STEPHEN GLOVER: The shameful case that exposes the hypocrisy of Tony Blair’s ‘ethical foreign policy’
When New Labour came to power in 1997, it trumpeted what it grandly called an ‘ethical foreign policy’. Its most vocal champion was the foreign secretary, Robin Cook.
Mr Cook asserted that he ‘would make Britain a force for good in the world’ and promised that New Labour’s foreign policy would have ‘an ethical dimension’ and promote democratic rights.
Some of us were pretty suspicious as to whether foreign affairs could be sensibly conducted on this basis, but few of us in our wildest dreams imagined that an ‘ethical foreign policy’ would turn out to be so stupendously unethical.
A probably illegal war in Iraq, the wooing of the monstrous leader of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, and British association with torture are just some examples of Labour’s supposedly enlightened foreign policy.
On Thursday, a High Court ruling revealed a shameful case which in some ways surpasses anything that has come before. It concerns the kidnapping of a young woman on a British street, and the subsequent connivance of the Labour government in this unlawful act.
Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum, the billionaire ruler of Dubai and a close UK ally, ordered his henchmen to abduct his runaway daughter Princess Shamsa, then 19, from Cambridge in August 2000. The princess later described how she had been grabbed by armed bodyguards, injected with sedatives and taken to Dubai, where she was tortured. She has not been seen in public since her abduction.
Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (right) and his wife Princess Haya bint Al Hussein arrive for the first day of the Royal Ascot race meeting June 16, 2009
Sheikh Mohammed, 70, was found to have been behind the abduction and forced return to Dubai of his daughter Shamsa (pictured in an undated photo), as well as the 2018 kidnap of her sister Latifa
Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary Robin Cook outside the Houses of Parliament, London, October 1993. It is claimed that Labour foreign secretary Robin Cook, who died in 2005, was involved in the decision as a ‘diplomatic favour’ to Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum
The British government was seemingly unaware of what had taken place. But when Cambridgeshire police launched a criminal investigation the following year, the Foreign Office (with Mr Cook in charge) allegedly shut it down as a diplomatic favour.
That was only one astounding revelation thrown up by the court case. It also emerged that Sheikh Mohammed much later kidnapped another daughter, and left the youngest of his six wives in fear of her life after discovering her relationship with a British bodyguard. Not a nice man.
How could Mr Cook – a decent enough person, I think – have so jettisoned his principles that he was prepared to turn a blind eye to such an appalling act involving a defenceless young woman?
Was prime minister Tony Blair, a much more ruthless character, party to the decision? It is hard to believe he wasn’t, given his political dominance at the time. Mr Blair, by the way, removed Mr Cook as foreign secretary, demoting him to leader of the Commons in June 2001.
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and the Ruler of Dubai, centre, arrives for the Global Teacher Prize ceremony attended by former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and celebrities, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, March 13, 2016
These are just some of the questions that must be answered by a proper inquiry into the affair. This is a scandal. It must not be brushed under the carpet and forgotten, along with the other foreign policy abominations of the Blair years.
I accept, of course, that we live in a fallen world, and must deal with regimes we don’t much like in order to safeguard Britain’s national self-interest. During nearly four decades we have sold billions of pounds worth of armaments to Saudi Arabia, an authoritarian regime which is guilty of innumerable human rights abuses.
Neighbouring Dubai is part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and a major US naval base. Although in 2000 the attack on the World Trade Centre had not yet happened and the subsequent Middle Eastern conflagration set in train, the UAE was already a valued western ally.
Moreover, the UAE has for many years been a significant investor in the UK, and an important trading partner. Long before this week’s shocking High Court ruling, it was clear that Sheikh Mohammed’s regime was about as far as is possible from being a beacon of democracy. So, yes, I’m afraid we have to hold our noses and do business with countries like the UAE. That is why New Labour’s ethical foreign policy was so much humbug. Messrs Blair and Cook were perfectly aware of the nature of the people they were supping with. But there are limits. No self-respecting government with any notion of decency can ignore foreign thugs abducting an innocent young woman in broad daylight.
Neighbouring Dubai (pictured) is part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and a major US naval base. Although in 2000 the attack on the World Trade Centre had not yet happened and the subsequent Middle Eastern conflagration set in train, the UAE was already a valued western ally
Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum can behave like that in his own benighted country, if he must. But when he starts throwing his weight around our streets, and flouting the rule of law, that really is time for the British government to take action, even if there are some disagreeable consequences.
An investigation into what happened would not just illuminate the hypocrisy and double-dealing of New Labour. It would also shine a light into some pretty rotten recesses of the British foreign policy and security establishment.
Speaking for myself, I’ve never had the slightest wish to visit Dubai, with its soulless skyscrapers and ugly temples of Mammon. Now wild horses would not drag me to Sheikh Mohammed’s depressing patch of land. I hope British visitors who venture there know where they are headed.
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