Saturday, December 23, 2017

What is Important News?

What are the important issues in the news? How is ‘importance’ assessed? Daresay all of us would not choose the same stories. Over recent days I’ve thought that some of the headline stories in our media have not warranted much attention at all. The top story this last week has been about about Blue Passports and is not significant at all. What difference does it make what colour our passports are going to be. It was treated as lead story for two days. Then there’s the story about a pair of red knickers, seized from a criminal and auctioned to raise money for charity. I suppose they had been stolen. In passing, I recall my local weekly, the County Times putting a photo of 6 pairs of quite racy knickers adorning a washing line on its front page, to highlight a local story where a thief admitted to stealing 800 pairs from washing lines under cover of darkness. I even knew who they belonged to. (I was told!)
For me, much the biggest story of the week was the visit to Moscow by our Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson to meet Sergei Lavrov, the Russia. Foreign Minister. It’s 5 years since a British Foeign Secretary has met with his Russian counterpart. This is really not good enough. Russia is a key actor is dangerous trouble spots in the Middle/Far East, and we should be doing all we can to maintain dialogue. Jaw Jaw better than War War etc..
The UK should be trying to develop an ‘understanding’ with Russia about the future of Syria. What’s happening in Syria is probably the worst humanitarian disaster of my adult life. Russia, in support of Bashar al-Assad is closely involved. Both of our countries have an interest in deciding a way forward (even if we don’t much like it). Both of our countries have an interest is containing the nuclear ambitions of Iran. Both of our countries have an interest in preventing North Korea firing its nuclear weapons. And much else. It’s good that the UN (where Russia and the UK are permanent members of the Security Council) has acted on this last issue today.
Of course it’s not easy when Putin is the President of Russia. He still has imperialistic ambitions. And is almost certainly involved in unfriendly activity towards the West. The continuing huge investment in Russia’s armed forces mean Western countries have to do the same. But we should remember that Russia is a country in economic reverse, experiencing population decline, economic decline, and worse to come as the power of gas and oil declines. They will be looking for friends. Never a good idea to poke the Russian bear.
Despite there being many reasons to be wary of Russia, I do think we should applaud our Foreign Secretary of taking the bold step of going to Moscow. It may well be that the Boris brand of directness and humour will go down ok. It certainly seems to have gone ok, even if there was a fair bit of barely diplomatic language. It was certainly the most important story of the last few days.

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