Tom Richmond: Why we should all be ashamed of the treatment of Afghanistan war hero Ben Parkinson after 13-year fight

Ben Parkinson suffered crippling injuries in Afghanistan 13 years ago.
Ben Parkinson suffered crippling injuries in Afghanistan 13 years ago.
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IT is truly humbling to listen to Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson, the former paratrooper who cheated death in Afghanistan, describing himself as “lucky”.

We’re the lucky ones for having a fine man of such fortitude in our midst.

Now 34, he earned this country’s enduring respect when his body was blown apart after his military Land Rover hit an anti-tank mine in Afghanistan 13 years ago.

Tom Richmond: How hospitals are the real front line in the fight for Brexit

Britain’s most seriously injured veteran, he was told he would not walk again – or regain his speech – after losing both of his legs in a hideous explosion which also caused brain damage and other multiple injuries to his limbs.

Yet what is as jaw-dropping as the Yorkshireman’s recovery and resilience is the fact that he, and his family, have only just won a campaign for a care package that will be worth £24,000 a year.

The agreement, reached with the Ministry of Defence and NHS, provides reassurance to Mr Parkinson – and his family – who had to threaten legal action before coming to a belated agreement which will cover part of their ongoing costs.

What a disgrace. This is a soldier, from Bessacarr, who answered his country’s call when political leaders deployed the Armed Forces to Afghanistan.

And now the self-same Whitehall establishment has had to be shamed into action, after more than a decade, to do the right thing for Mr Parkinson who is so grateful for the support of his home town.

“I’m also lucky coming from Yorkshire, particularly Doncaster.

“The people have supported me from my first day home. Everywhere I go people talk to me, not like a stranger, but like an old mate. It’s not like that for all the injured guys,” he said.

Yet, while Mr Parkinson’s humanity and heroism are awe-inspiring, I’m afraid he is very unlucky to live in a political era when this country’s leaders are so pre-occupied with Brexit that they have lost sight of their responsibilities to wider society, including the Armed Forces.

I don’t know what made me more frustrated in the past week with the state of Britain in 2019 – the Brexit deadlock, the impasse over social care as pressure grows on hospitals or the scandalous betrayal of Mr Parkinson.

It’s a close call so I’ll give the final word to Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis, himself a former soldier, who observed: “Ben is a hero and an inspiration to so many – it’s shameful that he had to fight for a care package in the first place.”

UNLIKE certain Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson who change their views to suit their priorities and whims, I’m heartened to report that former Tory Minister Michael Portillo remains steadfast in his views.

Asked on national radio for his views on Chris Grayling, the presenter of TV’s Great Railway Journeys referred to his previous answer to the same subject – namely the current Transport Secretary is “the most incompetent Minister of all time”.

Proof that it is not just myself who has misgivings about a politician who continues to trend simultaneously on social media via the hashtag #ChrisGrayling – and also his sobriquet #FailingGrayling.

THE resignation of Selby and Ainsty MP Nigel Adams from the Government over Brexit was not the greatest surprise. I suspect he was itching for an excuse so that he can help run his friend Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign when the time comes.

What was a surprise is that he had been appointed a junior Minister for Wales – the promotion must have passed me by.

Yet, given that Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew previously had to do a stint at the Welsh Office, it doesn’t reflect well on the calibre of the eight Tory MPs from Wales that they continue to be overlooked like this.

Yet what no one has commented upon is the fact that it took 10 days to find replacements for the raft of Ministers who resigned at the start of last week. Is this because there were so few MPs willing to join the Government – or a tacit admission by Theresa May that there are too many Ministers on the payroll?

EDUCATION Secretary Damian Hinds – such a poor replacement for Rotherham-born Justine Greening in this key department – has been up to his old tricks again.

Another round of media interviews in which he has ignored his policy brief and simply pontificated about Brexit.

If he had anything about him, he would be insisting – as a pre-condition – that he would predominantly focus on schools policy in such inquisitions.

After all, Sir John Major – a former premier still carrying the scars of Tory infighting over Europe – observed this week about the extent to which Brexit was delaying decisions on the future of education and NHS policy.

FAIR play to York Central MP Rachael Maskell for speaking – albeit briefly – in this week’s Commons debate on business rates. She was the only Yorkshire MP to do so. Yet, given the issue is key to the future of our high streets and small businesses, where was everyone else? Squabbling and plotting over Brexit, I assume.

THERE was no escape from Brexit on Sue and Harvey Smith’s gallops when their Grand National contender, Vintage Clouds, was being put through his paces ahead of today’s big race.

“What’s happening?” inquired stable staff who, like so many, are clearly concerned about their country’s future despite not being the most politically active members of society. “I don’t know,” I replied. What I do know, however, is that it is probably easier, and more straightforward, to pick the next five winners of the National, starting, I hope, with Vintage Clouds today.

tom.richmond@jpimedia.co.uk