Sometimes when great events are happening around the World, it is little ones which give you some kind of perspective. The massive ‘No’ vote in Greece, has as yet unforeseen but very probably massive consequences for the Euro, the EU, and the UK. With the world elsewhere in a troublous and parlous state, my week has been dominated by defence matters.
I spoke in a defence debate in Parliament on Thursday, had a meeting with Babcock on Friday to discuss the 400 trainers they are to employ at Lyneham, and that afternoon had a visit to the massive works which are being carried out there. The Defence Technical Training College will open in September, with 1500 students initially. Very many local people have already been employed (many of the 1500 construction workers currently on site), local contractors have been used (good to hear, for example about the Crudwell company employing 70 or so people making outdoor furniture and rubbish bins for the site) and the influx both of students and staff will have a great effect on the local economy in so many ways. Quite apart from that I am glad that we are making that sort of contribution to the defence of the Realm.
The lovely little memorial service for Eileen Swannack and John Welch which I attended in Biddestone on Friday brought world uncertainty, and the price which innocent people may pay for it, home to us all. We cannot let this go on. The next atrocity may not be 30 Brits in Tunisia. It may well be 300 in Royal Wootton Bassett, or 3000 in Trafalgar Square. We have to do whatever we can to halt this barbarity – starting, I think, with extending our airstrikes against Daesh in Iraq to their bases in Syria. I would be wholly opposed to ground warfare, but there is so much that we can do to help the Iraqis and Kurds in their existential war against the evil which is Daesh.
With all of these thoughts of war and peace whirling through me, I went up to Ashton Keynes to take part - would you believe it – in a world record attempt at hopping on one leg for ten seconds, all arranged by the hugely impressive and energetic head teacher of the primary school. One child with learning disability, Leo, grasped me firmly by the hand and led me off into the crowd, determined to do his bit to beat the hopping record, and that I should miss no part of it.
There was something about little Leo’s cheerful determination, his warm openness and friendship, which just made me be glad to be alive, and to realise what life and the defence of our peace and freedoms it is all about. It is about preserving the right of little Leo to take part in a hopping competition alongside his school mates. It is about peace and security, about freedom of movement opinion and action, respect for those less able than ourselves, and about a love of the fun of it all. It may sound odd, but there is something about the sheer Britishness of that Ashton Keynes event and my friend Leo, which spelled out why we must do what we must do to end the evil which is Daesh. It’s so often the little things which matter so much more, and play some part in explaining, the big things in life.