New Forest East


Dr Julian Lewis: It is tempting to follow the hon. Member for North Cornwall [Paul Tyler] and call for a debate on proportional representation, as that would give hon. Members the opportunity to remind him and his fellow Liberal Democrats of the role of PR in putting the National Front on the electoral map in France in the first place. I shall resist that temptation, however, and ask instead for a statement or a debate on Zimbabwe. Has the Leader of the House seen in today's press the simultaneous announcements of the declaration of a disaster in Zimbabwe – largely due to the maladministration of the Mugabe regime – and of the arrest of the Guardian's correspondent there? I know that the relationship between the Guardian and the Labour Party is not as close as it used to be, but I am sure that we all agree that what is happening to journalists in Zimbabwe is totally unacceptable. Is not it important that we do not let the crisis in the Middle East divert our attention from what is happening in Zimbabwe now that the election has been stolen, as everybody predicted?

[Robin Cook: I am not sure that I recall the golden era of a close relationship between the Labour Party and the Guardian to which the hon. Gentleman refers, although I have great sympathy with everything else he says. The economic situation in Zimbabwe is appalling and there is a real threat of hunger and suffering in a country that, traditionally, was fertile and which exported food, never mind had difficulty feeding its own people. That is overwhelmingly down not to any failing by the people of Zimbabwe, but to the grotesque mismanagement and brutality of the Mugabe regime. I entirely support the hon. Gentleman in that we should not forget what is happening in that country or stop applying pressure to the regime simply because the elections are over and some television cameras have moved on.]