Mugabe should “take heed” of Middle East, warns Hague

Foreign Secretary speaks of “ambitious foreign policy” for Britain, and compares Mugabe and Gbagbo t

William Hague has warned that repressive African leaders will find it harder to "hide from the world" and should "take heed" of events in the Middle East.

Addressing a Times summit yesterday (published as a comment piece today – £), he sounded emboldened by Britain's action in Libya, declaring that "Britain has an ambitious foreign policy that seeks to build up our standing and influence in the world".

He compared Robert Mugabe and Laurent Gbagbo directly to Muammar al-Gaddafi, implying that Britain could have a role to play in their countries, too:

The action we have taken in Libya, authorised by the United Nations Security Council, shows that the international community does take gross violations of human rights extremely seriously.

Just as Gaddafi is an obstacle to the peaceful development of Libya, there are others who stand in the way of a brighter future for their countries. In Ivory Coast the former president, Laurent Gbagbo, has refused to concede that he lost last year's presidential election and is sanctioning attacks on defenceless civilians in a desperate attempt to cling illegitimately to power. In Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe's security forces continue to act with impunity, ramping up intimidation in order to instil fear in their opponents.

With allied missiles raining down over Libya, the subtext of such a comparison is clear. While Hague's suggestions focused on sanctions against countries that protect corrupt dictators, and forcing those responsible for human rights abuses to face international justice, the threatening language and emphasis on the role Britain has to play implies a new, muscular phase in our foreign policy.

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

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Martin Sorrell: I support a second EU referendum

If the economy is not in great shape after two years, public opinion on Brexit could yet shift, says the WPP head.

On Labour’s weakness, if you take the market economy analogy, if you don’t have vigorous competitors you have a monopoly. That’s not good for prices and certainly not for competition. It breeds inefficiency, apathy, complacency, even arrogance. That applies to politics too.

A new party? Maybe, but Tom Friedman has a view that parties have outlived their purpose and with the changes that have taken place through globalisation, and will do through automation, what’s necessary is for parties not to realign but for new organisations and new structures to be developed.

Britain leaving the EU with no deal is a strong possibility. A lot of observers believe that will be the case, that it’s too complex a thing to work out within two years. To extend it beyond two years you need 27 states to approve.

The other thing one has to bear in mind is what’s going to happen to the EU over the next two years. There’s the French event to come, the German event and the possibility of an Italian event: an election or a referendum. If Le Pen was to win or if Merkel couldn’t form a government or if the Renzi and Berlusconi coalition lost out to Cinque Stelle, it might be a very different story. I think the EU could absorb a Portuguese exit or a Greek exit, or maybe even both of them exiting, I don’t think either the euro or the EU could withstand an Italian exit, which if Cinque Stelle was in control you might well see.

Whatever you think the long-term result would be, and I think the UK would grow faster inside than outside, even if Britain were to be faster outside, to get to that point is going to take a long time. The odds are there will be a period of disruption over the next two years and beyond. If we have a hard exit, which I think is the most likely outcome, it could be quite unpleasant in the short to medium term.

Personally, I do support a second referendum. Richard Branson says so, Tony Blair says so. I think the odds are diminishing all the time and with the triggering of Article 50 it will take another lurch down. But if things don’t get well over the two years, if the economy is not in great shape, maybe there will be a Brexit check at the end.

Martin Sorrell is the chairman and chief executive of WPP.

As told to George Eaton.

This article first appeared in the 30 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Wanted: an opposition