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: André Spicer
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“It’s scary to do it again”: the five-year-old fined £150 for running a lemonade stand

Enforcement officers penalised a child selling home-made lemonade in the street. Her father tells the full story. 

It was a lively Saturday afternoon in east London’s Mile End. Groups of people streamed through residential streets on their way to a music festival in the local park; booming bass could be heard from the surrounding houses.

One five-year-old girl who lived in the area had an idea. She had been to her school’s summer fête recently and looked longingly at the stalls. She loved the idea of setting up her own stall, and today was a good day for it.

“She eventually came round to the idea of selling lemonade,” her father André Spicer tells me. So he and his daughter went to their local shop to buy some lemons. They mixed a few jugs of lemonade, the girl made a fetching A4 sign with some lemons drawn on it – 50p for a small cup, £1 for a large – and they carried a table from home to the end of their road. 

“People suddenly started coming up and buying stuff, pretty quickly, and they were very happy,” Spicer recalls. “People looked overjoyed at this cute little girl on the side of the road – community feel and all that sort of stuff.”

But the heart-warming scene was soon interrupted. After about half an hour of what Spicer describes as “brisk” trade – his daughter’s recipe secret was some mint and a little bit of cucumber, for a “bit of a British touch” – four enforcement officers came striding up to the stand.

Three were in uniform, and one was in plain clothes. One uniformed officer turned the camera on his vest on, and began reciting a legal script at the weeping five-year-old.

“You’re trading without a licence, pursuant to x, y, z act and blah dah dah dah, really going through a script,” Spicer tells me, saying they showed no compassion for his daughter. “This is my job, I’m doing it and that’s it, basically.”

The girl burst into tears the moment they arrived.

“Officials have some degree of intimidation. I’m a grown adult, so I wasn’t super intimidated, but I was a bit shocked,” says Spicer. “But my daughter was intimidated. She started crying straight away.”

As they continued to recite their legalese, her father picked her up to try to comfort her – but that didn’t stop the officers giving her stall a £150 fine and handing them a penalty notice. “TRADING WITHOUT LICENCE,” it screamed.


Picture: André Spicer

“She was crying and repeating, ‘I’ve done a bad thing’,” says Spicer. “As we walked home, I had to try and convince her that it wasn’t her, it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her who had done something bad.”

She cried all the way home, and it wasn’t until she watched her favourite film, Brave, that she calmed down. It was then that Spicer suggested next time they would “do it all correctly”, get a permit, and set up another stand.

“No, I don’t want to, it’s a bit scary to do it again,” she replied. Her father hopes that “she’ll be able to get over it”, and that her enterprising spirit will return.

The Council has since apologised and cancelled the fine, and called on its officials to “show common sense and to use their powers sensibly”.

But Spicer felt “there’s a bigger principle here”, and wrote a piece for the Telegraph arguing that children in modern Britain are too restricted.

He would “absolutely” encourage his daughter to set up another stall, and “I’d encourage other people to go and do it as well. It’s a great way to spend a bit of time with the kids in the holidays, and they might learn something.”

A fitting reminder of the great life lesson: when life gives you a fixed penalty notice, make lemonade.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.