News

Shoe Repairs Shop at Beckenham Junction

Bob Stewart normally gets his shoes soled and heeled at 'Shoe Repairs' close to Beckenham Junction Station.  In the photograph he is shown with Luke Godfrey who is an ex-pupil of Langley Park Boys School.

Beckenham and West Wickham Model Railway Club

On Saturday 22nd October Bob Stewart, an Honorary Member of the Beckenham and West Wickham Model Railway Club for some time now, visited its bi-annual Vintage Toy Train Show in in St John’s Church, Eden Park Avenue, Eden Park.  This is a tremendous exhibition and very popular with children and ad

Villager's Sausages

Villager's Sausages at 91 the High Street, Beckenham have once again have run a street event outside their shop with much of the profits made being presented to local charities.  Bob Stewart visited the event last time it was held and did so again on Saturday 5th November.  He thought the street-

POP GEMS Academy 5th Birthday Party

POP GEMS Academy held its 5th Birthday Party on the evening of Saturday 5th November.  Run by its Principal Gem Allen and Vice Principal Jay Khan, the POP GEMS Academy teaches children the performing arts and is based at 76 High Street, Beckenham.  During the evening Bob met parents and children

Beckenham Fireworks Display

On Bonfire Night Bob Stewart attended and spoke at the 5th Beckenham Scout Group’s Fireworks Night which was held on Croydon Road Recreation Ground.

The Equitable Life Members Action Group

On Tuesday 11th October, Bob, who is a member of the Equitable Life All Party Parliamentary Group for Equitable Life members, met with Paul Braithwaite, Secretary of the Equitable Life Members Action Group (EMAG).  He fully supports the drive by former Equitable Life policyholders to be fully com

Bob Stewart visits the Mons Battlefield

On Sunday 18 September Colonel Bob Stewart DSO visited the Audregnies battlefield in Belgium where 1st Battalion the Cheshire Regiment was reduced from 1,000 soldiers to just 200 in one day during the First World War.

The Parliamentary D Day Tour 2016

Between Monday 25 – Wednesday 27 July Bob led a group of parliamentarians to Normandy where they visited the D Day beaches between Caen and Cherbourg.  The tour started by first visiting Southwick House near Portsmouth which was General Eisenhower’s Forward Tactical Headquarters for the invasion and where he made the fateful decision that the invasion would start on 6June 1944.Having crossed to Le Havre via Britany Ferries the group then visited the British and Canadian Sectors, going first to Pegasus Bridge, SWORD, JUNO and GOLD beaches before Bob laid a wreath at the British War Cemetery in Bayeux.  They spent the night in the Hôtel le Lion d’Or nearby (where Churchill stayed when visiting in 1944) before the next day going on to visit the American Sector and specifically OMAHA Beach, the Pointe du Hoc, UTAH Beach, Brécourt Manor and finally Sainte Mère Église.  They then returned to England on a ferry from Cherbourg.

PROBLEMS IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA

  I have an interest in the Far East - particularly as I watch the expansion of China on all fronts. China is now demanding that almost all the South China Sea belongs to itself. That is certainly wrong and must be resisted,However the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has recently handed down a landmark 497-page ruling today in the Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration on the Philippine maritime case against China.Despite its refusal to participate in the case, its challenge over the court’s jurisdiction, its questioning of the impartiality of the judges, and its refusal to be bound by the ruling, China has come off much the worse for it, with Philippines playing the plucky David against Beijing’s Goliath.The case is clouded by a number of geopolitical elements, such as the US-China rivalry behind the case and ASEAN’s attempt to hold a united position in defence of its members. Despite this – or perhaps because of it – the ITLOS ruling brings badly-needed clarity on the rights and responsibilities of maritime states.Under scrutiny were China’s legally ambiguous claims; particularly its “nine-dashed line” and the unclear historic basis of the claim. The line covers much of the South China Sea, overlapping many other states boundaries, extending far south to Indonesian waters.
It also encompasses one of the world’s largest trading routes, with 60,000 vessels transiting its waters each year worth £3.8 trillion.
According to the Court, there is little historic evidence for the claim, only appearing on official Chinese maps in 1948. Although Chinese government statements claim a long history of indisputable sovereignty over the territory, and the adjacent waters, in similarly-worded phrases, Beijing has not provided convincing evidence.In fact, as the Philippines argued, China’s 12th and 13th Century maps show its territory extending no further than Hainan Island. Furthermore, from the 14th century to the 16th century, the Imperial Chinese government prohibited maritime trade by Chinese subjects and outlawed all seafaring activities, on pain of death. Nor does the line conform to recognised international legal norms or principles.While the Tribunal’s ruling on the nine-dashed line was not the only element of the ruling, it was the most significant, because of its geopolitical and great power repercussions. Behind all the legal fuss, the maritime claims, and counter-claims, this story has been about China and what type of power it wants to be in the region.
In the 1990s, China spent much effort on developing its soft power through the region, with a particular focus on ASEAN member states. In turn, it was warmly welcomed into the highest councils of the region, and became an influential instigator of regional integration and institutions.Beijing’s behavior after the Asian Financial Crisis cemented this growing influence and its model for Asian community-building, the ASEAN Plus 3 model, (South Korea, Japan, and China) won over Tokyo’s preferred model, which would have included fellow democracies Australia, India, and New Zealand.Since then, stock in Chinese soft power has plummeted. This took place as China began sending out fleets of fishing boats to harass those of neighboring states. Linked by radio, GPS, the fleets acted as a sort of militia, and were often backed by Chinese Coast Guard vessels. The sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat in 2014 heralded the new bullish approach, with another sinking taking place last week.China’s reaction has been to apportion blame on regional states, beginning first with the Philippines and Vietnam, those states who have the most territory to lose. Behind them, Beijing believes, lies the United States, instigating trouble and working on a containing it as a rising power.Sadly, this perspective has allowed Chinese policymakers to continue pushing the region toward instability. Its military displays and exercises in the run-up to the PCA’s ruling reveal the mindset in Beijing.What does all this bode for the region and for global politics? China remains an important trade partner to ASEAN member states, to the United States, its allies, and to European states. Clearly, there is no appetite for conflict, and despite bullish newspapers in China – like the Global Times – calling for war over the seas, Washington is unlikely to be drawn into another war.
In many ways, the situation is a conundrum for states that benefit from the current rules-based system: how do they avoid conflict with China over its expansionist claims, while at the same time, shaping Chinese behaviour and preferences?Up until now, regional states sought to offer deals to jointly develop their resources; however, now it has unilaterally claimed those resources. In the wake of the Court’s ruling, however, there are signs that Beijing may reach out to President Duterte and make a deal.Certainly, no matter what it decides, Manila firmly holds the moral high ground. One hopes that any deal offers a template to a weary and anxious region. If Beijing shelves the nine-dashed line and offers joint development of resources, other claimants – like Vietnam and Malaysia – would likely seek similar deals.Should Chinese domestic politics push Beijing to stand its ground, then it is likely that more regional states will initiate cases against China with the Permanent Court, and it will find its regional and global soft power rapidly dwindling.

The EU Referendum Result

The country has decided we are to leave the European Union.  Although many are saying that we should have a second referendum (because the result was wrong) I do not think that can happen.  It would be a brave politician who told the British people to go back to a polling station and vote again because they didn’t give the right answer first time.I think some proponents of both sides of the Referendum debate twisted their arguments sometimes but I suppose that was inevitable, albeit sad and wrong.  I never used such ideas and repeatedly told people that they should look at the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee's report on the advantages and disadvantages of each side before making up their own minds.  It was readily available on the internet and was excellent.  Personally I never tried to persuade people either way because my vote counted just as much as anyone else’s vote.    My own personal choice, which I did tell people when asked, was to leave - principally because I think the EU to be fundamentally undemocratic, flawed and taking too many decisions for us without reference to the UK.  However the Government's official position was to stay with Brussels but the referendum result showed that the majority of people who voted disagreed.  It has cost David Cameron his job and I am very much saddened by that. We are now entering uncertain territory.  Of course I, like so many others, remain concerned that the country's decision was right; just as I would have felt if the result had gone the other way.  This was a crucial decision which was put to the people; some of whom chose not to vote which was their choice!I believe the decision to leave the European Union was right but that doesn't stop me worrying about it.  I am very glad that we will not be drawn more and more into the political consolidation of a failing European super-state and my main concerns centre around economics and trade.  However I note that the President of the German equivalent of the CBI has stated that no trade barriers should be put up between EU members and the UK.  After all we already have a trade imbalance with the EU which exports to us about £60 billion more than we export to them.  EU nations will certainly want their products to be exported to the UK. In the end, when all the dust has settled with the passing of a little time and some of the hurt and emotions have subsided a little, I believe we will continue to have access to the EU single market and be able to decide exactly how we govern ourselves. That is obviously the main aim of the team who are going to negotiate our departure from the European Union.   Now we have to get on with it and make disengagement from the European Union work for both us - and the European Union by the way.