Sunday 22 August 2010


The Observer has reported that civil servants have been told to stop working on the next edition of the FCO Annual Report on Human Rights, which details incidents of torture and oppression, use of the death penalty and illegal arms trading.

The report is supposedly also a guide to MPs and businesses over which countries it is ethical to trade with, which may or may not have an effect on whether we trade with them or not.

Well, some things have to go, you might say, and why not this? After all, the idea of ethical foreign policy was only something Robin Cook dreamt about for a few weeks before the FCO pointed out what life was like in the real world.

Businesses exist to make money not pass moral judgments, and, in any case, no one much cares what Britain thinks about anything, unless America thinks it too. The CIA’s report is important; this is a “fur coat” exercise.

Last year’s report highlighted atrocities in countries like Russia, China, Gaza and Saudi Arabia among the usual suspects of Zimbabwe, Sudan, Burma, DRC, and Sri Lanka. And what did we do about that?

Of course Milipede the elder, the comic one with the banana, acting opposition spokesman on Foreign Affairs, was trying to insist that Britain leads the world in Human Rights... Sheeesh. You really do wonder sometimes if these people ever even visit Britain, much less spend any time here. Don’t you? I mean, have we banned Chinese goods? Is there no further arms trading with Saudi? Have we stopped speaking to the US because of Guantanamo? Thought not.

Of course it is we
ll known that Cameron didn’t want to slash the 25-40%, that was ordered for elsewhere, from the budget for Embassies. Firstly that would reduce the standing of Britain on the party circuit. People would talk about one over the canapés. “I say, did you see Britain has closed its embassies in Baku and Ulan Bator? Must be in a bad way.”

And of course, a lot of these Ambassadors, who live like kings at our expense, went to Eton or Oxford with David. So that was never going to happen. One doesn’t do that kind of thing to people one was at school with. It’s just not on.

No, instead, in return for the big house, the Rolls Royce, the fat salary and great pension, along with as many servants as you can shake a stick at, ambassadors have been told that they must concentrate on trade. It is feared that ministers are now "blindly" pursuing commercial interests in countries where atrocities are taking place. (As if they didn’t before!!)

So why am I interested in it? Well, it seems that Ming
Campbell, one of the Liberal’s ex-leaders, and therefore a man with considerable influence in the party, has said that downgrading the importance of Human Rights would be met with "fierce resistance".

I wonder what that means.

No Dean, this is not Tory bashing. It's Britain bashing. Labour didn't do anything either!

I appreciate that it must be difficult to discipline ministers across two parties, especially when policies ride roughshod across what one of the parties stands for: in this case the Liberals (but in other cases it will be Tories). There are people who embrace the discipline, like Huhne and Clegg, Osborne and Cameron.

The trouble is that on both sides it’s pretty influential people: Ming and Charlie, David Davies and Norman Tebbit who are against. And they matter.

Pics are Ming and Norman...


  1. If the coalition is to split then it will be over this very issue. When it comes to arms trading with despots then the UK and USA are at the very top of the pile yet we criticize Russia for selling (defensive) weapons to Iran.

    Arms deals are very important to the UK so I wouldn't think the small matter of something like human rights will get in the way.

    Love the new look blog btw Tris.

  2. Hey Allan....

    I thought you'd deserted us.... for greener pastures.... (like a bird in Newcastle maybe?).

    I thought it was a pretty serious issue too mate. Liberals are serious about green issues and human rights.

    I agree it is the kind of thing that may seriously affect the coaltion.

    As for the UK and arms deals... nope. We would sell to anyone who would buy. Too many jobs involved for us to give it up. And it's about all we make these days.

    Glad you like the new layout. :)

    Don't be a stranger. We've missed your input.

  3. It will be a sad day when politics looses people like Ming!

  4. Don't think they are going to lose him quite yet Indyan ... I suspect that he will have big following within the party, and that that faction will not support the government on this.

    Simon Hughes was supposed to be Awkward Squad leader, but he doesn't have the pull of old Ming. It's getting serious when "elder statemen figures" are stating to speak out.

  5. Tris.

    I wonder how many jobs in the UK have been created at the expense of human suffering in other parts of the world? be it human rights or people living in poverty.

    No I wont be a stranger Tris lol. I was down in Hartlepool and Newcastle for 5 weeks due to work commitments and only revived my New Laptop on Friday. Glad to be back.

  6. We could even see a split in the Lib party. A modern day David Owen could be on the cards??

  7. He he... Glad you're back in Scotland Allan. Their loss is our gain!

    I can see a part of the Liberals wanting nothing to do with this, and a part of the Tories likewise...

    Coalition can work. It worked fine in Scotland, but only if the parties have things in common.

    It simply won't work where there is diametric opposition.

    I don't see a David Owen in the offing. Ming is old; Charlie’s got his problems it seems... and Simon Hughes is simply not charismatic enough...

    (Mind you I'm not really saying that Owen was charismatic either.)

    I wonder what Steel thinks.... or Paddy?

  8. Tris.

    I agree and collations can/do work but as you say, only if the partnership is right. I personally like Cameron and Clegg as people and they bond well together but when the more difficult issues like human rights and Nukes comes to the foe, then cracks will appear.

    I'm not sure where a David Owen would come from or who it would be but if the Tories start to impose polices that are completely out of the Libs character (traditional) then the party may split or they could leave the coalition.

    eek. I'm using Windows 7 and all sort of messages are flashing on my screen. Help! bring back Windows XP!

  9. Can't disagree with you there. The Liberal MPs may find that going back to their constituecies, they are preparing for...erm oblivion, after such a small time in government.

    But, as I say, there will be Tories a bit worried about how their constituents are feeling about tax breaks for people who are only paid £9,000 a year!

    Ah... all these new fangled messages.... You'll soon get used to it.... Then they'll bring out a new one!!

  10. Coalition takes the need to cut back on the extravagance of higher-level government seriously. This is why the PM and the cabinet all took a 10% pay cut, then froze their pay at the lower level for 5 years.

    Compare that to Labour's TUC friends, Bob Crow gets paid more than the PM - and he has just taken a pay rise.

    Life must be so hard for all those champagne socialists out there!

    "“I say, did you see Britain has closed its embassies in Baku and Ulan Bator? Must be in a bad way.""

    I think Mongolians will find that objectionable. I never realised you thought that the UK ought only to seek representation with countries nationalists deem 'important' enough ...

    p.s got my spelling of Champagne right this time! lol

  11. Tris.

    I think the lib's will have more to loose than the Tories and if the polls are to believed then like you say, they could be heading into oblivion.

  12. Dean.

    Spot on. Under Labour many civil servants were earning more than the then PM and many are still earning more than Cameron.

    How a manger of a NHS hospital can justify a staggering wage of £180K is beyond me. Today's Labour socialists are just in it for what they can get and they are getting bucket loads.

    Lol, Bob Crow! Nothing but a bloated pig with his nose in the trough.

  13. Yes. I agree completely Dean. People in the public sector should not earn vast amounts more than the Prime or First Ministers. The excuse they have is that they could get far more in the public sector. (This is why the head of the BBC is on more than £800,000.) I say “off you trot and get better money in the private sector, who gives a damn”, and it doesn’t matter if that is the BBC or the Inland Revenue or the Scotland’s Health Department.

    I think it was excellent that the Cabinet took pay decreases, although it’s fair to say that Gordon Brown had already reduced the prime minister’s salary.

    The trouble with putting all these things together is that if prime ministers have competitions to see how much they can shave off their salaries (as the last two have, and as Mrs Thatcher did), and we agree that the civil servants must earn less than them...we may have a situation where their salaries go down and down and down in line with competing PMs.... and joking aside that’s not too good por fair an idea.

    Mr Cameron’s and Mr Clegg’s generosity in these matters need to be set alongside the fact that both of them are incredibly rich to begin with and the £150,000 a year salary is really just peanuts to them, together with the fact that all prime ministers these days write books and go on lecture tours and get jobs after they leave Downing Street. Even John Major has made millions out of his books and tv appearances... and reading his cricketing memoirs on Radio Four. The poor old civil servant won’t have that waiting for him after 5 years... A good pension yes... but no book deal worth millions.

    Just a thought.

    Not sure what that was to do with the post on human rights and the Lib Dems... or the cracks in the coalition....LOL. It was interesting all the same.

  14. Dean.

    I had no intention to insult the people of Mongolia or indeed of Azerbaijan.

    What I was trying to indicate was that most countries do not have representation in every country in the world. Actually nor does Britain, but we must be up there with the biggest. (I’ve Googled and asked Jeeves, but I can’t find any figures).

    If we were to reduce our Embassy footprint... and the vast cost of them, it wouldn’t mean that we didn’t have representation all over the world. We might have a man at the French Embassy, we might share facilities with the Italians or Swiss, of course knowing Britain we would probably just move in with the Americans and let them tell us what to do.

    But , it is one way in which we could save money...

    As i say, I had no desire to insult Mongolians or anyone else. It is simply that we would be unlikely to close embassies in Beijing, Paris or Berlin... so I chose two charming, but small Asian countries with which we have little trade...

    Actually I see no reason why the EU couldn’t share some facilities in countries where they have very small interests...

    Just an idea to save money.

    But Britain tends to be a fun coat and no knickers nation. We spend money on stuff we can’t afford to create the image that we are still important....

    (Champagne is a devil to spell Irn Bru is easier but I guess it wouldn’t have worked with ....Socialists ....)

  15. Oh yes Allan I agree it will be the Liberals who will suffer most.

    But remember that the Bank of England chairman said before the election that the situation was so grave that whoever won would be out of power for a generation after taking all the steps that were necessary...

    Doubtless an exaggeration, but they will both suffer.

    As the policies are basically Tory (with a few scraps thrown to the Libs) it will be the Libs who will suffer most.

    I can imagine them being back to the days of the 70s when they only had 9 members....

    Bob Crowe... gets up everyone's nose.

  16. Tris,

    What about the creation of an EU global embassy network?

    Then all EU member-states can share resources, and harmonise foreign policy responses; so we do not see Iraq-style divisions.

  17. Well Dean

    It is worth thinking about further.

    It's something that all parties, but yours in particular would probably have a big problem with, but I think there's merit in us sharing facilities, while maintaining a distinctive individual foreign policy.

    I mean by that that, for example, British deference to America would not be easily accepted by the French, and their independent minded policy would not go down well with the Brits, so diplomatic policy would not easily be shared, as I’m sure the EU foreign policy baroness is finding right now.

    But consular facilities at least could be shared. Cars, accommodation, etc.

    There must be room for some serious savings there and this may be the way to do it.

    Perhaps not in the big capitals... China, Russia, France, USA, but in places, and I don’t mean to insult them, where we have little trade, or contact...

    OK, that’s different for different countries, but, for example, I’m sure that the French will have a big Embassy in Togo, and we have little contact with them. So why not have a suite at the French Embassy in....Lomé?

    It’s worth looking at. Many of these people, and their partners, live the life of Reilly at our expense, and a lot of it is for show.