Britain to the rescue – again

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WHAT HAS happened to international co-operation? It is a question many will be pondering as Britain finds itself at the forefront of the response to the two greatest crises confronting the global community – the spread of the Ebola virus and the threat posed by the “Islamic State” insurgency.

As a force for peace in the world, Britain is helping to spearhead the fight against Ebola in Western Africa and 100,000 protective suits manufactured in Hull are being sent to Sierra Leone. Yet, while these shipments are welcome and overdue, there is still a sense that the disease-hit countries are not doing enough to help to ease the desperate plight of their people, and that decades’ worth of overseas aid has been squandered rather than being spent on schemes to provide basic sanitation.

It is the same with Turkey’s desperate appeal to Britain, America and others for greater military assistance to prevented the strategically important Syrian town of Kobani being captured by ISIS militants and jihadists. Lightly-armed Kurdish defenders of the town, close to the border with Turkey, are in danger of being over-run – and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond was among those to forewarn yesterday that this battle could be lost.

Two points emerge from this. First, why is the RAF targeting ISIS strongholds in Iraq when the greater threat is in Syria? Second, the limited effectiveness of air strikes is only likely to intensify the pressure for “boots on the ground” and a return to the type of warfare that led to hundreds of UK service personnel being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is likely to be unacceptable to war-weary Britons and the onus is now on the Foreign Secretary to persuade his counterparts in the Middle East to take greater responsibility for the region’s long-term security and stability rather than relying on the West to police the world from afar. It is the only sustainable solution in the longer term.

A flight of fancy

Airport needs transport links

airports have a major role to play in terms of regional growth, with good air links allowing the economic potential of a region to be realised and acting as a catalyst for inward investment. It is why Leeds City Council rightly continues to take an active interest in the fortunes of Leeds Bradford International Airport seven years after the authority – along with its West Yorkshire neighbours –

sold it to a private equity firm for £145m.

Keen to build on encouraging figures which show Leeds Bradford has grown by 16 per cent over the last five years, it has designs on making the airport the major international travel hub of the North. As laudable as such ambition is, a slight reality check might be in order. Although the airport’s growth is measured as twice that of Heathrow and four times that of Gatwick, this is a case of comparing chalk and cheese. Heathrow handled more than 73 million passengers last year, Leeds Bradford welcomed just over three million.

There must also be a question as to whether the growth of other airports has slowed because they have expanded to the point where they have now reached their maximum capacity.

The conundrum that Leeds Bradford must solve, as it has needed to do for some time, is how it can continue its recent growth given the accessibility issues it faces by virtue of a location that is so different to those of the country’s biggest airports. If the council and the airport’s owners can install the quick and easy transport links to and from the site that their ambition demands, the sky is truly the limit. For the moment, however, it remains a big if.

Queen of cakes

Television’s recipe for success

THE GREAT British Bake-Off certainly knows how to cook up a television treat – the 13.3 million viewers who watched this year’s final eclipsed the number of people who watched the BBC’s coverage of the World Cup final. Yet why the level of fascination as Hull-born Nancy Birtwhistle became the queen of cakes? The answer is simple. There’s no violence, crime, sex or swearing. This is gentle family entertainment which is quintessentially English, and it deserves to be savoured (no pun intended).

The intrigue generated by such gentle programmes is also a reminder to Britain’s broadcaster that it does not need to shock in order to entertain. Strictly Come Dancing offers proof of this. And so does A Question of Sport, a light-hearted quiz programme that is still a reassuring presence on the Friday night schedules nearly 46 years after the concept was first devised.

It just goes to show that simplicity is invariably the recipe for success. If only the same could be said for those cake creations.