Flat Earth

Forgetfulness lops off arm of UK law

THERE you were, thinking that Britain would wait until 1997 before giving up governing Hong Kong. It now appears we've stopped already, and the last 125 pieces of legislation in the colony are probably invalid. It would take hours to explain, but roughly what happened is that someone in the FO forgot something important while amending letters patent for the new post of president of the Legislative Council.

Last week red-faced officials were fumbling for excuses and explanations. Well, actually, no they weren't. Officials nowadays, when detected in sin, adopt a cool and amused air, copied, no doubt, from Tory ministers. Their response to the horrible constitutional mess is blithe. 'Never mind, it's all a lot of hooey really,' is the line.

This is not the first time London has been absent-minded about distant possessions. In 1987, the term of office expired for the Queen's Representative, who is head of state in the Cook Islands. But no one noticed. Neither the Foreign Office nor Buckingham Palace - or the Queen's Rep himself - remembered the date, and for several months, as the trade winds soughed through the palms, this private citizen continued graciously giving his vice-regal assent to a range of legislation, all of it invalid.

School crocodile

REPORTS reach us of a splendid innovation for maintaining the youthful discipline so valued in Asian societies. You may remember that in the last anti- government demonstrations in Bangkok in 1991, dozens of students went missing. Ugly rumours surfaced that they had been taken to an army camp and disposed of in a handy crocodile pit there. Now a private school in Thailand has installed a reptile pit of its own. Some parents have objected, fearing for the safety of the thousand children on the roll. The headmaster, Chira Samittichote, dismisses these faint hearts. The crocodiles, he says, teach 'about nature' (menacing little phrase, that). But anyway, he adds emolliently, not one single pupil has so far fallen into the waiting jaws.

Executive tyranny

AND now - Despot Watch,

our weekly look at the lifestyles of those world leaders who bring a hint of danger and excitement to so many lives. You will be pleased to learn that Mengistu Haile Mariam, former strongman of Ethiopia now in exile in Zimbabwe, is not sitting on his hands, poor and alone. No - the mastermind of one of the most successful terror campaigns ever mounted in a Marxist state lives in a luxurious Harare house and, according to the Citizen newspaper in Johannesburg, he has a congenial new job: consulting with senior state security officers on acquisition of armaments.

There was a time when tyrants who waded through blood in their maintenance of power might expect a rendezvous with justice. But no more. Ethiopia wants Mengistu back for trial; Zimbabwe says his extradition is 'not a priority' in relations with Addis Ababa.

Major to minor

WE WHO live in this country with John Major and must consider his existence quite frequently, have some excuse for complaint. But it comes as a surprise to learn that the Grey Factor is not diminished by distance. On the other side of the world, David Lange - the former New Zealand PM with the stapled stomach and glittering specs - described our leader as such a nonentity that 'if his life flashed before his eyes, he wouldn't be in it'.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Content and PR

£35000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Mid / Senior

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing digital agenc...

Recruitment Genius: E-commerce Partnerships Manager

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a newly-created partne...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor