Leading article: Cruel. And stupid

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There have been plenty of protests outside Downing Street down the years but few as surreal as yesterday's. The protesters were not calling for Britain to withdraw its support from some foreign regime. Nor were they demanding money from the Government. The opposite in fact: the plea of the scores of Zimbabwean refugees who gathered in Whitehall was that they be allowed to pay taxes in Britain.

Some 11,000 Zimbabweans find themselves in a bizarre limbo. They have been denied political asylum in Britain, but cannot be deported as long as Robert Mugabe is crushing their homeland. Furthermore these individuals are not allowed to work here in Britain. Their choice is to survive on charity or take their chances in the black economy. For the Government to deny these refugees the right to work is cruel. But to prevent them from paying taxes, especially with the public finances in their present state, must surely come into the category of stupid.