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Leader comment >

Dangerous world

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SOME weeks, the world seems more dangerous than at other times. Reports of a chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun by Syrian or Russian planes have been disputed, but later rocket attacks on the clinics that were treating those affected did nothing to increase the plausibility of the official denials. The idealistic cause behind the St Petersburg Metro bombing remains obscure, but the vicious nature of an attack designed to kill and maim innocent travellers was all too apparent. And the Westminster Abbey service on Wednesday, although it contained words of inspira­tion and comfort, brought the violence perpetrated by Khalid Masood back to the foreground. These are merely the head­lines.

On Monday, in Pajok, South Sudan, government mil­­itiamen spent four hours firing on townspeople with automatic weapons. In Mexico, a proprietor has closed his newspaper down after the murder of one of its journalists, Miroslava Breach, who investigated organised crime. The opposition in Paraguay is mourning a protester shot by police during angry demonstrations against a change in the constitution which would allow the current President to run for a second term.

This list is not intended to depress. Its purpose is to provide the context for the remarks by Lord Howard, a former Conservative leader, about the sovereignty of Gibraltar after a Brexit deal. Lord Howard chose to invoke the Falklands War, stating: “I’m absolutely certain that our current Prime Minister will show the same resolve in standing by the people of Gibraltar.” It was another disturbing example of how the future of the UK is being directed by the internal politics of the Conservative Party. European negotiators watched bemused as Conservative politicians tried simultaneously to impress the imperial-measures-and-navy-blue-passports wing of the party with their tough talk while appeasing MPs who were appalled at the inflammatory approach to such a sensitive topic. Well might the Prime Minister apply her now familiar technique of damping down controversy by introducing extreme dullness: “What we are doing with all European countries in the European Union is sitting down and talking to them.”

Despite Mrs May’s calming contribution — issued from Saudi Arabia, recipient in 2015 of 83 per cent of British arms exports, according to Greenpeace — there are signs that poli­tic­­ians are responding poorly to the crackle of aggression in the air. President Trump’s thinly veiled threats of a military strike against North Korea were just the latest example of a troub­­ling cocktail present in global politics: a lack of imagina­tive responses to threats, perceived or real, combined with too much attention paid to irresponsibly belligerent elements in the electorate. The collect for Palm Sunday is apposite and timely, with its prayer that we may follow the example of Christ’s patience and humility.

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