Leading article: Stay away

But what has altered slightly are circumstances. Jack Straw and Tessa Jowell deserve credit for recognising this. The Foreign Secretary and the Culture Secretary have now written to the International Cricket Council to request a boycott of Zimbabwe, citing the widespread human rights abuses occurring in that country. This is something they failed to do before England's controversial tour there last year.

The situation in Zimbabwe is clearly getting worse. Mugabe's slum clearances have forced 700,000 people out of their homes. It is claimed that this is part of a crackdown on "criminal activities". But few doubt that, in reality, this is an operation to punish those urban residents who voted against the government in recent elections.

Meanwhile in England, thanks to the thrilling Ashes contest with Australia, cricket is enjoying a renaissance in popularity. A boycott on England playing in Zimbabwe would be a much greater blow to Mugabe than in previous years. It would also send out a resonant political message. It is to be hoped that, this time, the English - and international - cricketing establishment does the right thing.