G7 Speakers' Summit: This is what Nancy Pelosi thought "lived up to expectations" about Lancashire during trip to Chorley
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Ms. Pelosi – the Speaker of the US House of Representatives – was being hosted by Chorley MP and Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.
Astley Hall was the setting for the high-profile conference, which was punctuated with a flypast by the Red Arrows and a tree-planting ceremony involving local schoolchildren.
IN PICTURES >>> G7 Summit: 25 behind the scenes pictures at Astley Hall .
Eighty-one-year-old Ms. Pelosi briefly spoke to reporters outside the recently refurbishment hall – and gave her verdict on the Lancashire food with which she had been plied in the 24 hours since jetting into the county.
Speaking about the many local delicacies that were on offer during a Lancashire-themed buffet last night – with hotpot, butter pie and Chorley cakes having featured on the menu – she described it as being “all delicious”.
“It was highly recommended and lived up to the expectation,” said Ms. Pelosi, who will tonight be attending a banquet also based on the best cuisine the county has to offer.
“I’m very happy to be here to see the pride that Chorley takes in its Speaker and the pride that he takes in his constituency.
“To see the people of Chorley [and] to see the products of this area – it’s pretty exciting,” she added.
However, the food was just a welcome accompaniment to the serious business on the menu – a series of discussions about how to maintain the balance between open democracies and keeping legislatures and the representatives who work in them safe.
Along with Richard Ferrand, the President of the French National Assembly, and Roberto Fico, the President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Sir Lindsay and Ms. Pelosi discussed the issue during three panel events in the grounds of Astley Hall, including one addressed via video link by former British Prime Minister Theresa May.
Sir Lindsay said that attacks such as the storming of the Capitol building in Washington in January – during which Nancy Pelosi’s office was occupied and trashed – must never happen again, adding: “The mobs will never win, democracy will always survive.”
Ms. Pelosi herself said that the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 this month had provided a reminder of the importance of “freedom and security”.
“Benjamin Franklin said…if we don’t have both, we don’t have either,” she added.
Sir Lindsay also spoke of Chorley’s special connection to the United States, with Ms. Pelosi saying she was “particularly excited” to learn more about her country’s link with Chorley-born Miles Standish, who helped found modern America when he accompanied the Pilgrims on their voyage to the country aboard the ship, the Mayflower, in 1620.
She said that visits such as the one she has made to Chorley this weekend make the special relationship between the UK and US “more specific and personal”.
Sir Lindsay added: “It’s about rekindling history…and the fact that…American troops were based here who lost their lives on the Normandy beaches; the fact that they were at Washington Hall in Chorley and people still talk about the Americans … being in Chorley.
“It’s that great binding that’s coming back together – that’s why I wanted [the summit} in Chorley [and] why I want to showcase Chorley,” said Sir Lindsay, thanking those counterparts who made the trip to his home town, putting it on the global stage on a way even its greatest admirers may once have struggled to envisage.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Astley Hall will be left with a permanent reminder of the day the G7 Speakers came to town after eight trees were planted in its grounds by the delegates at the conference – who included two of Sir Lindsay’s own deputies in the Commons, Eleanor Laing and Dame Rosie Winterton, who took part in the ceremony on behalf of Germany and Canada respectively. Masashi Kitakubo, representing the Embassy of Japan, and Susanne Oberhauser, Head of the European Parliament Liaison Office in the UK also planted trees.
The parliamentarians each paired up with a child from one of Chorley’s schools to shovel the final heaps of soil around the base of the trees, which had already been put in the ground.
Sir Lindsay’s chaplain in the House of Commons, Tricia Hillas, addressed the ceremony as it took place in pleasantly warm midday September sun – and said it was “fitting” that different generations were represented in creating a “living legacy”.
“For in planting a tree, we do something audacious; we plant not only for ourselves, but primarily for those who are to come – those who will benefit in 10, 50, 300 years time.
“So may, then, these trees be a symbol of fruitfulness of friendship – now and in many years to come.”
The moment left Nancy Pelosi in reflective mood.
She later said: “Weren’t the children fantastic?
“And that’s what it’s all about, the future – whether we’re talking about climate, whether we’re talking about security…any subject about the future for the children.”
As the delegates prepared to take in the Red Arrows flypast, a group of apparently disparate protesters made their voices heard at the security fence that had been erected around Astley Hall. One was heard to shout “genocide”, while there were also references to Afghanistan. Another voice shouted: “Go home, you’re not welcome in Chorley.”
Drums were banged and, at one point, a member of the public, yelled; “Trump, Trump, Trump”.
A placard seemingly objecting to the vaccination of teenagers against Covid could also be seen.