Friday, November 16, 2007

Well Said, Mr Cable. Mr Clegg, Mr Huhne

Last month, ahead of the state visit by the King of Saudi Arabia, Vince Cable said that he would be boycotting both the official banquet and audience at Buckingham Palace:
"I have introduced three debates in Parliament this year expressing serious concerns over the Al-Yamamah contract and the corruption allegedly involved. I have, in my arguments, also been very critical of members of the Saudi royal family and the Saudi record on human rights including its maltreatment of British citizens.

"In my opinion, it is quite wrong for the British government to have proposed a state visit at this time.

"Therefore, it would, I believe, be inappropriate for me to participate in a ceremonial state visit against this background."


Well, thank goodness for that, bearing in mind that this is the kind of human rights issue that exists:
A lawyer for a gang-rape victim in Saudi Arabia who was sentenced to 200 lashes and six-months in jail says the punishment contravenes Islamic law.

The woman was initially punished for violating laws on segregation of the sexes - she was in an unrelated man's car at the time of the attack.

When she appealed, judges doubled her sentence, saying she had been trying to use the media to influence them.

Her lawyer has been suspended from the case and faces a disciplinary session.

In case this kind of revolting example tempts you into thinking that Saudis are all just irredeemable medieval types, have a look as Saudi Jeans, where you get a more three-dimensional picture.

Even so, I'm really glad that Vince took the stance he did.

I'm still a floating voter on the leadership election. Other Lib Dem Bloggers are clearly very concerned about Israel, but I thought I'd look at what the two candidates are saying on their websites about Saudi Arabia, and was pleased with both of them:

Nick Clegg:

Reacting to the news from the Saudi Foreign Minister that Gordon Brown did not raise human rights in his discussion with King Abdullah, Nick Clegg
said,

"Gordon Brown is once again pulling his punches with Saudi Arabia. It is time we raised the serious issues of human rights in Saudi Arabia - if the Prime Minister won't do it in direct discussions with the King then what confidence can we have it will ever happen under Labour?

Chris Huhne:

One example is Britain's relationship with Saudi Arabia. Vince Cable deserves praise for his recent stance against treating Saudi Arabia as an honoured ally, when its record on human rights record is appalling and its role in forcing the end to the criminal investigation into bribery in the al-Yamamah contract is dubious.

3 comments:

Steve Horgan said...

There are real British interests here, so serious politicians should pause before posturing and moralising, especially as the Middle East is far and away the most likely site for the start of a major war on the entire planet.

Chris Black said...

Steve, you are right to an extent.

But I can't help thinking that similar arguments were probably made about the Shah of Iran... it didn't benefit us in the long run to be backing him...

Steve Horgan said...

And the alternative strategy would have been? Back the radical Islamic militants of the current regime whose human rights record makes the Saudis look like the Swedes? A stamping foot take our ball home protest does not equate to a thoughtful foreign policy.

Chris expresses his own views on this weblog.


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