Straw wastes chance to take moral lead

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The Independent Online

Whatever else Jack Straw achieves in Government, he needn't bother leaving any space on his sideboard for special awards made by the sports community. It appears he wouldn't recognise a pressing moral issue in the games we play if it popped up and poked him in the eye.

As Home Secretary, he closed the file on the scandal of Hillsborough and buried it under a mound of platitudes.

As Foreign Secretary, his performance on the issue of whether the English cricket team should give aid and succour to the appalling Robert Mugabe by touring his blighted, racist, starving Zimbabwe is proving equally hapless.

He says that banning England from the scheduled tour might oblige the Government to compensate the England and Wales Cricket Board for the financial penalty imposed by the International Cricket Board. Admittedly, that would amount to a hefty £50m, but is that so much to pay for a Government and a nation to be able to look itself in the mirror without wincing? You might have thought this particular Government would have jumped at the rare opportunity.

What would it cost the nation? Rather less than £1 a head. Given current levels of taxation, who would notice? The other point is that any sport which has a ruling body which puts a levy of £50m on doing something demanded by decency and self-respect is plainly not worth tuppence.