Euro MP's fury over Mugabe invite

ALTHOUGH Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was given a stage-managed hero's reception when he returned home from the Lisbon summit, there's still a nasty taste in the mouth about how he was invited to the EU-Africa gathering.

Graham Dines

ALTHOUGH Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was given a stage-managed hero's reception when he returned home from the Lisbon summit, there's still a nasty taste in the mouth about how he was invited to the EU-Africa gathering.

“The invitation was as illegal as it was immoral,” stormed East of England Tory Euro MP Geoffrey Van Orden. With Prime Minister Gordon Brown boycotting the event in protest at Mugabe's presence, it was left to Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel to express to the President her distaste that human rights abuses of Zimbabwe were slowly destroying the entire good name of Africa.

“By the very act of inviting Mugabe, the EU has shown that it is willing to legitimise African oppressors,” said Mr Van Orden. “No African government will now take seriously European exhortations about the need for good governance, democracy and human rights. The benefits of fairer trade and improved aid will be wasted.

“The EU appears to be more concerned about establishing itself as a global actor than in helping deal effectively with the most fundamental problems in Africa - not just in Zimbabwe, but in Darfur, Congo, and so many other areas.”

In Zimbabwe itself - which has the world's highest inflation and as well as severe food shortages and brutal land grab policies - Mugabe was feted when he flew home. He was hailed as “an indisputable icon of African nationalism” who took centre stage at the summit and made “some of the European heads of government and his detractors including Angela Merkel look like dwarfs,” information minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, the chief government spokesman, was quoted as saying.

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The offficial media in Zimbabwe reported that Mugabe “stole the show” with The Herald - the Zimbabwean government mouthpiece - describing Mrs Merkel as a “Nazi remnant.”

GOOD old One Railways. Last Wednesday, the coldest day of the winter, it managed to operate the 9:30am to Liverpool Street from Ipswich without any heating. It was so perishing that many of the elderly crammed into this three carriage diesel looked as though hypothermia had set in.

We were not alone in suffering. From a reader's letter published last Thursday, it seems the 07:25am to London was also despatched with no heating.

One trains are being rebranded National Express and the new white with black chevron livery looks eye catching on the locomotive and carriages which have the new design. Given that the company operates scores of trains in the colours of One, electric multiple units in the three different liveries of the former Great Eastern, the dirty white of the former WAGN franchise, diesel units in the old British Rail colours and also the sea green of the former Anglia Railways, much money will have to be spent on standardising the National Express fleet.

If the company really want to impress its customers, a punctual service in modern, comfortable, clean and warm trains would be a good start.

A HAPPY Christmas to you all, with my thanks for the numerous personal letters, cards and emails I received wishing me a speedy recovery from a year of ill health.