Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

This column may not, I admit, have praised the Foreign Office at all times, so it is pleased to reveal an admirable FCO operation which has been going on, quietly and successfully, since early last year. In 2008, it became clear - many would say it was clear much, much earlier - that the plight of British citizens in Zimbabwe was desperate. Hyperinflation, and the refusal of Robert Mugabe's government to honour their pensions, had made many destitute. In February 2009, the British government set up a resettlement scheme for British citizens over 70 who had right of abode here. If they agreed to settle permanently in the United Kingdom, they were flown to Gatwick and then placed in care homes and sheltered accommodation across the country. Four hundred people came, and the last are just arriving now. Since they have almost no assets of any realisable kind, they will be supported for life. A friend who has helped them tells me of the pathos. They were often overcome with grief at the airport in Harare, but showed great courage once the partings were over.

When these people were young, many of them or their parents were lured out to what was then Rhodesia by the promise of opportunity after the war. Every hope collapsed, not just for them, but for the whole country. It is some comfort that they can at last live in peace.

Basil Davidson, who died recently aged 95, was, by all accounts a likeable man.

This may in part explain why the obituaries were so admiring as to shed little light. For the truth is that Davidson's career provides a textbook example (though modern textbooks, of course, would be the last to publish it) of the misinterpretation of the second half of the 20th century. In the war, Davidson was one of those who misled Churchill into helping communism in the Balkans. In 1950, he published a book called Germany: What Now?

which favoured East Germany and attacked free-market policies in West Germany because they 'were really provoking and protecting. . .

the worst kind of German nationalism'. Three years later, he came out with Daybreak in China , which concludes: 'If the [Communist] Chinese Revolution has an inner message for the rest of us. . . it is this, and this above all, that man is good by nature.' Davidson lived to see this revolution kill roughly 40 million people. He turned his attention, above all, to the emerging governments of post-colonial Africa, with a series of books celebrating the revolutionary movements which turned their countries into one-party states and then brutal dictatorships.

The Fortunate Isles was the title of his book about the Cape Verde Islands, a country so miserable after it gained independence from Portugal that more than a third of its people emigrated. In order to understand that, even now, the illusions of people like Davidson have never been overthrown, you need only imagine the sort of obituaries he would have received if he had written books in favour of Hitler, Franco, Papa Doc Duvalier or General Somoza.

T he left has, nevertheless, had to adapt.

A bit of its genealogy was traced recently in evidence to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee of the House of Commons by the constitutional expert, Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, on the subject of the Alternative Vote. He pointed out that Unlock Democracy, which helps lead the campaign for AV, lives chiefly off what he called the 'Moscow gold' which paid for the premises of the Communist Party of Great Britain. …

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