The moral question of dinner party invites

The grandly-named “Morality panel” at BBC Radio Berkshire was in my diary, and that of my good lady wife, today.

Nicki Whiteman, who hosts the 1pm-4pm show on our local Oracle, is an exquisite broadcaster who ought to have a show on Radio 2 (Cheques payable to P.Walter….).

The questions which came up were, as usual, quixotic:

Should prisoners get a pay rise ?

….Er…. yes.

Should Page Three continue ?

….Er…. yes.

Is it OK to ask for a pay rise ?


What should we do if we can’t invite some of our friends to our dinner party? Will they be offended ? Should we tell them ?

…Er, invite the rest to a dinner in a few months times. If they are offended – hard cheese and they’ll probably find out anyway, so don’t bother to tell them.

I wonder whether the latter question is indicative of Berkshire, perhaps. I hope not.

-Children are dying of starvation all over the place.

-Glaciers are melting, promising impending doom to those most unable to cope with it.

-Food prices are rising, so that my friend in Kenya, for example, has to restrict himself and his family to one meal per day.

But the topic of conversation in Berkshire is: How do we appease those we have offended by not inviting to our dinner party?

Excellent. Well done, team.

Sorry if I am getting needlessly cutting in my old age….

Parliamentary cri de coeur on Zimbabwe

Well done to Norman Lamb for securing a parliamentary debate on Zimbabwe yesterday.

I would like to associate myself with, and unreservedly commend, the following views expressed in the debate by my member of Parliament, Richard Benyon (enjoy that sentence, you’ll not often see it on this blog!):

I shall contribute briefly to this debate. We are all running out of adjectives with which to describe the regime in Zimbabwe. In a way, describing its actions is a waste of time, because we want to get down to discussing other details, but last night I sent to the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), who is the courageous and highly respected chairman of the all-party group on Zimbabwe, some e-mails that had been sent to me about precisely what is happening. There is an organised campaign of terror by Mugabe’s Central Intelligence Organisation and senior echelons in the army against the Movement for Democratic Change and the courageous people of Zimbabwe. It is highly moving and deeply distressing to hear exactly how brutal and vile the regime is being at this time.
To the outside world, one of Mugabe’s most perverse acts is the abandon with which he prints money. The
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is printing money as though it were confetti, because Zimbabwe’s Government believe that, by so doing, they have more money. That is the most economically illiterate thing that they could be doing. It is driving a nation that has been impoverished by the regime into even greater poverty.
I pay tribute to the hon. Member for
North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) for securing this debate. In a debate on sanctions, we must ask how that Government are physically able to print money, because what is absolutely certain is that the banknotes are not being printed in Zimbabwe. As a Back-Bench MP, it is relatively difficult to find out precisely where they are being printed, but I suspect that it is relatively easy for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to find out. Through rumours and articles that we might read in Africa Confidential or other papers, we have been led to believe that they are being printed in Germany. If that is the case, I want to look into the eyes of the company’s directors to see whether they are ashamed of their complicity in the impoverishment of Zimbabwe; I want to find out from the German Government what they are doing to bring pressure to bear on the company; and I want to find out from the European Union Commission what pressure it is bringing to bear on companies such as that one which support the vile and perverse actions of the Government of Zimbabwe.
At times, I have a problem with the approach of the
FCO to what is happening in Zimbabwe. I visited the country in 2000 or 2001 with my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude), who was then the shadow Foreign Secretary, after having gone there many times in the past and having worked with members of the Movement for Democratic Change. I saw that the MDC was rising as a real political force in that country, but diplomats in our high commission were saying, “No, no, we should not be talking to the MDC. We should be talking to the young bloods in ZANUPF. They are the future.” That was not my reading of the situation.
I was alarmed recently to discover that an enormous amount of weight was being put behind
Simba Makoni as a possible future political figure in Zimbabwe. In fact, he did not have much traction with the electorate. I feel that the tentacles that diplomats put out in Zimbabwe are not really bringing back the true message—which perhaps they do not want to hear—that the MDC is the Opposition, whatever we hear about different factions, and we should be putting our weight securely behind the MDC.
I have often raised another aspect of sanctions—I raised it with the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) when he was the Foreign Secretary. Many family members and followers of the cronies and thugs who are part of
Robert Mugabe‘s coterie come to this country and benefit from our education and health systems and various other aspects of our tolerant western liberal democracy. The right hon. Gentleman said, “You cannot visit the sins of the fathers on their sons, daughters, cousins and aunts.” Well, I am sorry, but we have reached the stage where we just jolly well can and we must, because if those people are denied education and benefits from our health service and are prevented from doing business in this country, they will take a strong message back to Zimbabwe and will be forced to live in the country to whose impoverishment they have contributed.
If Barclays bank has been complicit, it has strong questions to answer, but in a debate such as this we should really look at who the true villains are in supporting the Government of Zimbabwe. We all know from history that the
Government of South Africa can turn the switch off on the Government of Zimbabwe, given the way that Vorster turned the switch off on Smith in Rhodesia. I will not delay hon. Members any longer expressing my disappointment—that is a mild word for it—and deep frustration with the Government of Thabo Mbeki. I hope that Jacob Zuma will take a different approach. I sense that the new people moving into the governance of countries in the Southern African Development Community have a more modern, enlightened approach, and we must hope for more from them.
I do not believe that we as a Parliament can ignore—particularly at this time of the Olympics—the complicity of China in many of the problems in southern Africa. China supports the Governments of Sudan and Zimbabwe and they have been found out. Many hon. Members know that, while our
Foreign Office is deciding how to cut costs here and different missions there, China has been buying up Africa—buying the infrastructure and companies—and providing arms, financial support and, no doubt, banking support to Governments such as the Government of Zimbabwe. How could they do that at a time like this? I hope that the Minister will tell us today that the Foreign Office is being as strong as it possibly can in saying to the Government of China, “You are in the eye of the storm now. The world is looking at you at the time of the Olympics. You have to join the world condemnation of such regimes, not just by warm words but by your actions. You have the power, as the Government of China, to turn off the tap of your support for regimes such as the one in Zimbabwe.”


Often in the political fray, one gets pulled into debates and gets overly worked up. I know I do. Last year was such an example and on a local forum, in which I no longer indulge, I made a hurtful comment about Leah Darbyshire. I want to say sorry to Leah for that remark. I also made a supportive comment about her on another web site at about the time, but I am sorry for the remark on the local forum, which I have now deleted.

Sorry, Leah!

The full Brazilian

It’s a reasonably exciting title. But I haven’t had a wax. This is merely an excuse to mention that I have been sweating away at delivering Foci/Focii (not sure whether it is fourth declension) in Reading and that Councillor Gareth Epps of that parish recommended an excellent Brazilian cafe and delicatessen in Silver Street. In turn, I would recommend it to anyone who goes within a mile or so of Reading. It’s called Pau Brasil and I can do no better than repeat the comment of Faye on the Reading Guide:

29/10/2007 Pau Brasil Café Delicatessen By Faye:

I have been to Portugal nearly every year of my life and to find a little cafe like this specialising in some of the products stocked in local markets on portuguese streets was so sweet and exciting. This cafe is friendly and it’s mismatch of furniture and strange position makes it even better place to grab a delicious coffee whenever I can. So much to choose from on the menu, I recommend it all. A proper little treasure!

They also do a fantastically exotic range of fruit smoothies.

Bush: Americans show great discernment – eight years too late

I have been waiting for this moment for a long time. George W Bush “has now become the most unpopular president since the Gallup Poll began asking the question 70 years ago.”

So, he’s more unpopular than Harry S Truman during the Korean War in 1952.

He’s more unpopular than Jimmy Carter when his helicopters broke n the desert and he appeared on TV with wobbly legs/fainting while he was running.

He’s more unpopular than Richard Nixon when he was revealed as a foul mouthed white-washer.

And Bush’s “surge” plan is showing some benefits in Iraq.

I salute the discernment of the US public. It’s a pity that it’s eight years too late.

And to think some people predicted that Bush would be another Reagan…..!

The bare-faced hypocrisy of David Cameron on poverty

I thought Nick Clegg Today interview started very hesitantly for him, but got very much stronger as it went on.

I really thought the Piers Morgan/GQ interview was a refreshing example of a politician being open and honest, without thinking cynically of the spin-value of everything he says.

Of course, Groucho Humphrys painted the interview as a disaster because that’s what political journoes do. But, as a commentator observed on one of the TV shows over the weekend, after Clegg’s GQ “less than 30 lovers” revelation, the folks down his pub suddenly knew who Nick Clegg was and started talking about him. In other words, the “less than 30″ talk endeared Clegg to the public as being rather human, in the same way that Paddy’s poll rating went up when he was splattered over the front page of the Sun as “PADDY PANTSDOWN“.

But Nick made an excellent point later in the Today interview, which I had been trying to think of but, as usual, not quite done so.

David Cameron is, with usual vacuous, opportunist, transparent, odious spin saying that he will “stand up” for poor people. Presumably this will be in the unlikely event when he is ever sitting down in his drawing room when a poor person, cap in hand, comes into the room. He will, out of old-fashioned politeness, stand up for them before giving them sixpence, sending them on their way, then sitting back down again to enjoy his cup of Darjeeling, little finger pointing up into the air as he raises his porcelain cup.

But of course, the only tax announcement David Cameron has made in the three years he has been Tory leader, was to give a huge cash benefit to the richest 6% in the country through his inheritance tax proposal. Well done to the Cleggster for pointing this out with quite a bit of passion.

Encouraging news from Zimbabwe

A partial recount of the Zimbabwean parliamentary election votes has failed to overturn the MDC majority. It now looks virtually certain that the majority will stand.

This is incredible news. I assumed the votes had been taken away for Farmer Mugabe’s shredder treatment. But the Election authority is proving to have some independence of action. I only hope this now becomes infectious and they finally release the presidential election result.

Today is a world day of prayer for Zimbabweans, whether they be in Zimbabwe or outside it.