Nato must find fresh purpose

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THE WARSHIPS in Cardiff Bay and the armoured cars on the golf course served as a reminder to world leaders gathered in South Wales for the Nato summit that the official terror threat in Britain is now “substantial”, meaning that an attack is deemed imminent.

They also demonstrate that the world has changed substantially in the short time since this summit was first planned. The notion put forward by Barack Obama that, with Nato’s mission in Afghanistan winding down, “a decade of war is now ending” seems somewhat questionable given that the US has now launched airstrikes against Islamist militant forces who have overrun areas of Syria and northern Iraq and that two Americans have now been executed by these insurgents who say that a third, Yorkshire-born hostage will be the next to be beheaded.

And as if this were not enough, the fact that a border war between Russia and Ukraine has now cost at least 2,000 lives is history’s riposte to the Nato leaders who gathered in Britain in 1990 to hail the end of the Cold War, a premature conclusion which led to a mass cutting of Western military budgets that is still going on.

But however much Barack Obama and David Cameron may wish for a peaceful world, however war-weary their voters are after the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, they know that they must form a strategy to meet these latest threats.

The US President arrived in Wales hotfoot from the Baltic States where he gave assurances to nations on the front line of Russian expansionism and now comes the painful task of building support for some kind of action against the self-styled Islamic State that is murdering its way across Iraq and Syria.

It is still far from apparent what form this action will take, but what must be clearly acknowledged is that the world is facing crises that demand a new purpose to Western foreign policy.

Making food safer

But not necessarily cheaper

PUBLIC ANGER over last year’s food-safety scandal, which saw beef products contaminated with horsemeat reach supermarket shelves across Europe, has long since died down.

However, as farmers, retailers and all those involved in the food industry know only too well, there remains an abiding fear among consumers, a lingering mistrust which – once another scare arises, as it surely will sooner or later – could spell economic ruin for many involved in the industry.

So there should be a general welcome, among industry and consumers alike, for the new Food Crime Unit, the major recommendation in a report which was commissioned following the horsemeat scandal and which the Government is now to implement in full.

However, if confidence is to return to the industry, it is important that the report’s warnings are heeded by retailers themselves, especially those whose constant pressure on suppliers to reduce prices has created the temptation for criminals to enter the industry and organise the mass contamination of food products.

And while greater powers of investigation and a much stronger chance of prosecution, are two vital weapons in the continuing war on food crime, along with better labelling and the move to wards more locally sourced food, these in themselves will not be enough.

For it is only by recognising that the constant demand for cheaper food can so easily backfire and create disaster for the industry that retailers, as well as suppliers, will sleep more easily.

A legend recalled

Beryl Burton, cycling superstar

long before British cycling stars attained the status of national heroes, and at a time when the notion of Yorkshire hosting the Tour de France’s Grand Départ would have been laughed out of court, this county gave birth to a sportswoman whose name is still revered in cycling circles, but whose achievements have never been fully acknowledged in her home country.

It is gratifying, then, that Leeds City Council has recognised the legendary status that Beryl Burton holds in the cycling world by posthumously granting her the Freedom of the City.

Five times world champion over 3,000 metres, 13 times national champion, best British all-rounder champion for an astonishing 25 successive years and holder of the men’s 12-hour time-trial for two years in the 1960s, in today’s world this Morley cyclist would have been a sporting superstar. And the fact that her record is at last being recognised is the righting of a long-standing injustice.