By Ray Fleming

SIX days is a very long time in Egyptian politics. In this space last Saturday I wrote as follows: “By far the best way that Mubarak can serve his country would be to announce his resignation by a given date and to undertake to facilitate negotiations with all those interested in discussing electoral and constitutional reform.” That was then and this is now. By the time Mubarak finally got round to saying on Tuesday night that he will not stand for re-election in September and will meanwhile work for electoral and constitutional reform, no one was interested in his offer because all his actions and words in the past week have shown that he has not understood what is happening in his country and has no idea of how to respond to it. Perhaps that is to be expected after 30 years of dictatorial rule but Mubarak cannot use that as an excuse to prolong his stay.

Yesterday's attacks by so-called supporters of Mubarak against street demonstrators who until now have been models of non-violent protest were almost certainly organised to generate public anxiety about a descent into anarchy. If they are repeated it may be necessary for the Army to change its admirable policy of non-intervention and instead act to keep the peace.

Meanwhile the need for a leader or leaders to speak authoritatively for the revolution becomes more urgent by the hour.