Colonel Gaddafi warns Europe over “turning black”

But there’s method in his madness.

The Libyan ruler, Colonel Gaddafi, has used a summit in Tripoli to warn that Europe risks "turning black" unless Libya is given £4bn a year by the EU to keep out illegal immigrants from Africa. "We should stop this illegal immigration. If we don't, Europe will become black, it will be overcome by people with different religions, it will change," he said.

He made the threat before in the summer, during a three-day visit to Italy. "We don't know what will happen, what will be the reaction of the white and Christian Europeans faced with this influx of starving and ignorant Africans," he said. "We don't know if Europe will remain an advanced and united continent or if it will be destroyed, as happened with the barbarian invasions."

Both of which sit rather oddly with his comments two years ago when, during his election campaign, Barack Obama declared his support for Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. Then Gaddafi chided him thus:

The statements of our Kenyan brother of American nationality Obama on Jerusalem . . . show that he either ignores international politics and did not study the Middle East conflict or that it is a campaign lie. We fear that Obama will feel that because he is black with an inferiority complex, this will make him behave worse than the whites.

Instead, urged the colonel: "We tell him to be proud of himself as a black and feel that all Africa is behind him."

In the first comment, Gaddafi seems to take a rather dim view of his fellows from the African continent. In the second, Obama is hailed as a "brother" precisely because of their continental connection. So just what does the Libyan leader think?

It all depends, I fear, on who he believes is paying him sufficient attention. He has always longed to be taken seriously as a regional leader, although he hasn't necessarily been choosy about which region in particular. He never achieved the influence and dominance in the Arab world for which he hoped, so has turned his attention in recent years to Africa, which he continues to maintain can become a "country" like the United States of America.

As there is no danger of either crown being offered to him – his proposal that African states share sovereignty has had a lukewarm response – he sometimes hedges his bets by claiming both, as when he stormed out of an Arab summit in Qatar last year, declaring himself "the dean of the Arab rulers, the king of kings of Africa and the imam of all Muslims".

When I profiled Gaddafi in the NS shortly afterwards, I wrote that he was "never the irrational maverick some liked to say he was", and the former Foreign Office minister Mike O'Brien told me the colonel was "an intelligent guy . . . he recognises that the world has changed and he has to change with it".

I stand by what I said. But that doesn't mean that Gaddafi is not prone to strange outbursts (see Samira Shackle's list of his top five), nor that he is averse to playing to the populist gallery, however unlikely his supporters may be. The sad aspect of this case is that those who probably agree with him (even if they would baulk at handing over several billions to Libya) may be on the fringe in this country – but in Europe, as Gaddafi well knows, there are parties across the continent whose fears are exactly those he expressed, and which participate in government in several countries.

Mad Dog? Maybe. But canny dog, in this case, too.

Sholto Byrnes is a Contributing Editor to the New Statesman
Photo: Getty Images
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No, IDS, welfare isn't a path to wealth. Quite the opposite, in fact

Far from being a lifestyle choice, welfare is all too often a struggle for survival.

Iain Duncan Smith really is the gift that keeps on giving. You get one bile-filled giftbag of small-minded, hypocritical nastiness and, just when you think it has no more pain to inflict, off comes another ghastly layer of wrapping paper and out oozes some more. He is a game of Pass the Parcel for people who hate humanity.
For reasons beyond current understanding, the Conservative party not only let him have his own department but set him loose on a stage at their conference, despite the fact that there was both a microphone and an audience and that people might hear and report on what he was going to say. It’s almost like they don’t care that the man in charge of the benefits system displays a fundamental - and, dare I say, deliberate - misunderstanding of what that system is for.
IDS took to the stage to tell the disabled people of Britain - or as he likes to think of us, the not “normal” people of Britain -  “We won’t lift you out of poverty by simply transferring taxpayers’ money to you. With our help, you’ll work your way out of poverty.” It really is fascinating that he was allowed to make such an important speech on Opposite Day.
Iain Duncan Smith is a man possessed by the concept of work. That’s why he put in so many hours and Universal Credit was such a roaring success. Work, when available and suitable and accessible, is a wonderful thing, but for those unable to access it, the welfare system is a crucial safety net that keeps them from becoming totally impoverished.
Benefits absolutely should be the route out of poverty. They are the essential buffer between people and penury. Iain Duncan Smith speaks as though there is a weekly rollover on them, building and building until claimants can skip into the kind of mansion he lives in. They are not that. They are a small stipend to keep body and soul together.
Benefits shouldn’t be a route to wealth and DWP cuts have ensured that, but the notion that we should leave people in poverty astounds me. The people who rely on benefits don’t see it as a quick buck, an easy income. We cannot be the kind of society who is content to leave people destitute because they are unable to work, through long-term illness or short-term job-seeking. Without benefits, people are literally starving. People don’t go to food banks because Waitrose are out of asparagus. They go because the government has snipped away at their benefits until they have become too poor to feed themselves.
The utter hypocrisy of telling disabled people to work themselves out of poverty while cutting Access to Work is so audacious as to be almost impressive. IDS suggests that suitable jobs for disabled workers are constantly popping out of the ground like daisies, despite the fact that his own government closed 36 Remploy factories. If he wants people to work their way out of poverty, he has make it very easy to find that work.
His speech was riddled with odious little snippets digging at those who rely on his department. No one is “simply transferring taxpayers’ money” to claimants, as though every Friday he sits down with his card reader to do some online banking, sneaking into people’s accounts and spiriting their cash away to the scrounging masses. Anyone who has come within ten feet of claiming benefits knows it is far from a simple process.
He is incredulous that if a doctor says you are too sick to work, you get signed off work, as though doctors are untrained apes that somehow gained access to a pen. This is only the latest absurd episode in DWP’s ongoing deep mistrust of the medical profession, whose knowledge of their own patients is often ignored in favour of a brief assessment by an outside agency. IDS implies it is yes-no question that GPs ask; you’re either well enough to work or signed off indefinitely to leech from the state. This is simply not true. GPs can recommend their patients for differing approaches for remaining in work, be it a phased return or adapted circumstances and they do tend to have the advantage over the DWP’s agency of having actually met their patient before.
I have read enough stories of the callous ineptitude of sanctions and cuts starving the people we are meant to be protecting. A robust welfare system is the sign of a society that cares for those in need. We need to provide accessible, suitable jobs for those who can work and accessible, suitable benefits for those who can’t. That truly would be a gift that keeps giving.