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.

Show Hide image

It's Gary Lineker 1, the Sun 0

The football hero has found himself at the heart of a Twitter storm over the refugee children debate.

The Mole wonders what sort of topsy-turvy universe we now live in where Gary Lineker is suddenly being called a “political activist” by a Conservative MP? Our favourite big-eared football pundit has found himself in a war of words with the Sun newspaper after wading into the controversy over the age of the refugee children granted entry into Britain from Calais.

Pictures published earlier this week in the right-wing press prompted speculation over the migrants' “true age”, and a Tory MP even went as far as suggesting that these children should have their age verified by dental X-rays. All of which leaves your poor Mole with a deeply furrowed brow. But luckily the British Dental Association was on hand to condemn the idea as unethical, inaccurate and inappropriate. Phew. Thank God for dentists.

Back to old Big Ears, sorry, Saint Gary, who on Wednesday tweeted his outrage over the Murdoch-owned newspaper’s scaremongering coverage of the story. He smacked down the ex-English Defence League leader, Tommy Robinson, in a single tweet, calling him a “racist idiot”, and went on to defend his right to express his opinions freely on his feed.

The Sun hit back in traditional form, calling for Lineker to be ousted from his job as host of the BBC’s Match of the Day. The headline they chose? “Out on his ears”, of course, referring to the sporting hero’s most notable assets. In the article, the tabloid lays into Lineker, branding him a “leftie luvvie” and “jug-eared”. The article attacked him for describing those querying the age of the young migrants as “hideously racist” and suggested he had breached BBC guidelines on impartiality.

All of which has prompted calls for a boycott of the Sun and an outpouring of support for Lineker on Twitter. His fellow football hero Stan Collymore waded in, tweeting that he was on “Team Lineker”. Leading the charge against the Murdoch-owned title was the close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Channel 4 News economics editor, Paul Mason, who tweeted:

Lineker, who is not accustomed to finding himself at the centre of such highly politicised arguments on social media, responded with typical good humour, saying he had received a bit of a “spanking”.

All of which leaves the Mole with renewed respect for Lineker and an uncharacteristic desire to watch this weekend’s Match of the Day to see if any trace of his new activist persona might surface.


I'm a mole, innit.