Crispin Blunt's defence of Saudis' actions in Yemen is almost too painful to watch.
It is the world’s worst man-made humanitarian crisis. But when the choice is between speaking up against the war on Yemen, and maintaining cosiness with ‘strategic’ allies, Tory MPs are clear which side they’re on…
This morning though, the Conservatives’ position got held up to the light – showing the disturbing implications of their servitude to Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is visiting today.
According to the Red Cross, more than half of Yemen’s population lacks access to safe water after Saudi Arabia starting leading attacks following an attempted coup in the country.
And Save the Children describe the current scenario as a ‘living nightmare’, noting: “A continuing blockade by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition on the country’s northern ports of entry is making problems even worse.”
So Crispin Blunt, the former chair of the foreign affairs select committee, was wheeled out by Tory HQ for the Today programme. His task? To defend Theresa May’s complacent stance on the Saudis and the crimes they are committing in Yemen.
Presenter Mishal Husain was on top form.
Husain: “Is it right to roll out the red carpet at a time when Saudi Arabia is engaged in a war that has caused the world’s worst man-made humanitarian disaster?”
Blunt: “I think you have to put that war into context…It’s the first time the Saudis have stepped up to the plate to conduct this kind of operation and we ought to be grateful that they are taking their responsibility…”
Husain noted that there are seven million at risk of starvation in the war-struck country:
Blunt: “You need to look at all the efforts the Saudis are putting in on a political front…”
Husain: “They’re not making enough of an effort…”
Blunt: “And that’s why quite rightly international supporters have been trying to persuade them to make sure that they do make a proper effort to make sure there’s not a humanitarian
Husain: “There’s already a humanitarian catastrophe.”
Blunt: “But the thing…about the Yemen is the politics of the Yemen and the conflict there. There’s a really difficult situation.”
It is arguably most difficult for the 18.8 million people who need urgent help, 2.2 million children who are malnourished, and the six children being killed or injured every day (Human Appeal figures).
And so, the denouement…
Husain: “Is it right to roll out the red carpet?”
Blunt: “My answer is yes, undoubtedly yes. It means the United Kingdom using its influence as a key partner of Saudi Arabia…to make sure the coalition is doing its absolute level best to make sure there is not the kind of famine and disaster that might go in the wake of the collapse in political and economic security…”
It got even more awkward. Crispin Blunt actually met the crown prince in 2016.
Husain: “Did you bring up the Yemen when you met him?”
Blunt: “I’m trying to remember exactly where the conversation went…”
It’s amazing what scrutiny can do to one’s memory…
Blunt did not miss the opportunity to praise the crown prince one last time. In a jaw-dropping finale of sycophancy, the Tory MP noted:
“How impressive he was…and indeed that was how he appeared in the meeting. We’ve seen that by the dynamism of his leadership…”
You can watch some of the grilling here:
— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) March 7, 2018
People talk about ‘moral relativism’ being a problem of the left. But this latest show-down suggests the right need to look at themselves – or at least stop looking the other way when confronted with their allies’ war crimes…
Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by becoming a Left Foot Forward Supporter today.