Shropshire Star

Peter Rhodes on China's peace plan, getting tough with thugs and an unforgettable night sky

China weighs into the Ukraine war with a 12-point plan for peace. At first sight it looks like a dozen clear, simple milestones on the route to a settlement. But politics is seldom straightforward.

Dazzling night – the Upland Goose Hotel

What are the odds, for example, of getting beyond the first point of the China plan: “Respecting the sovereignty of all countries”? Sounds blissfully simple, doesn't it? But it depends what you mean by “respect.” Depends what you mean by “sovereignty.” Depends what you mean by “countries.” As we are gradually discovering, Ukraine, like Northern Ireland, has a question for every answer.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab says convicted criminals could be physically forced to appear in court for sentencing. For some villains, skulking in a cell is one last V-sign at the system, one final slap in the face for the victim. How many prison officers and cops would it take to manhandle one burly, aggressive thug into the dock? Far from giving victims closure, such scenes might only add to the trauma.

One jolly night in the 1980s, on a press trip to the Falkland Islands, six of us hacks finished our drinks in the Upland Goose Hotel, stepped out into the night - and were struck dumb.

If you have never seen the night sky undimmed by street lights or the glow of cities and untainted by pollution, as in the Falklands, then you have missed one of nature's great free spectacles. Here it was in its pristine magnificence, stars and galaxies blazing like a laser show. In that instant you suddenly understood why the ancients took the constellations so seriously, weaving tales of hunters and bears high above.

Today's heavenly objects, as seen from the UK, are a dim echo of our pre- Industrial Revolution past. So it's good news that Bardsey Island, off the coast of north Wales, has just become the first site in Europe to receive dark-sky sanctuary certification for its dazzling stars and (as Dylan Thomas put it) “bible black” skies.

The more that people see of clear night skies, the more they will understand their birthright and demand more of the same. On a cleaner, greener planet, who knows how brightly the stars may one day shine?