My Tribute to Commonwealth Day – Monday 8th of March.

This is the theme of this year (2021) -‘Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming’. A theme that underpins the great work that the Commonwealth undertakes each and every year.

I was reminded of the impact of the Comonwealth -during the enormous television coverage of the The Queen celebrating Commonwealth Day in Westminster Abbey yesterday (7 March 2021). Where the work of the Commonwealth was celebrated by all its member States.

Memories flooded back to me of the hard work, but very rewarding experience, I undertook to ensure the City of Wolverhampton, and Wednesfield both played their part in the Commonwealth agenda back in 2006.

I had arranged for the then Secretary General of the Commonwealth Don McKinnon to visit our great and historic City of Wolverhampton. Sir Don as he later became was a former Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, and Minister for Foreign Affairs. He was Knighted for his work with The Commonwealth.

The date of this important visit by the Commonwealth General Secretary was the 3rd March 2006 . It was a day when I was both nervous yet excited that such an important World figure would be attending our City, and Wednesfield at my invitation. Not only did we meet with the Secretary General in my Mayoral Office at the Civic Centre. I arranged for him to come and visit my Ward of Wednesfield North. The Secretary General was a nice man with a wealth of political experience. We travelled in the car and I chatted with him about Wednesfield and Wolverhampton’s history and achievements.

I took the Secretary General to the Coppice Performing Arts High School, on Ashmore Park. The School were in rehearsals for Les Miserables. We toured the School and the drama Group went through their rehearsals in front of the Civic touring Party. I felt very proud during that visit. Both of the School, and that the performers had a chance to show their talent in front of such an eminent person.

During the visit Mr McKinnon remarked that he had really quite enjoyed the whole day in Wolverhampton. He had spoken relaxed in his manner, with both staff and pupils. He said “it wasn’t that often he would get invited to attend a City , that was not a Capital City. He liked the opportunity of “being in the provinces”.

Quite rightly at the end of my term of Office. I cited the fact that that this was one of my own special highlights of the Mayoral Year – This is what is recorded in the City Minutes -“The Mayor welcomed the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, The Right Honourable Mr. Don McKinnon, to Wolverhampton on 3 March 2006, epitomising the variety, diversity and internationalism of the Civic Diary which bears witness to a vibrant, living City which remembers its history, celebrates its diversity and looks forward to a future of unity and

That sums the City and Commonwealth Day wonderfully! I do hope that we will see the City playing a larger role in years to come.

Note of Interest.

Sir Don McKinnon of New Zealand served as Commonwealth Secretary-General from 2000 to 2008 As Commonwealth Secretary-General, his achievements included: Modernising the Commonwealth Secretariat’s structure and internal organisation. Enhancing the profile of the Commonwealth and ensuring that its work is better known by the general public. Building strategic partnerships with other international organisations, as well as synergies with civil society, in pursuit of the values and objectives of the Commonwealth .Putting young people at the heart of the Commonwealth’s work, promoting youth programmes, particularly in relation to HIV/AIDS. Defending the rights of small states, ensuring that their special vulnerabilities are recognised and their interests promoted on the international agenda. Strengthening the work of the Commonwealth in promoting democratic practices, good governance and respect for human rights. Promoting the establishment of a fair, rules-based multilateral trading system, ensuring that developing countries’ interests are duly reflected in international trade talks. Making a strong stand on the need for developed countries to reduce agricultural subsidies, giving developing countries a fair chance to trade their way out of poverty.

Phil Bateman

Phil Bateman is Married to Mary and lives in Wednesfield North. He was a long serving local politician having served previously on the now defunct West Midlands County Council... read more