Felixstowe is a Suffolk seaside town not renowned for its scenic beauty. It doesn't have Orford's haunted remoteness, Aldeburgh's cheerful chic, Southwold's snobbery and absurd property prices or Lowestoft's grimy sense of history (which mainly means it used to be useful but isn't any longer).
Instead Felixstowe is dominated by the enormous and expanding container port (currently hosting the largest ship in the world) which is no doubt jolly good business but not particularly pretty. The countryside is mostly flat and a bit bleak. The town itself is not unpleasant but, having mostly been built in the last hundred years, it … shall we say, lacks architectural distinction? It lies at the very end of the very tedious A14, and also of one of the most lack-lustre railway branch-lines in the country.
Now, to its very modest virtues, it seems we have to add terminal stupidity.
It's reported in the East Anglian Daily Times this morning that Philip Greengrass, an 80-year-old Navy veteran, has been banned by Felixstowe Town Council from laying a wreath at Sunday's Remembrance Day Service.
His crime? He belongs to UKIP.
Susan Robinson, the Town Clerk, said "It is custom and tradition that it is not a political occasion. Unfortunately I think last year when Mr.Greengrass was able to lay a wreath we were not aware of what was happening".
It's hard for us normal, intelligent people to understand what she means. I imagine Mr.Greengrass didn't take the opportunity last year to make a political speech, so what was he doing that they weren't aware of? Did he lay his wreath "in a political manner"? Was he muttering UKIP slogans under his breath? Maybe he gave the UKIP salute, assuming they have one. Or perhaps he sang the National Anthem with a bit too much enthusiasm? - you can imagine how offensive that might be.
I don't have much time for UKIP, but so far as I am aware it is a legitimate political party and not a proscribed terrorist organisation. It hasn't planted very many bombs lately, called for the forced repatriation of Welsh people or advocated compulsory pork in all school dinners. And they don't have that awful orange man any more. So what's the problem?
The sad and silly thing is that in this misguided attempt to keep the event non-political, Felixstowe Town Council have achieved exactly the opposite: an occasion from which members of certain political parties are banned automatically becomes politicised, in the worst possible sense. Since membership of UKIP, New Labour, The Conservative Party or the Liberal Democrats is entirely legal, to discriminate on this basis is almost certainly illegal and it'd be fun to see Mr.Greengrass mounting an action against his benighted persecutors. This website would certainly support him.
I wonder what next for Felixstowe? It's bad enough being politically correct, but when you don't actually understand what political correctness means you're going to make some pretty odd decisions, I should think. So what lunacy will they come up with now? Here's a couple of ideas for them …
Meetings of the Town Council are not supposed to be religious occasions, so it would be quite appropriate to ban anyone who goes to church regularly. Especially if they're Catholics or, dare we say, M*sl*ms?
And I expect the Town Council has some events - Christmas dinner-dance, say, or the inauguration of the Mayor if they have one - which are not intended to be sporting occasions. In this case it would be proper, I think, to exclude anyone who supports Ipswich FC.
This would be cruel, though. Ipswich supporters have quite enough to put up with. Why add insult to injury?
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