As Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond once said to the Khasi of Khalabar: "There's another fine old British Gesture..."
I think that Mr President Mugabe of Zimbabwe is a bit horrid and you would have to go a long way to find anyone who wouldn't agree with that idea – probably as far as AFRICA where it seems that the leaders of neighbouring states like South Africa are the last people still sticking up for him.
But here is the thing: EVIL DICTATORS don't give a STUFF what soft toys think of them. Action, not hollow gestures, is what gets them to change.
So, the Arch-bullock of York, Dr John Senta-moo protests by taking the scissors to his dog collar and saying that he won't wear one until Mr Mugabe is gone. Well, big fluffy deal. How is that going to affect Mr Mugabe? Will he even notice?
Instead, why not refuse to take communion with any of your African bishop chums who support Mr Mugabe? Or say that you'll give a tenth of your diocesan salary to feeding the starving Zimbabweans until he's gone? Or just say that you'll stand outside the South African Embassy every day and PRAY LOUDLY that they shall cease to back the Zanu PF regime?
So, Mr Frown boycotts the EU/Africa talks because the Africans refuse to turn up unless Europe allows Zimbabwe in and Europe capitulated. Does this affect Mr Mugabe at all? Or does Mr Frown make US look silly and petty and, worst of all, make Mr Mugabe look like the big man.
Well, we can hardly condemn our European friends given that Great Britain turned up anyway, merely sans figurehead. A PERSONAL boycott by the Prime Monster is MEANINGLESS if he's just going to send Ms Baroness Aimless along to represent him.
If you are THAT serious about it, then DO NOT SEND A DELEGATION AT ALL! Or if, as is CLEARLY the case, you DO think that the going to the junket is more important than making a stand over Zimbabwean death and destruction, then just don't insult them by pretending that you care. Mr Mugabe gets to swan about in Europe – where the law says that he OUGHT to be arrested – and rub our noses in it. By his hollow boycott, Mr Frown shows his usual flair for PR DISASTER.
If the UK had said "NO, we will not attend this" then very probably we would have achieved nothing but being left out in the cold – but maybe, maybe doing the right thing would have persuaded some of our European allies to do so too. And if we can persuade enough people to take a stand then THAT is action that the dictatorship in Zimbabwe WILL notice.