It is sounding increasingly like Hague could abandon the long-term British foreign policy position and ease sanctions against Zimbabwe and Mugabe’s cronies. EU sanctions will lapse on Wednesday and the Belgians are putting a spanner in the works thanks to their interests in the diamond market. Guido hears that the FCO could give in this week. Mugabe’s diamond mining business, and its Mining Minister Obert Mpofu, are being considered for unfreezing of assets and lifting of travel bans.
Mpofu, a man of meagre means until diamonds were discovered in Zimbabwe in 2006, is said to have spent $20,000,000 of his own fortune on cars, property and gifts in Zimbabwe last year. The rest he just squandered. The ZMDC state mining firm that he runs is also a potential business partner hundreds British businesses queuing at the door of Zimbabwe. While it may be tempting for Hague to allow Mpofu and his ilk to come to the spend their cash here, and Britain has a financial interest in seeing restrictions lifted, it comes at a price: ZMDC is the funding vehicle for Mugabe’s election machine and police state. Agree to lift sanctions now and the FCO will not have a leg to stand on over the Zimbabwean presidential elections, scheduled for July. You reap what you sow…
UPDATE: The Telegraph’s man in Brussels has more on why the Belgians want the restrictions lifted.
Say what you like about William Hague, the man certainly knows how to play host. Guido has got hold of the list of wines he has served to visiting kings, queens, presidents and prime ministers over the last year. No expense has been spared, out of our pocket naturally.
The Foreign Secretary’s fine choice of the “flamboyantly scented” Château Cheval Blanc 1985 will have impressed guests, at least it should have at £400-a-bottle. Those looking for something a little more subtle could go for the Château Léoville-Lascases 1989, a snip at just £139. A classic Bordeaux is also on offer, the £142-a-bottle Château Cos d’Estournel 1986 will have been enjoyed by visitors from across the Channel. Let it never be said that Hague lets his guests go away unsatisfied, a glass or two of the £87-a-bottle Warre 1977 is how our host likes to end his soirées. And if he’s sufficiently lubricated, he might even let you see his snake…
Last week Israel’s ambassador to the UK was summoned to the Foreign Office in a diplomatic protest over their publishing of a planning application. Apparently Hague wanted to show “the depth of the UK’s concerns” about the boost to the Middle East’s construction industry.
Today Egypt’s new progressive president has deployed tanks on the streets of Cairo in an attempt to quell protests against his power grab and constitutional rewrite, yet there is silence from the FCO.
Bricks and mortar bad, tanks and mortar shells good.
A Labour source whispers to Guido that Tom Watson is this week planning to attack William Hague over his handling of the North Wales child abuse scandal. Hague set up the Waterhouse Inquiry in 1996 when he was Welsh Secretary under John Major. The report eventually found no evidence of a paedophile ring in North Wales care homes, despite the testimony of hundreds of victims. Downing Street are this afternoon attempting to pre-empt the Watson strike by revisiting the Inquiry:
“Child abuse is a hateful crime. A senior figure will lead an independent investigation of claims of care home abuse in Wales, and will report urgently.”
No. 10 are said to be looking for a judge…
UPDATE: Watson has written to the Prime Minister alleging “a concerted establishment cover-up”.
When Guido heard that William Hague had stuffed a 20-foot anaconda in the Foreign Office, he just had to find out how much the taxpayer was being billed. The answer is an eye-watering £10,000. But what followed was perhaps the greatest FOI response of all time:
“‘Albert’ the anaconda was allegedly presented by a Bishop, in what is now Guyana, to the Colonial Secretary in the 19th century – exact names and dates are unknown. However, he appears in a photo from circa 1892, which means he has been in the FCO for at least 120 years. As a gift to the FCO, Albert is therefore regarded as an FCO asset. As such, the FCO is obliged to maintain its assets, and the work on ‘Albert’ was essential maintenance. It is believed that ‘Albert’ was first re-stuffed in the 1960s or 1970s, but there are no records of how much it cost on that occasion. Certainly no significant maintenance has been carried out on him in the last 40-50 years. ‘Albert’ was never housed in a glass case, as is commonly believed. In moving him from his suspended position in the Ansell Library (a separate Library area to the old Home Office Library referenced above) to facilitate planned refurbishment to the area it was observed he was in poor condition. A decision was taken to use this opportunity to carry out a refurbishment to ‘Albert’ including a safety check on the suspension fittings. The cost of the conservation and restoration work on ‘Albert’ was £10,000. The work was undertaken by the Conservation Team at the Natural History Museum, over a 5-week period, from 21 May to 26 June 2012. As nothing was known about previous work done on ‘Albert’, the conversation team at the NHM needed to use x-ray CT scanning, which is a costly procedure that required extensive data processing and a specialist to do the analysis. Also, the level of detailed, delicate work in the restoration involved an intensive amount of care and attention from highly trained staff.”
Austerity, what austerity?
Who would have thought that a threat made at four in the morning would prove impossible to implement in the cold light of day. Before Christmas, while on a relative high from his EU spanner in the works, Fightin’ Dave was all mouth about EU institutions, but the dampening of expectations has begun this morning. A full retreat will be signalled when the Prime Minister arrives in Brussels this afternoon, but Hague has hit the airwaves to say that they were “not intending to take action about that now”. Another reverse move that could easily have been avoided. Many more of these and the words “defining” and “feature” will stick…
Tory MP Robert Halfon has just ratcheted things up in the House in regard to Iran. Having been granted an Urgent Question, he pushed Hague on ”what will happen, if these latest economic sanctions don’t work?” He didn’t stop there either:
“What more is being done to bring Russia and China to the UN table? Most would accept that Britain has shouldered its fair burden in tackling dictators. But it seems clear that the free world must send a message to Iran, that if they continue with their nuclear plans it will lead to military action. No one wants war. But tragically, it is looking increasingly likely…”
Hague waffled about “many contingency plans for many contingencies”. A sound-bite almost up there with “known unknowns”.
When he’s not running a football club or advising Bank of America, part-time MP David Miliband teaches politics to the students of Haverstock School in Chalk Farm. He apparently “taught the theory/practice of ministerial accountability this morning.” No doubt without a trace of irony.
As a minister Miliband was hardly the most loyal of servants to his Primus Inter Pares. Triggering various leadership crises and letting his disdain be well-known. Presumably that’s the practice part of the lesson.
Miliband’s less than exemplary record in government has even come under attack from William Hague. Finding his recently lacking quick wit, Hague quips about being Foreign Secretary to this month’s Total Politics; “this isn’t a launch pad to one day be leader again, which, I think must be a great distraction, and has been for some of my predecessors.” Miaow.
How Mervyn King Lost Bank Battle War | WSJ
BBC Corporation Tax Horror Story | IEA
Sally Bercow Judgement in Full | Mr Justice Tugendhat
Commies Blame Capitalism For Terror Attack | The Commentator
Lord Black v Press Regulation | Guardian
Osborne’s Complacency | FT
DWP’s Welfare Failings | Isabel Hardman
Get Used to Coalitions | David Aaronovitch
Woolwich a Showcase in the Banality of Evil | Fraser Nelson
The Enemy Within | Max Hastings
Muslim Led Military-Style Free School Needed | Toby Young
Ed Balls stretches credulity by claiming he isn’t ambitious…
“I would love to be part of Ed’s Labour government but what I do next for me is not an all-consuming passion. I’m more bothered, in a personal sense, about getting to grade 8 piano by the time I’m 50.”
Ned Flanders – Clegg
Lisa Simpson – Natalie Bennett
Milhouse – Hilary Benn
Martin Prince – Andy Burnham
Edna Krabappel – Luciana Berger
Crazy Cat Lady – Glenda jackson
Comic book guy – John Prescott
Carl – Chucka
Lenny – Philip Hammond
Willie – Eric joyce
Poochie – Gordon Brown
Reverend Lovejoy – Tony Blair