Chatham House causes conflict with its peace prize

Click to follow
The Independent Online

* For almost a century, Chatham House has been a monument to Britain's role in World Affairs, so it's interesting to hear of trouble surrounding the famous think-tank's attempt to launch a peace prize. Members have been asked to vote on who should receive its first annual Chatham House Prize, a gong it describes as: "Britain's equivalent to Sweden's Nobel Prize for Peace."

* For almost a century, Chatham House has been a monument to Britain's role in World Affairs, so it's interesting to hear of trouble surrounding the famous think-tank's attempt to launch a peace prize. Members have been asked to vote on who should receive its first annual Chatham House Prize, a gong it describes as: "Britain's equivalent to Sweden's Nobel Prize for Peace."

To the amazement of many, the judging panel - Lords Robertson and Hurd, and Baroness Williams, no less - have just decided to put the President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, above, on their shortlist.

Human rights groups are up in arms. According to Amnesty International, Mr Obasanjo is behind "state-endorsed vigilante groups", police brutality and executions, and "excessive use of force by the army".

Another group, Human Rights Watch - which next month publishes a major report on Mr Obasanjo's regime - has attacked his decision to offer asylum to Africa's worst war criminal, the former Sierra Leone leader Charles Taylor.

"Although we welcome President Obasanjo's efforts to mediate in some African conflicts, we're surprised by his nomination for this award," a spokesman for HRW says. "His record for human rights and justice is appalling."

Chatham House was unapologetic when asked why Mr Obasanjo should be shortlisted for a major peace prize. "As a current affairs think-tank, we welcome debate," says a spokesman. "At the moment he is just one candidate going forward."

* I hope the distinguished Harold Pinter isn't starting to fall out of fashion, after all these years at the top.

After a run of just two months, the West End revival of his best-known play, The Birthday Party, has been forced to close early.

The news comes as a particular surprise, since the show boasted an all-star cast, headed by Dame Eileen Atkins and Henry Goodman. Their last performance will take place on Saturday.

According to the producer, Duncan Weldon, the play - which received decent reviews - has struggled to cut the mustard at the box office.

"It was meant to carry on for two more weeks, but business is always tough over the summer," I'm told.

Despite this sad ending, the show has added much to the gaiety of life. In an interview to publicise its opening, Atkins, 70, pictured left, claimed that Hollywood star Colin Farrell (who is 28) had recently spent several hours in a hotel room attempting to seduce her.

* For all her ability with the racket, defending Wimbledon champion, Maria Sharapova seems - for some reason - to occupy a truly phenomenal acreage on the pages of Britain's newspapers.

The Russian teenager has yet to set foot on court. But since Saturday she's been pictured no less than 87 - yes, 87 - times in the national press, and yesterday she was featured on the front page of two of the four "quality" newspapers.

This feat deserves some recognition. And in that spirit, Pandora will give a bottle of Dom Perignon 1996 to the reader who can best predict the number of times we will see Sharapova's photograph in the papers over the next fortnight of the Championships.

Guesses to the above address please; in the meantime here's another (totally unnecessary) picture to augment the tally.

* Having persuaded Rupert Murdoch to headline its "farewell to Fleet Street" service last week, Reuters has bagged another master of the Dark Arts for the first major public event inside its new HQ at Canary Wharf.

On Thursday, Peter Mandelson will visit the firm's shiny new office to give a speech detailing: "his views on the future of Europe".

It's a timely booking because, when Mandy addressed this issue last week, he said Britain should "look at reforming" its EU budget rebate. The comment added to Tony Blair's headaches at the EU summit.

"Let's hope he's learnt a lesson," says my man at Reuters. "Downing Street didn't OK Mandelson's last speech, and if he puts his foot in it again, they'll be forced to deliver a formal slap-down."

* Val Kilmer has a push-bike; Ewan McGregor, a motorbike; but in Gael Garcia Bernal - pint-sized star of The Motorcycle Diaries - we have the West End's most colourful proponent of pedal-power. Bernal, who is currently in Blood Wedding at the Almeida, has been spotted on the streets of Islington with a unicycle.

"On Saturday, as the other actors were leaving the theatre to catch buses and Tubes, Bernal emerged with a unicycle under his arm," I'm told. "I hoped to see him ride off down Upper Street, but then a limo drew up and whisked him off in true movie-star style."

Says the theatre: "We've heard about this, but don't think Gael actually rides a unicycle. It was probably a prop for the 24-hour play he did at the Old Vic on Sunday."

pandora@independent.co.uk

Comments