A regional daily’s campaign to save its local battalion from the axe has helped win a vote in Parliament calling for ministers to rethink the plans.
The Manchester Evening News launched a campaign in July to save the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, after the government announced plans to axe it by 2014 as part of defence cutbacks.
Reporter Paul Britton travelled to Downing Street on Thursday with former soldier Dennis Laverick from Bury to hand in a petition launched by the MEN, which was signed by more than 8,000 readers, along with one collected in Bury after a campaign by the council.
Its campaign was also praised in Parliament in a debate, which saw a motion passed by MPs by 57 votes to three, calling on the government to reverse the plans, which will increase pressure on ministers.
Barbara Keeley, MP for Worsley and Eccles South, said: “The Manchester Evening News has run a strong campaign urging the Government to rethink their plans.
“The campaign has attracted 15,000 people to sign petitions, including the petition of 10,000 handed in today to Downing Street.”
The debate took place after hundreds of war veterans marched on the streets of London in protest over the cuts and Paul covered the protest march live on the paper’s breaking news blog, filing pictures and copy via Twitter.
In an article, the MEN’s head of politics David Ottewell said: “The overwhelming vote against the proposals was notable for two reasons: the size of the rebellion and the fact it had cross-party support.
“Prime ministers generally hate doing u-turns because they think it makes them look weak. But sometimes it can be a sign of strength – a readiness to respond to a well-made case.
“The Fusiliers don’t just have history, passion and the public on their side. The fact is, the government’s figures don’t add up. Mr Cameron would be wise to ponder whether this really is a battle worth fighting.”
The battalion, which recruits from across Greater Manchester, can trace its roots back to the Bury-based Lancashire Fusiliers, whose soldiers gave their lives in the First and Second World Wars and famously earned “six Victoria Crosses before breakfast” in the Gallipoli landings of 1915.