Westminister Comment - The country has rightly paid tribute

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The Commonwealth games were a great success both for the organisers and for the competitors from the home nations. They certainly helped build on the passion for sport that is the Olympic legacy. There was a great atmosphere for the competitors shown by the enthusiasm of the spectators.

The competitors from the home nations that make up Team GB built on all the training they gained from the Olympics legacy. The support of the spectators, also, gave the competitors a lift that produced their very best performances in most cases. It will be important to see that this is enthusiasm is channelled into greater participation at all levels of sporting activity.

For many the following week was just as tense as texts, emails and letters delivered this year’s exam results. While teachers, family and friends all play a supportive role it is the individuals who sit the exam that deserve to be the main focus of attention.

With the results out lots of people will be considering their next option. There are many routes to choose, all with their pros and cons. I just want to highlight that there is a growing number considering the route of apprenticeship.

Those with an interest in science and technology have the potential to build on that interest with an engineering apprenticeship. As part of trying to make the economic recovery sustainable the Secretary of State for Business Vince Cable has been doing much to encourage apprenticeships as a route from school to work.

I would like to wish all those considering their results all the best as they look at the choices before them.

With it being 100 years since the outbreak of what became known later as the First World War, the country has rightly paid tribute to all those who sacrificed so much taking part in defending our freedom. A whole generation gave much in life and limb as the nature of warfare underwent much technical changes.

The centenary is also a reminder that small flashpoints of trouble can build up into a major incident as alliances and old animosities resurface. Events in Ukraine, Gaza and Iraq all have the potential to escalate into even greater trouble.

Already the failure of several truces has led to a major loss of civilian life in Gaza. While Israel is undoubtedly attacked and has a right to defend its people it has a duty to keep civilian casualties to a minimum.

The scenes in Iraq are very reminiscent of the suffering of the Kurds after the first Gulf War to remove Iraq from Kuwait. As someone who voted against the second Gulf war and the invasion of Iraq that followed I nevertheless do recognise that where we can deliver humanitarian assistance we should. However we need to recognise the danger of getting sucked into yet another military engagement.

What is happening in Ukraine is probably having most impact on us here at home as President Putin escalates the exchange of sanctions. The problem for the West is his willingness to accept considerable economic damage as he pursues his wider strategic aims. He is not necessarily making the rational responses that traditional diplomacy would expect.

While we do not directly rely on Russian gas for our energy needs we are part of an open market with our neighbours many of whom do. Traditional economics says Russia needs the money so will deliver the gas. The current behaviour of President Putin makes it difficult to rely on such rational behaviour.

Such instability in our regional energy market does reinforce the case for maximising our own domestic sources of supply where possible.