ANGELA Merkel cut a forlorn figure as she updated the German people about the tragedy in Berlin when a truck ploughed into a crowded Christmas market with devastating consequences.
Confirming that it was almost certainly “a terrorist attack”, her voice faltered as she tried to make sense of the carnage and raised the possibility that the perpetrator could be an asylum seeker who had sought refuge in Germany.
The Chancellor was also acutely aware that some will blame the atrocity on her open door migration policy, notably former Ukip leader Nigel Farage who maintained – rather insensitively as the mutilated bodies of the victims were being recovered from the wreckage – that “Mrs Merkel had directly caused a whole number of social and terrorist problems in Germany” and “it’s about time we confronted that truth”.
Yet, while migration will inevitably shape Mrs Merkel’s legacy, it is gutter politics to blame one leader for a senseless attack of this magnitude. This was not just an attack on the people of Berlin; it was an attack on Western values, with chilling similarities to July’s atrocity in the French resort of Nice, and indicative of the ease with which terrorists – no other word will suffice – are prepared to target the softest of soft targets with impunity.
That revellers cannot be assured of their safety at a Christmas market, a place where people of all ages celebrate the festive season, is a disturbing reminder of the extent to which freedom and liberty is now coming under sustained challenge from jihadists as one consequence of the wider turmoil in the Middle East. What hope is there for the world if the benevolence of the West is used by some extremists as a means to undertake mass murder like this? As such, the Christmas market carnage represents a violent end to a year of division as this nation stands in solidarity with Germany in its hour of sorrow.
Changing of guard
THERE will be mixed feelings as the Queen’s patronage of more than 20 organisations comes to an end. Sadness that such enduring associations will draw to a close at the end of a year that saw Her Majesty celebrate her 90th birthday; anticipation that the roles will be passed to other members of the Royal Family.
Yet the Buckingham Palace announcement does need to be placed in perspective. As younger royals embrace more of the duties undertaken by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, it should be remembered that Her Majesty will still remain patron of more than 600 organisations. Not only this, but she continues to take a keen, and active, interest in the work of the groups concerned.
It’s also a reminder about the intrinsic importance of Royal support to charities. A visit, or endorsement, can be priceless when it comes to fundraising appeals – or raising the morale of beneficiaries and volunteers alike.
And this relationship is also emblematic of the Queen’s devotion to duty which remains as unstinting today as it was in 1952 when her beloved father, King George VI, passed away. For more than 60 years, she has led by example and made a lasting contribution to the work of the charities, voluntary organisations and governing bodies that were blessed by her support.
With the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge accepting more Royal responsibilities, and Prince Harry appearing to be at a loose end after leaving the Armed Forces, this appears to be an opportune time for the next stage of a subtle changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.
six years after the final episode of Last of the Summer Wine was broadcast, the programme’s enduring appeal can be measured by the number of fans who still visit Holmfirth – the West Yorkshire town which became so synonymous with the travails of that much-loved triumvirate of eccentrics, Foggy, Compo and Clegg, as well as their co-stars such as the irrepressible Nora Batty in her pinny and hair curlers.
Yet, while they would, in all probability, be bemused that the series has now been made the subject of academic research at Leeds Beckett University about how it shaped the public’s impression of Holmfirth, who would have thought that writer Roy Clarke’s characters would still, to this day, have such enduring appeal? It is because he came up with storylines which left the nation wanting more because they amounted to little more than harmless fun that viewers could relate to. Today’s script-writers would be advised to take note.