Saturday, 27 September 2008

Napoleonic Brown

Martin Kettle writes:

Four years ago, ministers decided that Britain's South Atlantic island possession of St Helena needed to have an airport. If planes could land on the tiny island, more than 1,200 miles from the nearest continent, its economic and demographic decline could perhaps be turned around. Plans began to be made. The airport was scheduled to open in 2010.

Earlier this year, the Foreign Office finally asked the Department for International Development to sign off on the airport. The file went up to the secretary of state, Douglas Alexander. But instead of giving the go-ahead himself, Alexander was required to pass the decision up to Downing Street. Brown insisted on reading all the papers in the St Helena file and afterwards asked personally to see all the tender documents, in case they did not give value for money. I am told the papers remain in Downing Street and that no final decision has yet been taken.

I was born in Saint Helena, and my mother's family is entirely Saint Helenian. My grandmother was for some years a member of the Legislative Council, and one of my uncles is one of the two captains of the ship that goes between there, here and Cape Town. He supports the airport, though - it is indisputably the right way forward.


  1. Is this why you get comments from Jehovah's Witnesses?

  2. Quite possibly. I do fly the flag for justice for Ascension Island, so people might have found me that way.

    Saint Helena is the most JW country in the world, one in 19 of the population. The very mild-mannered, and barely five foot, Anglican bishop (now deceased) who married my parents and baptised me was known to them as "Babylon The Great".

  3. Is Brown planning on signing it away?

  4. To whom? There is no non-British claim.

    You must be thinking of Margaret Thatcher.

    She took away the Saint Helenians' British passports, restored by Blair (for all his other faults).

    She refused to recognise the Muzorewa-Smith Government in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.

    And she invited the Argentines into the Falkland Islands until they took her at her word and actually shipped up there, at which point the Royal Navy had to stage a sort of temporary coup without which those Islands would be Argentine to this day.