Is this the strangest act of defiance ever?

Colonel Gaddafi makes 22-second appearance on state television to say that he has not fled Tripoli.

 

Colonel Gaddafi's strangehold on power in Libya is coming under ever greater pressure, as protests continue in Tripoli and elsewhere in Libya despite the bloodiest crackdown in any of the Middle Eastern states.

Phone lines and internet connections in the country have been largely shut down, making it difficult to verify information. However, last night Gaddafi, who has ruled the country for 41 years, made a brief appearance on state television to counter rumours that he had left Tripoli and fled to Venezuela. He said:

I am satisfied, because I was speaking in front of the youth in the Green Square tonight, but the rain came, praise to God, it is a good omen.

I want to clarify for them that I am in Tripoli not in Venezuela. Do not believe these channels – they are dogs. Goodbye.

It was certainly a strange act of defiance: the broadcast lasted for just 22 seconds and went out at 2am local time. He is shown leaning out of the passenger seat of an old white car, holding up an umbrella to shield himself from the rain as he speaks. It gives the impression of being rather rushed and panicked.

However, Alastair Leithead, the BBC's correspondent, warns that we must not be too quick to take this as a sign of Gaddafi's grip crumbling:

People will be looking at him and saying: "This isn't particularly organised, it maybe shows a little panic but maybe what he was saying was that he was still very firmly in control."

We may read from that that he is determined to continue resistance to the opposition that has taken to the streets, that the opposition will see it as too costly to continue.

But with several key Libyan diplomats disowning the regime, and nearly all of them pleading for Gaddafi to step down or for the international community to step in, it seems that he has not yet succeeded in calming the winds of change.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Lord Sainsbury pulls funding from Progress and other political causes

The longstanding Labour donor will no longer fund party political causes. 

Centrist Labour MPs face a funding gap for their ideas after the longstanding Labour donor Lord Sainsbury announced he will stop financing party political causes.

Sainsbury, who served as a New Labour minister and also donated to the Liberal Democrats, is instead concentrating on charitable causes. 

Lord Sainsbury funded the centrist organisation Progress, dubbed the “original Blairite pressure group”, which was founded in mid Nineties and provided the intellectual underpinnings of New Labour.

The former supermarket boss is understood to still fund Policy Network, an international thinktank headed by New Labour veteran Peter Mandelson.

He has also funded the Remain campaign group Britain Stronger in Europe. The latter reinvented itself as Open Britain after the Leave vote, and has campaigned for a softer Brexit. Its supporters include former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and Labour's Chuka Umunna, and it now relies on grassroots funding.

Sainsbury said he wished to “hand the baton on to a new generation of donors” who supported progressive politics. 

Progress director Richard Angell said: “Progress is extremely grateful to Lord Sainsbury for the funding he has provided for over two decades. We always knew it would not last forever.”

The organisation has raised a third of its funding target from other donors, but is now appealing for financial support from Labour supporters. Its aims include “stopping a hard-left take over” of the Labour party and “renewing the ideas of the centre-left”. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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