Shortly before Robert Mugabe decided to bail out of the Commonwealth, he gave a loyal crowd of Zimbabweans the benefit of his opinion of the Commonwealth itself. I heard an excerpt of the speech on Radio 4. In it we heard Mugabe saying: "What is so special about the Commonwealth? It is just a club! And there are plenty of other clubs we can join!"
And he's right, of course. I have been ringing round some of the top clubs and societies in the UK, and there are indeed plenty of other clubs which might be prepared to have Mr Mugabe as a member. Here are some of the most likely.
Penge and District Philately Society
"We don't normally accept overseas stamp-collector members," says secretary Tom Sedgwith, "but I gather that Mr Mugabe does have a wonderful collection of stamps, at least of Zimbabwean stamps. In fact, I gather that he has the largest collection of mint Zimbabwean stamps in the world. So of course our members would be delighted to see such a complete collection if he cared to bring it along one afternoon. I gather some of the stamps have his own portrait on. I don't think we've ever had a member whose face was on a stamp!"
The Rejects Dining Club
This is an exclusive dining club which meets only four times a year and is restricted to people who have been rejected, ejected, dismissed or rebuffed in a sensational manner. Jeffrey Archer is a long-standing member on several counts. Boris Yeltsin is a dining member. So is George Galloway, though of course being cold-shouldered by the Labour Party is not perhaps as grand as being suspended by the Commonwealth, or, in the case of Saddam Hussein, being defeated by the Americans.
"Actually, we have never had Mr Hussein to one of our dinners," says social secretary Lord Golightly, "but I am sure he would be eligible. And I am sure he and Mr Mugabe would get on very well. No, I don't know where Mr Hussein is. Even if I did, I wouldn't tell you."
The Frequent Fliers Club
Mr Mugabe is in a peculiar situation here, as he rarely flies outside Zimbabwe for fear of being toppled in his absence. Inside his country, however, he flies everywhere by private plane and helicopter, and more than qualifies for this club.
City of London Investors Circle
"Anyone who leaves his country bringing most of the exchequer with him will always be more than welcome to reinvest his money here in London," says a City spokesman who wished to remain anonymous. "We have enormous experience of looking after the pension prospects of former dictators. Just tell him to get in touch when he feels like fleeing."
Berks and Bucks Local History Society, Torture Section
"I know it seems odd to have a history society devoted to the history of torture," says Oscar Claypit, membership secretary, "but it is as legitimate an object of study as guns or castles, and besides, we do have some very odd members. We gather Mr Mugabe has first-hand experience of inflicting torture on people, so of course we would be fascinated to meet him and hear his stories, while perhaps reserving the right not to approve of him."
The Friends of Salisbury Cathedral
"Well, normally we don't apply moral standards to subscriptions to the Friends of the Cathedral," says an anonymous verger. "We haven't knowingly turned down anyone's money because they are a vicious Third World dictator. On the other hand, we wouldn't expect a vicious dictator to want to join the Friends. Usually, people who want to help the Cathedral are on the liberal side of the spectrum. It's a bit worrying. Can I ring you back on that one?"
The Dennis the Menace Fan Club
They haven't had a celebrity member since the death of Auberon Waugh, and would almost certainly be more than happy to consider an application from anyone in the news.
If there are any other clubs out there willing to let Mr Mugabe in, please let me knowReuse content