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Diary: Foreign Office ignorance a taxing issue for Anguillans


Those clever types at the Foreign Office read cables from all over the globe that relay any news that may be relevant to the UK's diplomatic relations.

But apparently The Anguillian, a newspaper published on the tiny island of Anguilla in the eastern Caribbean, is on nobody's reading list. This omission is shown up in an answer given to Michael Ashcroft, the former deputy chairman and bankroller of the Tories, who is assiduously interested in small, far-flung former British colonies.

Lord Ashcroft submitted a written question about comments made by the Chief Minister of Anguilla, which suggested the UK's relations with the island's administration are in tatters.

"We are not aware that the Chief Minister has made such a statement," the Foreign Minister, David Howell, replied on the Government's behalf. Somebody at the FCO should take a peek at the 30 September edition of The Anguillian, which is available online.

People on that 35-square-mile island, which is governed as a British Overseas Territory, are worried about their economy, their tourist industry and a 10 per cent tax on restaurants and car rentals due to come into force in January.

Herbert Hughes, who was elected Chief Minister of Anguilla last year, is quoted as saying: "We are taxing ourselves to death and I want to say this, that the British is our dilemma. They are no asset to us. They are our liability.

"The British is out to destroy the economy. I don't know what the goal is, but I believe they want the piece of land; they don't want the people to live here, but we cannot survive under this kind of pressure. It is a deliberate war against the people of Anguilla... but these taxes will not see the light of day in my House of Assembly."

Lord Howell is due to meet Mr Hughes later this month. He says he wants to hold "productive discussions". He had better make sure somebody briefs him about what is going on.


A mea culpa from the Mirror

On Tuesday, the Daily Mirror did the honest thing and reported that it could be implicated in the phone-hacking scandal because of a suspicious entry in a private detective's notebook. And it got the facts wrong. The paper reported that the notebook might contain the words "the Daily Mirror" when it meant that there might be a person's name in it "relating to the Mirror". So in the corrections column yesterday, the Daily Mirror corrected a report in the Daily Mirror about the Daily Mirror. Surely a first in British journalism.


MP rewarded for his succinctness

Congratulations to the Tory MP Charles Walker for winning The Spectator award for the Parliamentary Speech of the Year last night for his contribution to a Commons debate on whether to hold a referendum on membership of the EU, a speech which, though space be limited, can be quoted in full. He said: "If not now, when?"


Victory for Tatchell, to a degree...

People with long political memories will recall the insults hurled at Peter Tatchell when he was the Labour candidate in what turned into a disastrous by-election in Bermondsey, in south London, not least because the homophobic former Labour council leader went around the constituency with a loudhailer chanting: "Oh Tatchell is a poppet...."

Well, we are all going to have to treat the evergreen gay activist with due deference, because now he is Dr Tatchell. Yesterday he was solemnly awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Law by the London South Bank University for such actions as his two attempts to make a citizen's arrest of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.

The ceremony was at Southwark Cathedral. The last time the good doctor visited the cathedral was when he staged a disruptive protest against homophobia in the Church of England as 60 bishops were attending morning eucharist.


Rees-Mogg meets up with Bagpuss

Who could forget the clarion call issued by the Conservative MP for North East Somerset, Jacob Rees-Mogg, when he urged David Cameron: "Stiffen your sinews, summon up the blood, imitate the action of a tiger. For that is how you should behave to our European partners, not like Bagpuss."

Those words led him inevitably to a photo opportunity in a shop that sells Bagpuss. As you look at the picture, Bagpuss is on the left. The odd looking creature on the right is Mr Rees-Mogg.