Whilst all the attention of the Government and the media has (rightly) been on Ukraine, following Putin’s unprovoked invasion, this week we also celebrated Commonwealth Day.
Parliament Square was festooned with a wonderful array of flags. Every corner of the globe was covered - from Samoa to Cyprus to Canada. Also included was Ghana, for which I held the immensely rewarding role of the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy for a number of years.
The Commonwealth was founded as a voluntary association of independent and equal countries, with member states having huge global significance in both a physical and cultural sense, and containing over 2.5 billion people. The shared bonds are many, but perhaps most important in this family of nations is a commitment to peace and democracy. It is that very same commitment from the UK which leads us to support Ukraine in their efforts against the Russian invaders, and to use our political clout to fight authoritarianism and oppression wherever it is found.
Here in Windsor, we proudly are home to the Head of the Commonwealth, Her Majesty the Queen. We are also home to many men and women who have come to the UK to join our armed forces as Commonwealth Nationals. Their service is commendable and they make up a key part of our army’s fabric. I know that sentiment is shared by the people of Windsor as many have written to me about the issue of visas for Commonwealth soldiers. I am glad that the Government has made the decision to waive visa fees after six years of service, for those that wish to settle here.
Tourism is also hugely important to Windsor and the surrounding areas. Now that restrictions have been lifted , I am confident that we will welcome many people from the Commonwealth once again.
The United Kingdom is the motherland for so many people across the globe and this is a great time for us to reflect on our shared values, in a world that seems rather troubled at the moment.