On Sunday, August 12, members of the armed services officially marked the end of their deployment in the borough with a ceremony in Wapping Rose Gardens, East London. I joined Commodore Martin Atherton, the Regional Naval Commander, to inspect the remaining detachment as they lowered the flag, accompanied by music from the Royal Marines band.
I was also proud to announce Tower Hamlets’ support for a Community Covenant with the Forces, guaranteeing fair treatment for local servicemen and women when they return to the borough after active service.
It was an event to be remembered. Hundreds of local residents turned up, including actress Helen Mirren. The band were truly fantastic, and it was great to see all those who had served the East End, and London more widely, throughout the Games recognised for their commitment and public spirit.
We owe our armed forces, public sector workers and local volunteers a huge debt of gratitude for stepping up in our hour of need. The Commodore spoke passionately about how grateful the forces were for how welcome East End residents had made them feel in their short stay in our borough.
There was unfortunately one sour note. As this was a civic occasion for all of our borough, I naturally invited the leaders of the other groups on Council, Joshua Peck (Labour Group) and Peter Golds (Conservative Group) to join me at the event in paying tribute to the efforts of our servicemen. They did not turn up.
I very much regret that our opposition leaders chose to absent themselves from this very moving ceremony. I sincerely hope that their discourtesy to our armed services, and indeed to our borough, will not prevent them from supporting the Covenant our borough has announced to ensure fair treatment for returning veterans.