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27 June 2008

Henley. More Panama hats per capita…

Strange revelations about an Oxfordshire town. Plus David Icke's political ambitions and Morgan Tsva

By Paul Evans

Harvest of Thorns

The eyes of the world’s bloggers this week turned with swelling revulsion on the brutality, hunger and violence engulfing Zimbabwe. Widely promoted was the Friends of Zimbabwe blog, which has provided daily coverage of the ongoing crisis.

Bloggers from across Africa scrutinised the continent’s approach to Mugabe, and many found it wanting. South African Michael “Traps” Trapido posited that: “perhaps Africans might want to assess their own leader’s response to Zimbabwe,” adding that Morgan Tsvangirai had shown “the wisdom of a King Solomon” in dropping out of the presidential run-off.

But ZANU-PF sympathiser (incredibly, they exist) Stephen Maimbodei was unconvinced, and scoffed at the MDC’s resolution to withdraw from the race, and its leaders decision to seek sanctuary in the Dutch Embassy. He wrote:

“One wonders at these imaginary security fears when the day before Tsvangirai’s Strathaven home was open to the media and he never mentioned security problems.”

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Trapido’s words echo the sentiments previously expressed by Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who blogged that:

“There is a massive responsibility on Africa to support the brave people of the opposition, and a major responsibility on the rest of us to support them.”

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And back in Blighty, the Lib Dems felt vindicated, as Thoroughly Modern Miliband followed Nick Clegg’s advice, and stripped Mugabe of his honourary knighthood. Stephen Tall pointed out that, “at the time [3 weeks ago] Gordon Brown dismissed Nick’s call”. Back then, both the current Foreign Secretary, and Douglas Hurd who nominated him in 1994, seemed ignorant of his honour.

While many Brits were keen to show solidarity with the Zimbabwean opposition, Freemania found it difficult to summon much optimism, and mourned:

“Unless Mugabe and his inner circle have an incentive to hand over power to someone more reasonable, it’s hard to see anything other than a continuing collapse.”

On the Hustings

Liberal England reported that David Icke plans to contest Haltemprice and Howden. Icke was interviewed back in March for, and, I can testify, remains highly eccentric. Comedian Stewart Lee, erstwhile comedy partner of the NS’ Richard Herring, once defended the turquoise wearing ex-Green Party spokesman, saying:

“David Icke has been unfairly lampooned for his insane and stupid views, and for being insane and stupid.”

Meanwhile in Henley, the town with the highest percentage of panama hats per head in England, Thursday’s by-election proved an abject disaster for Labour. Coming in fifth behind the Greens and the BNP, the Tories won 57% of the vote. Lib Dem-supporting Gavin Gaily Gigest didn’t think the result meant much:

“All this proves for Labour and Gordon Brown is that they can’t compete in rural, well-off seats in the south, but then we all knew that.”

Across the Pond

The Guardian this week launched an American version of its blog platform, Comment is Free. One of the first postings on CiF America was from Lynda Waddington, who took aim at false comparisons between the recent Iowa floods and the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans.

Video of the Week

It may not be available on the telly in Harare, but you can watch the MDC’s last party election broadcast. Only around 1 in 10 Zimbabweans have access to the internet – and the ability to watch Tsvangirai’s call for peace.

Quote of the Week

“With the Lib Dems fighting hard it was always going to be that the Labour vote would get squeezed and in the event the overall percentage of 3.1% was not as bad as the party has seen in other similar contests. In Winchester in 1997, for instance, Labour was reduced to just 1.7%.”

On, Mike Smithson offers Labour a crumb of comfort.