups and downs, about home education and learning throughout life.

But the morning discussions weren’t the only way of learning at the Summer Gathering. Through living in a community we find that we learn loads from sharing and having fun. Also individual ideas and thoughts can combine to create a harmonious teamwork that showed through in everything we did at the Abbey. In discussions, we combined ideas to think up answers to questions; in shramadana we worked together to do the jobs for the community; in free time we could have fun together; and in the creative activities sessions we combined our skills to fulfil Gandhi’s ideas on practical work.

GF SG 2014 group shot

We had a lot of fun at the GFSG. The beautiful Abbey (some parts dating back to the Norman period) set in between lawns, woods, orchards and a walled garden, was great for its peaceful and meditative aura and practical facilities. People could camp in the orchard, stay in the modern guest house or in the Abbey building itself. In our free time we set out badminton on the lawn, went on river walks, went swimming in the lido in the nearby town, read in the Abbey library, played games, and just talked on the grass. In our creative activities we did painting, weaving, calligraphy, bracelet making, photography and yoga. We had beautiful weather all week so we could do most activities outside. All the food was vegetarian, and delicious, ranging from salads, pasta and homemade bread to genuine Indian curries. The kitchen always had a great aroma.

We all enjoyed ourselves and with next year’s exciting topic “Gandhi in the Digital Age”, I can’t wait until next summer.

The Gandhi Foundation Multifaith Celebration 2015

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The Gandhi Foundation Multifaith Celebration will be on
Saturday 31st January 2015 at 2.30pm
at
the London Interfaith Centre
125 Salusbury Road, West Kilburn, London NW6 6RG

‘Caring for the Future of People and Planet’
Different Faiths, Ecology and Spirituality

Speaker: Dr Ursula King

Followed by a discussion with representatives of various faith traditions. Refreshments afterwards.

Ursula KIng

Ursula KIng

Ursula King is Professor Emerita of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Bristol. She has lectured in many countries and has published on such subjects as religion & gender, interfaith dialogue, modern Hinduism, Christian mystics, and the French scientist and theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Nearest stations are Queens Park (Bakerloo Line) and Brondesbury Park (London Overground) and the 206 bus from Wembley Park to Kilburn Park runs right past the venue. Please register with william@gandhifoundation.org to aid refreshment planning.

Gandhi: An Inspiration for All

Gandhi: An Inspiration for All
by Krystalia Keramida

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It is undeniable that Gandhi is one of the world’s greatest political and spiritual leaders. In India he is honoured as the father of the nation. He inspired his compatriots to fight for peace, freedom and democracy. He upheld the importance of human rights and non-discrimination. This is why he was named ‘Mahatma’, which means great soul.

Gandhi promoted Human Rights, which are part of every human being, independent of origin, religion, age, gender or social status. They are not just a history lesson or words without meaning, but include the essence of every single person all over the world. They allow us to live with safety, dignity, unity, love and of course peace. This latter is another word with deep meaning, because peace is not just a situation, it is the only way to joy, respect for diversity, and democracy.

But his influence has not ended. Gandhi was the light-guide for thousands of people, in order to fight against war, especially using his method of protest – ‘satyagraha’. Acceptance of suffering for the sake of truth and resistance to violence with nonviolence became a powerful movement all over the world and also a way of life. The first condition of nonviolence is justice all round, in every department of life. Justice, respect for diversity, unity and solidarity, love of nature, are the keys for a better world, according to Gandhi.

The question is how someone can achieve the complete development of body, soul and mind. Gandhi answered that it was through education. Only the right and congruous combination of these three elements could lead to an integrated person. The key is the growth of the five senses. Through the conscious exercise of the senses of touch, hearing, vision, smell and taste, a person acquires better contact with others, observes, meditates and feels, looks and discovers the essence of things. Education is important for everyone, regardless of age or lifestyle.

His theory of complete development of body, soul and mind was inspired by Plato, Aristotle and Socrates, three of the most significant Greek philosophers, who changed the history of the world and became founding figures in Western philosophy. Gandhi was always looking for historical figures who have sacrificed their lives for the sake of truth, so these Greek philosophers were a natural choice for him. Gandhi translated Plato’s Apology into Gujarati and titled the story of Socrates as The Story of a Soldier of Truth. In his translation summary, he described Socrates as a “heroic, extraordinary person with a fine moral character.” “We must learn to live and die like Socrates”, these were Gandhi’s words.

Socrates lived in Athens in the fourth century BCE. He altered Western thought, because he devoted his life to the search for Truth, existing in everyone’s soul. This Truth could become the ultimate knowledge and change the way we live. Gandhi called him a great Satyagrahi and emphasized, like Socrates, that we should not spend our time in finding faults with others, because only a pure person can fight evil with courage.

Plato, the student of Socrates and founder of the Academy in Athens, often characterized as the first university in Europe, developed a theory of knowledge that goes deep into the nature of knowledge itself. This is the true knowledge and it is permanent, unlike the knowledge based on appearance which is the untruth. This theory was adopted by Gandhi.

Last but not least, Aristotle, born in Macedonia and a member of Plato’s Academy, considered psychology to be the study of the soul and claimed that everything has a multitude of causes. These thoughts were the basis for Gandhi to say that hard work is necessary to succeed at anything in life and to be a socially active citizen, because nothing could be achieved on one’s own.

These were the inspiring reasons for UNESCO in Serres, a city in the north of Greece, which is a Club of people of different ages but with the same goal to promote culture, education, human rights, environment and innovation, to organize an educational program about Gandhi’s legacy. We want to help students of primary and elementary schools come close to Gandhi’s philosophy and understand the importance and the values of him, especially nowadays in a society that suffers from the economic, political and also moral crisis. As a team, we cooperate with Greek universities and significant institutions about Gandhi worldwide, because we believe that no one could achieve everything alone, but together we can move forward. Besides, as Gandhi claimed “the whole world is like the human body with its various members. Pain in one member is always felt in the whole body.”

Moreover, we think that in the century of knowledge, being racist only proves how low in society you really are. This is why Gandhi and his words inspire us to help children, who are the basis of every society, understand that humane education is the only way to overcome racism, discrimination, war and to broaden your horizons.

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In order to achieve these goals and also make it fun for the students, we prepare different actions, such as music, theatre, painting, and writing. Every time, based on each one of the ten most important moral values of Gandhi, we plan one action. For example, according to the value “Learn to forgive”, we ask the students to play a role game. If someone hurts you, could you forgive him ? If not, why ? And if you hurt him, would you ask him to forgive you then ? Why ? Moreover, these actions aim to connect Gandhi’s values to the moral intelligence of the children. Creativity, self-control, respect, consciousness, justice are the parts of moral intelligence which helps children understand and express their feelings and have self-esteem.

Finally, this educational program is the tool to make clear that philosophy is one, commonly shared value that could change the way you think and live every day. So, despite the current difficult situation in Greece, we must look forward, try to be reborn from the ashes and get inspired by Gandhi and our ancestors in order to build the foundations of a world where peace, democracy and human rights will be the reality for all and not just a dream for a few.

Krystalia Keramida is a lawyer, a member of UNESCO in Serres, Greece, specializing in the field of Human Rights and project manager of the educational program for Gandhi.

Baron Attenborough of Richmond-upon-Thames CBE 29 August 1923 – 24 August 2014

Richard Attenborough Surur Hoda at Kingsley Hall in 1996

Richard Attenborough and Surur Hoda at Kingsley Hall in 1996

Our Founder President Baron Richard Attenborough was an exceptional man and did so much to help illuminate the peaceful, tolerant and non-violent views of Gandhi throughout the world. John Rowley, who is a Trustee of the Gandhi Foundation and who knew Richard, has written an illuminating and interesting article looking back on his life and especially his involvement with the Gandhi Foundation. You can view the full article which includes little-seen photographs by clicking this link:

Baron Attenborough of Richmond-Upon-Thames CBE 29 August 1923 – 24 August 2014 by John Rowley, Trustee, The Gandhi Foundation

 

I was privileged to have worked with Richard early in 1985 as the lawyer helping to create the Gandhi Trust, now the Gandhi Foundation. Together with Diana Schumacher, Lord David Ennals, Surur Hoda, Cecil Evans and Rex Ambler, we comprised the first trustees under the leadership of Richard himself.

Much has been very warmly written and spoken of his remarkable professional, artistic and steadfast nature and approach to his work, all very true and, if anything, understated in the endeavour to do justice to his vast, diverse and all-important talents.

What I think we were fortunate to have shared back in the aftermath of his epic film “Gandhi” , was in witnessing his innate sense of what is right and what is wrong, what needs to be supported and what opposed. The experience of his parents welcoming into their home two young Jewish girls, Helga and Irene, refugees from Nazi persecution whom he came to regard very much as his sisters, was frequently mentioned as defining the values of his upbringing. He had an ability to understand and, as it were, get under the skin of others, and a genuine uncomplicated belief that good can prevail – rare qualities and gifts in much limited supply.

This ethos was well to the fore in the discussions and thinking that went into the establishment of the charity, its objects and the practical implications of its workings as well as the visionary concept of the exercise. Richard embraced the teachings, commitment and authority of the Mahatma not simply as a worthy subject for a film – a movie, in his words – but as important for everyone to learn, absorb and run their lives for the betterment of all. True and needed for the 1980s, even more true today.

His most fitting memorial is for those now in charge of the charity to press forward with its human and humane standards and activities, bridge-building across differences real and perceived, all in keeping with the warmth, charm and humour that was ever dear Richard.

Martin Polden OBE
Co-Founder of the Environmental Law Foundation and a Patron of the Gandhi Foundation

Sadly, I never had the honour of meeting Richard, so I cannot add any personal reminiscences.
But I was hugely impressed by Gandhi, the film, and also by Oh What a Lovely War. A beautiful spirit has certainly been switched off in one way, yet its influence remains fresh for generations to come. I hope the Gandhi Foundation may play a leading role in spreading his light across the world.

Eirwen Harbottle
Peace Child International and a Patron of the Gandhi Foundation

Plans announced for Gandhi statue to be erected in London’s Parliament Square

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The Foreign Secretary and Chancellor have announced plans for a statue of Mahatma Gandhi, the inspiration for non-violent civil rights movements around the world, to be erected in Parliament Square.

A monument in a location of symbolic value for our democracy is a fitting tribute to this great man, which will inspire us all to uphold his ideals and teachings ahead of important anniversaries of key moments in his extraordinary life. Gandhi has a particular connection to London, having studied here like so many of the talented young Indians we welcome today.

Our ambition is for the monument to be in place early next year. Once installed, the statue will provide a focal point for commemoration next summer of the 100th anniversary of Gandhi’s return to India from South Africa to start the struggle for self-rule, as well as the passing of 70 years since his death in 2018, and the 150th anniversary of his birth in 2019.

The Foreign Secretary and Chancellor made the announcement while visiting Gandhi Smriti, the Gandhi memorial in Delhi, on the second day of their visit to India. The memorial is located on Tees January Marg (30 January Road) at Gandhi’s home and the site of his death on 30 January, 1948.

It is intended that this important monument will be funded by charitable donations and sponsors. The project has the full support of Government, and a special advisory group, led by the UK’s Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid, has been set up to support progress. Philip Jackson, a leading British figurative sculptor, renowned for statues of the Queen Mother and Bomber Command, has been approached to take on this prestigious project.

The memorial will stand alongside those to other international leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Abraham Lincoln.

The Foreign Secretary said:

Gandhi’s view of communal peace and resistance to division, his desire to drive India forward, and his commitment to non-violence left a legacy that is as relevant today as it was during his life.

He remains a towering inspiration and a source of strength. We will honour him with a statue alongside those of other great leaders in Parliament Square.

The Gandhi statue will be the 11th statue to be erected in Parliament Square.

The advisory panel will be chaired by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and amongst others will include: Jo Johnson MP, Head of the Downing Street Policy Unit, Cllr Robert Davis, Deputy-Leader Westminster Council; Sir Edward Lister, Deputy Mayor Policy and Planning GLA, Lord Desai, Lord Bilimoria, Priti Patel MP, the Prime Minister’s Diaspora Champion, and Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery.

source. GOV.UK

 

Was this Gandhi’s worst decision? By George Paxton

Gandhi in the Boer War

Gandhi in the Boer War

2014 has been chosen by the British Government to commemorate the start of the Great War. The idea strikes me as very odd, unless its aim is to encourage a determined effort to avoid war in the future. But there is little sign of that in the everyday business of government. However the commemoration does give opponents of war the opportunity to present their different approaches and peace organisations are attempting to do that this year. [See www.noglory.org for some events planned]

But what about Gandhi and WWI ? Let’s start with Gandhi’s first experience of war, namely the Anglo-Boer War. Although critical of the treatment of Indians by the white South Africans, he believed at this stage in his development that the influence of the British Empire was generally benign. So, although sympathetic to the Boers, he offered to form an ambulance corps of Indian volunteers to serve in the British army. The corps was 1,100 strong and for 6 weeks it served in the battlefield removing the wounded to field hospitals. Gandhi also felt that this support would improve the standing of the Indians in the eyes of the British. In 1906 fighting broke out between Zulus and the British and this time Gandhi gathered a smaller corps to serve with the British under his command as a sergeant-major. The corps in fact helped to treat Zulus who had either been flogged as a punishment or were ‘friendlies’ who had been shot by mistake. In both cases Gandhi believed that as the SA Indians accepted the protection of the British Empire they should be prepared to defend it when it was under threat.

Leaving South Africa in 1914 for the last time Gandhi called in at London before returning to India but the European war broke out just two days before the ship reached port and so once more he felt called on to establish an ambulance unit, this time made up of Indians in Britain, including many students. Gandhi’s health was poor during his stay but the corps was able to give aid to wounded Indians when they started to arrive from the front although they were not given permission to go to France. In all three cases the Indians led by Gandhi were non-combatants but his actions were now criticised by some of his colleagues and friends. His close friends and colleagues Henry Polak and his wife Millie Graham Polak objected to this support for the war as being inconsistent with ahimsa. Olive Schreiner, the South African writer who knew Gandhi wrote to him saying that she had been “struck to the heart … with sorrow to see that you … had offered to serve the English government in this evil war in any way they might demand of you. Surely you, who would not take up arms even in the cause of your own oppressed people cannot be willing to shed blood in this wicked cause.” [Olive Schreiner by Ruth First and Ann Scott]

The issue of participation in war was to arise more dramatically when he was back in India. The war was not going well for the Allies early in 1918 and the Viceroy hoped to recruit more Indians for the war in Europe. For this purpose he convened a War Conference to which prominent Indians were invited. At first Gandhi thought of boycotting it but then decided to attend. He was persuaded to support recruitment. The argument put forward on the previous occasions still stood. Gandhi always greatly admired bravery – perhaps having been a timid child had something to do with that – and he perceived soldiers as displaying bravery. But he also thought that by supporting Britain now it could lead to the politicians taking a more generous attitude to Indian political aspirations after the war.

Gandhi then threw himself into a recruiting campaign in the Kheda district of Gujarat, significant because only a few months earlier he had launched an anti-tax campaign there. But the villagers could see more clearly than Gandhi. The contradiction in the votary of nonviolence recruiting for a war that had already led to the slaughter of tens of millions of human beings was clear to them and they refused to join up. Not only that but villagers did not greet Gandhi and Vallabhbhai Patel who accompanied him, nor feed them nor provide carts for the journey and so the recruiters often had to walk 20 miles a day. Gandhi now experienced non-cooperation used against himself. His actions were also once again opposed by friends and colleagues including C F Andrews.

The physical and mental strain on Gandhi led to a severe illness that was to last for months. It is clear that there was serious conflict in his mind and Erik Erikson the psychoanalyst attributes his physical collapse at least in part to a nervous breakdown at this time.

By the following year the war had ended but the Government had decided to pass the Rowlatt Acts which were perceived by Indians as oppressive, the very opposite of what Gandhi had expected following his support for the Government. So he launched the first all-India satyagraha and when a peaceful crowd in Amritsar were massacred by the Army his hope for a generous attitude by the Government was finally shattered.

Over the next decade or so Gandhi’s past attitude to war continued to puzzle Western pacifists and some like the noted Dutch pacifist Bart de Ligt and the Russian Vladimir Tchertkov, Tolstoy’s former secretary, argued with him through correspondence. Gandhi gave the reasons for his participation that he had given at the time, reasons that did not satisfy his correspondents. However Gandhi spoke and wrote increasingly strongly against war during the rest of his life. There was still occasional room for confusion over his positions as, although he would not participate in war himself, he knew that most people did not share his belief in nonviolence and so he believed there were circumstances when such people should fight. On the other hand in the 1930s and 40s he advocated only nonviolent resistance against the forces of Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan. As on other issues Gandhi could be inconsistent, or at least apparently so. But certainly he believed that satyagraha was universally applicable and that was the direction in which humankind should move and ultimately war should be completely replaced by nonviolent action and the willingness to suffer rather than kill.

Below are some quotations from Gandhi which reveal something of his evolving views over the last 30 years of his life, although this did not follow a straight unwavering line but rather a clear direction.

I hear and read many charges of inconsistency about myself.
…. Not only did I offer my services at the time of the Zulu revolt but before that, at the time of the Boer War, and not only did I raise recruits in India during the late war, but I raised an ambulance corps in 1914 in London. If, therefore, I have sinned the cup of my sins is full to the brim. I lost no occasion of serving the Government at all times. Two questions presented themselves to me during all those crises. What was my duty as a citizen of the Empire as I then believed myself to be, and what was my duty as an out-and-out believer in the religion of Ahimsa – nonviolence?
… Under Swaraj of my dream there is no necessity for arms at all. But I do not expect that dream to materialise in its fulness as a result of the present effort. Young India 17/11/1921

I am an uncompromising opponent of violent methods even to serve the noblest causes. Young India 11/12/1924

I should be against compulsory military training in every case and even under a national Government. Young India 24/9/1925

I do justify entire nonviolence, and consider it possible in relation between man and man and nations and nations; but it is not “a resignation from all real fighting against wickedness”. On the contrary, the nonviolence of my conception is a more active and more real fighting against wickedness than retaliation whose very nature is to increase wickedness. Young India 8/10/1925

By enlisting men for ambulance work in South Africa and in England, and recruits for field service in India, I helped not the cause of war, but I helped the institution called the British Empire in whose ultimate beneficial character I then believed. My repugnance to war was as strong as it is today; and I could not then have, and would not have, shouldered a rifle. Young India 5/11/1925

…. But that still does not solve the riddle. If there was a national Government, whilst I should not take any direct part in any war, I can conceive occasions when it would be my duty to vote for the military training of those who wish to take it. For I know that all its members do not believe in nonviolence to the extent I do. It is not possible to make a person or society nonviolent by compulsion.
… But the light within me is steady and clear. There is no escape for any of us save through truth and nonviolence. I know that war is wrong, is an unmitigated evil. I know too that it has to go. I firmly believe that freedom won through bloodshed or fraud is no freedom. Would that all the acts alleged against me were found to be wholly indefensible rather than that by any act nonviolence was held to be compromised or that I was ever thought to be in favour of violence or untruth in any shape or form. Young India 13/9/1928

I would not yield to anyone in my detestation of war. Young India 7/2/1929

Czechoslovakia has a lesson for me and us in India. The Czechs could not have done anything else when they found themselves deserted by their two powerful allies. And yet I have the hardihood to say that, if they had known the use of nonviolence as a weapon for the defence of national honour, they would have faced the whole might of Germany with that of Italy thrown in. They would have spared England and France the humiliation of suing for a peace which was no peace; and to save their honour they would have died to a man without shedding the blood of the robber. I must refuse to think that such heroism, or call it restraint, is beyond human nature. Human nature will only find itself when it fully realises that to be human it has to cease to be beastly or brutal. Harijan 8/10/1938

I do not think that the sufferings of Pastor Niemoeller and others have been in vain. They have preserved their self-respect intact. They have proved that their faith was equal to any suffering. That they have not proved sufficient for melting Herr Hitler’s heart merely shows that it is made of harder stuff than stone. But the hardest metal yields to sufficient heat. Even so must the hardest heart melt before sufficiency of the heat of nonviolence. And there is no limit to the capacity of nonviolence to generate heat.
… Herr Hitler is but one man enjoying no more than the average span of life. He would be a spent force, if he had not the backing of his people. I do not despair of his responding to human suffering even though caused by him. But I must refuse to believe that the Germans as a nation have no heart or markedly less than the other nations of the earth. They will some day or other rebel against their own adored hero. If he does not wake up betimes. And when he or they do, we shall find that the sufferings of the Pastor and his fellow-workers had not a little to do with the awakening. Harijan 7/1/1939

My personal reaction towards this war is one of greater horror than ever before. I was not so disconsolate before as I am today. But the greater horror would prevent me today from becoming the self-appointed recruiting sergeant that I had become during the last war. Harijan 30/9/1939

As against this imagine the state of Europe today if the Czechs, the Poles, the Norwegians, the French and the English had all said to Hitler: “You need not make your scientific preparation for destruction. We will meet your violence with nonviolence. You will, therefore be able to destroy our nonviolent army without tanks, battle ships and airships”. It may be retorted that the only difference would be that Hitler would have got without fighting what he gained after a bloody fight. Exactly. The history of Europe would then have been written differently. Possession might (but only might) have been then taken under nonviolent resistance., as it has been taken now after perpetration of untold barbarities. Under nonviolence only those would have been killed who had trained themselves to be killed, if need be, but without killing anyone and without bearing malice towards anybody. I dare say that in that case Europe would have added several inches to its moral stature. And in the end I expect it is the moral worth that will count. All else is dross. Harijan 22/6/1940

Japan is knocking at our gates. What are we to do in a nonviolent way ? If we were a free country, things could be done nonviolently to prevent the Japanese from entering the country. As it is, nonviolent resistance could commence the moment they effected a landing. Thus nonviolent resisters would refuse them any help, even water. For it is no part of their duty to help anyone to steal their country. But if a Japanese has missed his way and was dying of thirst and sought help as a human being, a nonviolent resister, who may not regard anyone as his enemy, would give water to the thirsty one. Suppose the Japanese compel resisters to give them water, the resisters must die in the act of resistance. It is conceivable that they will exterminate all resisters. The underlying belief in such nonviolent resistance is that the aggressor will, in time, be mentally and even physically tired of killing nonviolent resisters. He will begin to search what this new (for him) force is which refuses co-operation without seeking to hurt, and will probably desist from further slaughter. But the resisters may find that the Japanese are utterly heartless and that they do not care how many they kill. The nonviolent resisters will have won the day inasmuch as they will have preferred extermination to submission. Harijan 12/4/1942

George Paxton is a Trustee of the Gandhi Foundation, Editor of the Gandhi Way and an author of several books on Gandhi.

Great Political Thinkers on the Daily Politics show

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On Friday 4th July 2014 the Daily Politics show on BBC2 showed a short film on Gandhi and Kingsley Hall as part of their Great Political Thinkers series. The life of the man, who is known as the Father of India, and his role in history is examined by the comedian and broadcaster Hardeep Singh Kohli.

Great political thinkers from history are being cheered by famous faces of today in a series of Daily Politics films.

Reporter Giles Dilnot talks to those who are championing those who are known to historians, but perhaps not to the wider public.

The films are airing on Friday’s Daily Politics – broadcast at lunchtimes on BBC and at midnight on BBC Parliament – which are then on iPlayer for UK viewers for seven days, but the full films can also be seen via the link below.

Some of the contributors then join Andrew Neil in the studio for a debate with his guests of the day to follow up the ideas in their film.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-25265610

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