This week, we have had news of a plan to build a statue of Dame Vera Lynn on the White Cliffs which would celebrate her life, her achievements and her service to the nation. She was a remarkable woman and to my mind it would be a fitting tribute to one of the greatest Britons of modern times.
Dame Vera played a crucial role in boosting national morale in World War 2. She helped immortalise our White Cliffs as a symbol of hope and endurance in her famous songs. In recent years, she continued to hold Dover and the White Cliffs in great affection. She came to Dover and helped stop the Port of Dover being sold off a decade ago, as well as providing a huge boost to the National Trust’s fundraising efforts. Her life story is a reminder of hard work and dedication to the nation, to charity and to excellence in the performing arts and entertainment.
Remembering Dame Vera reminds us that the current pandemic is far from the first time we have faced – and overcome – a national emergency. Back then we came together as a country to see off a war that threatened our very sense of being – our nationhood, our lives, our way of life. It was frightening and exhausting, and for so many heart-breaking – and no-one knew when or how it would end.
In the past year, we have again come together to battle a different kind of national threat, the virus. Who could have imagined as the seasons turned into 2020 that our freedoms and livelihoods would once again need to be yoked to the national effort to save lives? We have endured loneliness and isolation and national lockdowns. But our community has shown the fortitude, decency, kindness and neighbourliness which has pulled us together and will pull us through.
With the stunning success of the vaccine programme, in April we take another major step forward. In June, all being well, things should be as close to normal as they can be given the times. This leads us to think of the future as we begin to emerge and rebuild. This time we are not talking about rebuilding bricks and mortar. We are talking about rebuilding our mental health and wellbeing, alongside boosting our jobs and money. We have been so united over the past year in defeating the virus. We need to keep that unity as we rebuild in this next stage, just as we did in times past.
I couldn’t be prouder of how our community has come together and worked together over the past year with such endurance and optimism. So, I’m giving my full support to this White Cliffs project. To echo a famous song – there’ll be love and laughter and Dame Vera remembered ever after, just you wait and see.