Howard Interns: a week in British Politics - 24-03-17

Taylor and Mirabella present Helen with a gift depicting Howard University

In last week's column I heralded the arrival of two young female politics students from Howard University in Washington D.C. for a week with a British MP. Here is an extract of Mirabella (20) and Taylor's (19) reflections on their time with us as 'mini interns';

'What a week! Amidst our busy first day in Parliament we witnessed history in the House of Commons as the Article 50 Bill was passed, and almost unbelievably we met with former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who just happened to be on site too.

As the week unfolded we met a broad range of MPs from all parties, attended receptions, committees, debates and engaged in a variety of issues such as Brexit, international aid, the evolution of political parties and diversity in Parliament. Surprises? One was the large number of members in both Houses compared with US Congress. Similarities? An understanding of the fact that both our nations are going through a process of controversial change, Britain with Brexit and we with a new President.

Our itinerary closed with a visit to the beautiful constituency of Maidstone and the Weald, having heard so much about it from Helen's team in London. We met with KCC leader Paul Carter, took part in surgery appointments to learn about the local issues that matter to local people, and took a lunch trip to the fabulous nearby Leeds Castle. Amazing.

We have learned so much and it has been an unforgettable experience.'

These young ladies have great aspirations and their UK trip has reinforced those hopes enormously. I will be staying in touch and I'm looking into reciprocal opportunities for Kent students to 'intern' in Washington.

Outward looking initiatives are so important for our younger people, especially in countering regressive, inward-looking, populist nationalism. On that note I was delighted with the Dutch election result last week and hopefully France will follow their anti-extremist example.

*Please be aware that Helen's column went to print prior to the tragic events in Westminster which unfolded on Wednesday 22nd March 2017*

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Helen's column is published weekly in the Kent Messenger. Please note the print version may differ from the content here.


MP launches petition to save Maidstone barracks

Maidstone and the Weald MP Helen Grant is launching a petition opposing the closure of Invicta Park Barracks.

The petition calls on the Ministry of Defence to reconsider this decision in light of the negative impact upon some 800 service personnel and their families as well as our County town both economically and socially, and through loss of the army's longstanding civil community support.

Helen said, 'From all of the soundings I have taken so far I know that many local people are concerned about the decision to close Invicta Park Barracks, breaking centuries of military tradition in Maidstone. There is also great affection for the town's vibrant Nepalese community and local people are wanting to show their support for them. I feel duty bound to launch this petition and provide an official platform for people to voice their opposition. I am also sending a survey to around 10,000 randomly selected addresses in the central Maidstone area to allow people to share their views about the proposed closure of Invicta Park Barracks. The survey can be downloaded here http://bit.ly/2kjPxSI and I encourage anyone and everyone to take part.'

The petition is available online at: www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-maidstone-barracks. Petition forms are also available at Helen Grant's constituency office on the London-bound forecourt of Maidstone East railway station. The petition will be handed in to the Ministry of Defence before Easter this year.

Leader of the Maidstone Nepalese community Mr Dhan Chand issued the following statement;

'We all feel that that this decision will have a devastating impact on our community. We have always been encouraged to take a long term view and create a permanent home here and we have worked so hard for many years to become an integral part of the Maidstone community.

We hope that people from across the borough will use Helen's petition and survey to voice their opposition to the barracks closure and help us to keep Maidstone as our home.'

Lt Col J B Awford (ret), former Commanding Officer of Invicta Park Barracks, said;

'I believe the decision to close Invicta Park Barracks is unsound. It will be a negative step for the army, for Maidstone and, no doubt, for the established Nepalese community.'


Welcome and thank you for taking the time to visit my website. I hope you will find it informative and helpful.

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With very best wishes

HELEN GRANT MP

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