Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Black Death exhibition

An interesting little exhibition at the Wallace Collection in London. It goes by the name of Treasures of the Black Death, and features Mediaeval jewellery and coins found at Erfurt in Germany in the 1990’s and at Colmar in France in the 19th Century. They were almost certainly buried by Jewish families at the time of the Black Death.

This pestilence was perhaps the worst disaster ever to afflict humankind – killing off maybe a third of the population of Europe. In the panic, the Jews often got the blame, and there were massacres at Frankfurt, Narbonne, Carcassone, Basel, Mainz and many other places. (In a variation on this theme, the islanders of Cyprus murdered their Arab slaves instead.)

As for the places featured in the exhibition – the city council at Colmar announced on December 29, 1348 that the cantor of the Strasbourg synagogue had admitted to sending someone to poison the wells at Colmar (this was a fairly standard accusation). The townspeople then burned the Jews outside the city gates.

More than 100 Jews were massacred at Erfurt in March 1349, and the rest were driven from the town. Later the town council invited them to return, though they added that they could not guarantee their safety. However, some clearly were brave enough to come back. In 1357, they built a new synagogue and by the following century, Erfurt had one of the most important Jewish communities in Germany.

The exhibition runs until May 10.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Football disasters

At least 22 football fans have been killed in a stampede at the Ivory Coast’s World Cup qualifying match against Malawi in Abidjan. As with the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, it seems that latecomers, anxious not to miss the start of the game, pressed in on those already inside the ground.

The stadium had recently been refurbished, but a wall collapsed and there was panic, with some reporting that police fired tear gas to try to control the crowd. The game went ahead and the Ivory Coast won 5-0.

Africa’s worst football disaster came in 2001 at the end of a local derby between two Accra teams in Ghana. Supporters of the losing side mounted a demonstration, and police fired tear gas. As spectators tried to flee from the stadium, they found many of the exits locked. A total of 126 people died.

The worst football disaster of all happened in Lima, Peru in 1964, when more than 300 were killed in a riot over a disallowed goal. See also my blog of January 13th.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Britain's bloodiest battle

On this day.....548 years ago was fought the bloodiest battle on British soil since Roman times. The Battle of Towton was part of the 30 year struggle for the throne between the houses of Lancaster and York that became known as the Wars of the Roses. On Palm Sunday – March 29, 1461 - the rival armies met two miles south of Tadcaster.

Estimates of the number of soldiers involved go as high as 100,000 – much more than in any battle of the Civil War two centuries later. Towton was fought in a blizzard. The Lancastrians had taken up a good position on a hill, but a strong wind favoured the Yorkists, whose arrows found their target with deadly effect, while the Lancastrians archers, blinded by the snow, were ineffective.

The Lancastrians then had to come down the hill to take on their opponents in hand-to-hand fighting, which went on for hours until Yorkist reinforcements arrived, and the Lancastrians were gradually pushed back into a stream. The battle then turned into a murderous rout, with the Lancastrians mercilessly cut down as they tried to flee.

Altogether about 28,000 died. The only higher death toll in a battle in Britain came in Boudicca’s defeat by the Romans at a place unknown, but probably somewhere in the Midlands near the A5, in AD 60 or 61, when perhaps 80,000 perished.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Suicide bombs

It is now feared that up to 70 people may have been killed by yesterday’s suicide bomb at a mosque in Pakistan’s Khyber region about 20 miles from the Afghan border. The blast went off just as Friday prayers were beginning and completely destroyed the building. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, and some believe it may be part of a power struggle between rival tribal militias. Similar enmities may have been behind another suicide bombing on Thursday that killed at least ten people in a restaurant in South Waziristan.

Last year Pakistan overtook Iraq as the world’s worst country for suicide bombings. In the first eight months of 2008, more than 471 people were killed in 28 suicide attacks, compared with 463 people in Iraq and 436 in Afghanistan.

We tend to think of suicide bombings as a new tactic, and certainly the US-British attack on Iraq gave them an enormous boost, but actually they go back at least as far as the 17th century when Dutch soldiers trying to conquer Taiwan would use gunpowder to blow up themselves and the enemy.

If you count fuel-filled aeroplanes as bombs, then the deadliest ever suicide attack remains 9/11, which killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. Of attacks using more conventional explosives, the deadliest happened on August 14, 2007 when four suicide bombers killed up to 800 members of the obscure pre-Islamic Yazidi sect in Iraq.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Dam bursts

At least 58 people, and probably many more, have been drowned after a dam built of earth burst south-west of Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. The waters of the Situ Gintung lake rose because of heavy rain, then overwhelmed the dam, which gave way at two in the morning when most people were asleep. The waters swept away cars and brought down telephone lines. The dam was said to be up to 100 years old.

The world’s worst ever dam burst happened in China’s Henan province in 1975. As part of his “Great Leap Forward”, Chairman Mao had ordered villagers all over the country to build home-made, and home-designed, dams with whatever implements they could lay their hands on. After days of exceptionally heavy rain, more than sixty of them burst, and floods spread over 4,000 square miles.

Whole towns were washed away, and more than a million people were trapped by the waters, but the authorities tried to keep the disaster secret, and it was only in 1995 that the pressure group Human Rights Watch began to reveal its full magnitude. It was another decade before the Chinese authorities started to lift the veil of secrecy, saying that 26,000 people had been killed. Others believe the toll was much higher, with Human Rights Watch putting it at 85,000 in addition to the 145,000 who died from starvation and disease in the aftermath.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Rwanda justice

Another Rwandan Hutu has been convicted for his part in the genocide of 1994, in which 800,000 were murdered. Joseph Mpambara was sentenced to 20 years in prison for torture and ordering the murder of women and children. Mpambara, who had been living in the Netherlands since 1998 was arrested by the Dutch three years ago. Last month a former army chaplain was gaoled for 25 years for genocide (see my blog of March 1st).

The wheels of justice continue to turn. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has so far completed 29 cases and has another 23 in progress.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Palestine number crunching + strange shipwreck

Number crunching. As President Obama tries to pretend his Middle East policy is somehow different from George Bush’s, some interesting figures. 80 - number of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem Israel planned to demolish prompting half-hearted protests from the US. 73,000 - number of illegal homes Israel plans to build on land stolen from the Palestinians about which the US has not uttered a peep.

On this day.....131 years ago, HMS Eurydice, a Royal Navy training ship, was off the Isle of Wight almost at the end of her transatlantic crossing from Bermuda. The coastguard said she was “moving fast under plain sail.” Then off Sandown, she was hit by a blizzard, and sank within five minutes.

A quarter of an hour later, the squall had passed, and it was a lovely sunny day. Only two men survived from the crew of 366, and Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a poem about the shipwreck. For the full story, see A Disastrous History of Britain.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Congo - the nightmare continues

It’s estimated that 30,000 people have fled from their homes in the Democratic Republic of Congo over the last two weeks, meaning that the total number of new refugees this year is 160,000.

The tangled and brutal struggle in the Congo is now the world’s bloodiest since World War Two with the death toll standing at more than 5 million. The latest victims have been driven from their homes by the Hutu FDLR militia, many of them believed to be experienced murderers from the Rwanda genocide of the 1990’s.

Thomas Lubanga, a warlord from a different Congolese faction, is currently being tried for war crimes, but there seems no end in sight to the conflicts that have destroyed so many people’s lives. (See my blog of January 29)

Friday, 20 March 2009

Iraq + strangest anniversary

It was six years ago today that Labour launched its illegal, ill-judged, unnecessary and disastrous war in Iraq (see my blogs passim) – a classic example of invade in haste, repent at leisure. Any fool can start a war, it’s ending one that’s difficult. The Iraq madness has now gone on longer than the Second World War.

The anniversary has been marked by fresh demands for a full independent inquiry into the war. Now you can’t depend on Labour MP’s for many things, but you can be sure that they will pull out all the stops to ensure that no one is called to account for the Iraq disaster. How did the party of Clement Attlee and Harold Wilson transmute into this shower?

Another anniversary today, and perhaps the most bizarre I have ever had to record. It was an unfortunate astrological configuration on March 20, 1345 and it caused the Black Death. At least, that was what the medical faculty of the University of Paris said when the French king told them they had better come up with an explanation of perhaps the greatest disaster mankind has ever had to endure, though they had the good grace to admit that some things were “hidden from even the most highly trained intellects.”

For the full story, see A Disastrous History of the World.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

African floods + Windsor Castle fire

The Namibian government has declared a state of emergency because of floods that have killed at least 90 people. Crocodiles and hippos are said to be swimming through the flood waters, and attacking people. There have also been deaths in neighbouring Angola, and it is feared that food shortages could follow.

Floods in February and March last year drowned 42 people in Namibia. What was perhaps Africa’s worst ever flood came in 1927 when up to 3,000 were killed in the ports of Mostaganem and Oran in Algeria.

On this day....156 years ago, a young cook at Windsor Castle was about to go to bed when he found his room full of smoke. Queen Victoria was eight months pregnant, and her husband Prince Albert directed the fire-fighting from a window. As the castle’s own brigade, local volunteers and hundreds of soldiers struggled to quell the flames, London’s redoubtable fire chief James Braidwood commandeered a train, loaded engines, horses and men aboard and set off for Windsor.

Braidwood’s team arrived at one thirty in the morning, and by five the fire was out. Most of the damage was confined to the Prince of Wales Tower. The castle would suffer more serious damage in another blaze on November 20, 1992.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Police state on track

So many of Labour’s pet schemes are crumbling. The economy is in ruins, Iraq is such a disaster that all the government can do is keep quiet about it, and hope that no one remembers they promised a full, independent inquiry once British troops have been removed.

So it’s good to be able to report that one major project is on track, if not, knowing Labour, on budget – turning Britain into a police state. I blogged on Labour’s new “snap a policeman, go to gaol” law on Feburary 17. One Labour minister, a Mr Vernon Coaker, has been busily assuring the National Union of Journalists that Labour only wants to ban us from taking photographs in “special circumstances”.

It might be “on the grounds of national security, or there may be situations in which the taking of photographs may cause or lead to public order situations or inflame an already tense situation....Additionally, the police may require a person to move on in order to prevent a breach of the peace or to avoid a public order situation or for the person’s own safety and welfare or for the safety and welfare of others.” Are you sure you’ve drawn that broadly enough, Vernon?

It might not, for example, include the case of a Manchester man who was taking pictures of sewer grates - really. But at least he was imprisoned for two days as a suspected terrorist, had his home and computer ransacked, and his DNA taken and kept on file. http://www.boingboing.net/2009/03/03/manchester-man-arres.html

Now one brave former senior police officer has spoken out against Labour’s decision to allow the police to arrest and handcuff anyone suspected of any offence however minor. David Gilbertson says police have used their new power against people not wearing a seatbelt, dropping litter, climbing a tree,or building a snowman. You can sign his petition against this extraordinary attack on our civil liberties at

Friday, 13 March 2009

Almost a reckoning

Just over three years since she sank at the cost of more than 1,000 lives, the Egyptian owner of the al-Salam Boccaccio 98 ferry has been sentenced to seven years in jail for involuntary manslaughter. Mamduh Ismail, a former member of the Egyptian parliament’s upper house, which is appointed by President Mubarak, had been acquitted in an earlier trial.

Hundreds of victims’ relatives applauded the verdict, though there is no certainty that Mr Ismail will serve his sentence as he left Egypt soon after the disaster, and is now believed to be in Europe, possibly London. Two other defendants, also absent, were sentenced to three years in gaol.

The roll-on-roll-off ferry, which was carrying mainly Egyptian migrant workers and pilgrims home from Saudi Arabia, went down in the Red Sea on the night of February 2, 2006. A fire broke out on the car deck, and the crew were never able to get it under control. Passengers who were alarmed about the thick smoke were told by crew members to go back to bed.

By the time the crew had decided everyone had to abandon ship, she was listing so badly that it was difficult to launch the lifeboats, and more than 1,000 people drowned, with just 388 surviving. At the initial trial in July 2008, Mr Ismail and four other defendants from the ferry company were acquitted, while the captain of another ferry was gaoled for six months for failing to help the al-Salam.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Massacres by lone gunmen + Cardiff air crash

Two massacres by lone gunmen in the space of a day. A small town in Germany named Winnenden was the scene of one of them. Seventeen year old Tim Kretschmer walked into the secondary school he used to attend dressed in combat gear, and started spraying bullets around. He killed 8 girls, one boy and three women teachers. Then he left the school and shot three more people, before killing himself.

Earlier a 28 year old American shot dead his mother and burned down the house they had lived in in Alabama, and then went on a killing spree that left another 9 dead before he too shot himself.

We are used to hearing about mass shootings in the USA. The worst happened at Viginia Tech in Blacksburg on April 16, 2007 when Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 teachers and students before committing suicide. As usually happens in America, the massacre was followed by a great deal of hand-wringing then a bit of minor tinkering with the gun laws.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pronounced the Winnenden shootings “incomprehensible.” Perhaps, but not unique. In April 2002, a 19 year old student who had been expelled from a school in the German city of Erfurt returned to kill 13 teachers, two students and a police officer before killing himself.

In Britain, we had the Hungerford massacre of 1987 in which Michael Ryan murdered 16 people, before killing himself. Then nine years later, Thomas Hamilton killed 16 small children and a teacher at Dunblane Primary School before turning one of his guns on himself. The tennis star Andy Murray, then aged 8, was one of the survivors. Both of these events were followed by severe tightenings of Britain’s gun laws.

On this day...59 years ago what was then the world’s worst civil aviation disaster happened close to the village of Sigingstone in South Wales. Eighty people were killed on a charter flight bringing home Welsh rugby fans from an international against Ireland. The full story is in A Disastrous History of Britain.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Iraq - continuing disaster

Reminders over the last few days of how dangerous Iraq remains. The latest attack targeted a national reconciliation conference close to the notorious Abu Ghraib prison. Delegates had just set off on a walking tour when the suicide bomber struck, killing 33 people including a local army chief, tribal leaders, and soldiers.

On Sunday, more than 30 people died in a suicide attack on people queuing outside a police recruitment centre in Baghdad, while on Thursday a car bomb killed ten at a cattle market in Babel province. A US spokesman trotted out the standard line that the attacks show how desperate the insurgents are becoming.

The disaster of Iraq has been well chronicled (see my blogs of Feb 25, Feb 28, March 1 etc), but Labour still deny us the right to know how on earth they got us in this mess. Funny old place, Britain. We can’t be shown the official account of the crucial cabinet meetings that rubber-stamped Tony Blair’s disastrous decision, but it’s perfectly o.k. for ministers like David Blunkett and government servants, or should that be masters, like Alastair Campbell to produce partial and self-serving accounts of the same events for their own further enrichment. Time we got a constitution.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Polio + Europe's worst mining disaster

There are small but ominous signs of polio making a comeback in Africa, aided by the chaos prevailing in parts of the continent. Refugees fleeing Somalia have brought the disease back to Kenya for the first time in 20 years, and Uganda has just had its first case in 12 years at a refugee camp, while Togo had three cases in 2008, after being clear of polio for five years.

A worldwide campaign against the virus reduced the number of cases from about 350,000 in 1988 to just 1,310 in 2007, but Bill Gates, who has pledged £185 million to the fight against the disease, says that if it is not eradicated, the number of victims will start rising again.

On this day....103 years ago, Europe’s worst ever mining disaster happened at the Courrieres colliery in northern France. About 1,800 men and boys were underground when a fierce explosion ripped through the pit. Rescue workers toiled day and night and managed to bring more than 650 men up, but eventually so many of the galleries collapsed that the search had to be called off.

Then astonishingly, 20 days after the disaster, a group of 13 miners emerged. They had survived by eating food taken down by colleagues who had been killed, and by slaughtering a horse. In the perpetual darkness, the group had lost all sense of time and believed they had been trapped for only four or five days.

The final death toll was 1,099 – a number surpassed only by the Honkeiko mining disaster of 1942 (see my blog of February 22).

Monday, 9 March 2009

World's deadliest air raid

On this day...64 years ago, perhaps the deadliest air raid in history was mounted on Tokyo by the USAF. Millions of its people lived in closely-packed wooden houses in the world’s most densely populated urban area, while the Japanese capital’s defences and its medical services were in a poor state.

More than 300 B-29 bombers dropped incendiary bombs for over two hours. For the loss of just 15 aircraft, they destroyed more than a quarter of a million buildings, and perhaps 140,000 people died.

The atomic bomb dropped six months later at Hiroshima killed 92,000 in the immediate aftermath, though up to another 50,000 are estimated to have died in the years that followed from the effects of radiation.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Panic on the streets of London

So I got it slightly wrong in my blog of February 23 – the Bank of England must have thought twice about cutting interest rates to minus 2.5%. Instead they just brought them down to 0.5%. In other words, suppose you lend someone £100, taking the risk you don’t get it back. For taking that risk of losing your money, you stand to earn yourself....50p! Interest rates have been slashed by 90 per cent since October, and Labour and the bank are astonished that nobody wants to lend.

Still, the bank’s governor Mervyn King gave a wholehearted defence of the policy. He said: "Nothing in life is ever certain, but these measures we think will work in the long-term." I feel better already! Who was it who said “in the long-term we are all dead”? Oh yes, it was the great economist John Maynard Keynes. Anyway, let me tell Mr King one thing that is certain – those who depend on interest from their savings – like pensioners, for example – are being hastened towards destitution, and they will do exactly the opposite of what the economy needs – they will stop spending.

Yesterday’s decision was another triumph of hope over evidence. Have the previous five interest rate cuts in five months got the banks lending? No. Why should this one? What effect have each of the previous five cuts had on the economy? Nobody knows, because nobody bothered to find out before making the next panic reduction.

All Labour’s economic policies – including the Mugabe option of printing money – are based on doing something, anything to get the banks lending, like the bizarre decision for you and me to take £325 billion of worthless assets off RBS’s hands so it would lend £25 billion (see my blog of Feb 27). It would have been cheaper, more effective, and more socially just for Labour to have simply given us the £25 billion.

There’s no point in basing an economic policy on prayers – prayers that the banks will lend money. Here’s what Labour should do instead – hand out an immediate tax cut or benefit increase to everyone receiving, say, twice average earnings or less. The pay-out should be on a sliding scale, with those earning most getting least, and the poorest getting most. This would stimulate the economy, as people who are less well off are much more likely to spend their money – and to spend it on local goods and services.

If Labour wish to be financially responsible (which I would advocate) the funds could be raised by an emergency tax levy on those earning more than, say, £100,000 a year. These people have benefited from huge tax cuts and pay increases over the last two decades, and are well equipped to help those less fortunate than themselves in what Mr King seems to be painting as the worst economic problems we have faced in the Bank of England’s 315 year history.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Darfur + Stalin

The International Criminal Court has indeed issued a warrant for the arrest of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan (see yesterday’s blog). He is accused of two counts of war crimes and five of crimes against humanity.

The people of Darfur - a region in the west of Sudan that is about the size of France – have suffered six years of murder, rape and destruction, and up to 300,000 have died, while more than two and a half million have fled. The ICC already has a warrant out for Sudan's humanitarian affairs minister (!). President al-Bashir has responded predictably – expelling foreign aid organisations who do what little they can to keep the remaining Darfuris alive, while China and Ethiopia have protested against the arrest warrant.

On this day....56 years ago, Josef Stalin died. The Soviet dictator was one of history’s worst mass murderers – responsible for the deaths of up to 30 million people. The ways in which they died were many and varied. The forced collectivisation of agriculture in the 1930’s killed millions, though as Stalin’s then henchman Khrushchev said later, we do not know how many, because “no one was counting.”

As Stalin grew more and more paranoid, he began an orgy of show trials, with loyal Soviet citizens executed wholesale after admitting imaginary crimes. Then there were the gulags – the labour camps in the bleakest parts of the country – where people were sent to die for the most trivial offences, or for none at all. Many believe that Stalin was on the point of launching another purge when death claimed him.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

War crimes

Following the conviction of a former priest (see my blog of March 1), now a woman MP has been gaoled for life for her part in the Rwanda genocide of 1994. Beatrice Nirere was found guilty of setting up road blocks where victims were detained.

Last week, three rebel commanders in Sierra Leone were convicted of crimes against humanity for systematically mutilating civilians and forcing children to become soldiers, while former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor is also on trial, and the International Criminal Court may soon issue a warrant for the arrest of President Omar Bashir of Sudan for alleged war crimes in Darfur. If this happens, it will be the first time a serving head of state has been indicted.

Meanwhile in Cambodia, the trial has begun of Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, who ran the notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh – now a genocide museum – where at least 14,000 “enemies of the revolution” were tortured and killed in the 1970’s, and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is facing a UN tribunal at The Hague.

Many, many war criminals, of course, still escape justice, but these developments surely represent some cause for optimism that at least some of the guilty will be called to account.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Sabotating Palestine + strangest rail disaster

Just as US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was praising Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for his commitment to peace, the Israelis were busy sabotaging any dwindling prospects there might be, with plans to build illegal settlements in the West Bank for another 73,000 people. Already 400,000 live in illegal Israeli settlements, usually built on hilltops like Crusader castles.

Having given Israel the weapons to massacre 1,300 Palestinians in Gaza and flatten their homes, shops, schools, hospitals and universities, America is now promising to pay for some of the damage, but even then it can’t resist shabby manoeuvres to try to undermine the Palestinians’ democratically elected Hamas government.

The message to the Palestinians seems pretty clear. If you follow Mr Abbas’s line, the Americans will praise you, and every day the Israelis will steal more of your land.

On this day.....65 years ago, one of the most bizarre rail disasters in history happened in a tunnel in Italy. Train 8017 which ran from Naples to Potenza had become known as the “Black Market Express” because many of its passengers were illicit traders. In the early hours of March 3, 1944, the train got stuck in the Galleria delle Armi tunnel in the Apennines, its wheels spinning helplessly on the icy track.

There were just a handful of survivors as carbon monoxide fumes killed 521 people, most of them dying quietly in their sleep.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Fire of the Long Sleeves

On this day....352 years ago, one of the most disastrous fires in history swept through the Japanese capital of Edo (now Tokyo). It all started when a priest was burning an unlucky kimono, which had been owned by two teenage girls who had both died before they got a chance to wear it.

As he was performing this important task, a violent wind got up and fanned the flames until they were out of control. Tokyo was a warren of narrow alleys, lined with small houses built of wood and paper, and for two days the “Fire of the Long Sleeves” ripped through them. It was only when the wind died down on the third day that the blaze started to abate.

By then the flames had destroyed more than 60 bridges, 300 temples, and 500 palaces, razing perhaps 70% of the city. The death toll was estimated at up to 100,000 out of a population of 300,000.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Genocidal priest + Iraq + Gaza

A former priest has been convicted of genocide in Rwanda. Emmanuel Rukundo, who had been an army chaplain, helped remove Tutsis who had taken refuge at a seminary. Many were then killed. Altogether 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in just 100 days of 1994 – the fastest mass slaughter in history.

Rukundo is the second Roman Catholic priest to have been convicted of genocide. Many victims were murdered in churches where they had been urged to shelter by government radio. Five thousand were killed in one at Ntarama, where one man hidden under a pile of bodies managed to escape and tell the tale. See A Disastrous History of the World.

Iraq. So it’s confirmed. Jack Straw’s grounds for vetoing the release of cabinet minutes on Iraq are just another piece of Labour’s spin and deception. He says it’s to protect the confidentiality of what people say in Cabinet, but Clare Short has now confirmed what so many of us suspected (see my blog of Feb 25) – that actually the cabinet were too cowardly to question Blair’s decision to go to war, and said nothing. And some of these people are still in power – Brown, Hoon, Straw, Darling, Beckett.

Stranger than fiction. When Blair had to step down as PM, he was appointed Middle East “peace” envoy by the Americans. Yes, I know the man who helped kill tens of thousands in Iraq, and obstructed a ceasefire in Lebanon so the Israelis could sow thousands of cluster bombs to blow the arms and legs off little children might seem an odd choice, but not to George Bush. But even I had to pinch myself when I saw this – the “peace” envoy has just made his first, yes his first, visit to Gaza – though, of course, he is refusing to meet representatives of Palestine’s democratically elected government. Don't want to get confused by listening to both sides, do you Tony?
FACT. In the 2006, Palestinian general election, Hamas won more than 44% of the vote. In the last UK general election, Labour won less than 36% of the vote.