Ambassador lectures Britain - but leaves out Michael Gove's role in prison deal U-turn
Above: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman
Fresh from giving the Chinese dictatorship an easy ride, the Telegraph has published a piece of Saudi propaganda designed to trash Britain’s political opposition.
In a piece entitled ‘How the Kingdom helps to keep the piece’, previewed on the paper’s front page, Saudi Arabian ambassador Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz is given space to present the Saudi view unchallenged.
Abdulaziz notes ‘an alarming change in the way Saudi Arabia is discussed in Britain’, adding with a sigh:
“The Kingdom has always had to deal with a lack of understanding and misconceptions, but on this occasion I feel compelled to address some of the recent criticisms.”
He proceeds to champion the kingdom’s record on everything from fighting terrorism, (promoted the world over by Wahabbi propaganda from Saudi itself), to the recent deaths of over 700 Muslim pilgrims making the Hajj to Mecca.
Of particular concern though is Britain’s decision to scrap a £6million deal to train prison officers in Saudi Arabia.
The ambassador lays the blame (if that’s the right world) for this on Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who wrote to prime minister David Cameron about the Saudi government’s plans to crucify and behead Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimra for taking part in protests in 2011, when he was just 17.
Human rights ‘abuses’ – that’s to say, torture and execution of prisoners, usually innocent – are notoriously routine in Saudi Arabia, with blogger Raif Badawi’s repeated floggings a recent example.
Saudi is also the execution capital of the world – along with Iran, the United States, and China, (which spends hundreds of thousands a year on advertising in the Telegraph.)
Ambassador Abdulaziz makes no mention of these atrocities beyond a delicate reference to ‘a number of domestic events in the Kingdom’.
Instead he uses the platform afforded him by the Telegraph to adopt a pedagogic tone:
“If the extensive trade links between the two countries are going to be subordinate to certain political ideologies, [read: human rights] then this vital commercial exchange is going to be at risk. We want this relationship to continue but we will not be lectured to by anyone.”
That’s us told.
Another glaring omission in the ambassador’s piece is the role of justice secretary Michael Gove in the government’s U-turn on the prison deal, which proved decisive.
To the credit of the Telegraph, Gove’s intervention is included in it’s front page report on the ambassador’s comments, along with reference to Saudi’s record on human rights.
But aside for the modest news value, (and pending any revelations about advertising deals), the Telegraph‘s chief motivation for running the piece looks like an excuse to make Corbyn’s foreign policy nous look even less impressive than it does already.
Is this really a good enough reason to give editorial space to a spokesman for a foreign dictatorship?
Thus the Telegraph proves itself willing to sacrifice its reputation as the paper of British pluck and Churchillism on the alter of party politics.
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Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter
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