Tom Brake slams “shamefully weak” UK government statement on Saudi executions

Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesperson Tom Brake has torn into the Government’s statement on the executions of 47 prisoners in Saudi Arabia in a series of tweets this evening.

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  • Eddie Sammon 5th Jan '16 - 11:02pm

    We can’t just criticise western allies because it is convenient. Iran gets too little scrutiny from left-liberals. We need to criticise many regimes, but Saudi and Iran at least. There’s no future in swapping a dodgy arrangement with Saudi Arabia with one with Iran.

    Perceptions matter. We’ve had Caroline Lucas today banging on about Saudi in Yemen. What about Iran in Syria? Near silence. We need greater balance, without treating everyone the same.

    Hilary Benn criticised Saudi Arabia immediately after the executions and no one thinks he is an anti-American sympathiser. The left has a big problem in foreign policy and Tim and Tom need to not walk into it.

  • We are not allied with Iran. We do not lay on the limos for them for cosy chats with the queen, royal weddings or fly flags at half mast or personally, hello David Cameron, invite them to chair a human tights body. You keep going on about the Liberal left not criticising other despotic leaderships but in fact they do all the time. The difference is we do not have close ties to Iran so there is lest to criticise the government for and less that can be influenced. There’s almost a blanket lack of coverage for Yemen. Also unlike Yemen we are militarily involved Syria.
    And I’m sorry but it is the Right who have a big problem in foreign policy and who have destabilised countries and have contradictory attitudes to despotic leaderships. Me as, Left Liberal, I see them all as equally appalling, think we should actually keep relationships with them as minimal as possible and not waste lives, time or money on halfbaked regime change schemes or involve ourselves in their sectarian intrigues.

  • Eddie Sammon 6th Jan '16 - 12:55am

    Glenn, I agree the right has a big problem in foreign policy, but I don’t think their views risk becoming culturally dominant anytime soon. The Lib Dems as a whole are probably left leaning and the left is winning on Twitter, so I’m trying to challenge the ideology a bit.

  • Glenn, I think Eddie and you have a point , different ones . Eddie is correct on the left and human rights . I mean left , not centre left . Peter Tatchell has for years criticised left wing silence on , for example , Zimbabwe , and I would add several , Cuba comes to mind , yes a very good health service , but there human rights record is rotten . The left rarely criticise countries like Nicaragua or Venezuala , again , like Cuba , achievements but at a price , often that price is worse human rights than left wingers would ever tolerate , let alone support , here .Socialist parties in Scandinavia were very good at saying nothing much against the Soviet Union , if you read on that , and Socialist International has members so dubious , centre left parties like Germany s Social Democrats formed the Progressive Alliance in order to have an alternative ! Where you , Glenn are correct , is in a particularly cosy relationship with the Saudi s meaning we must stop it being that .It is unfair to human dignity , morality , and royalty ! I actually think the United Kingdom royal family would be grateful to be relieved of the cosiness. Indeed the Windsors are a wholly decent family involved in terrific work on many charitable fronts . Would we might say it of the House of Saud !

  • Lorenzo,
    fair dues to an extent, but when I was a youngster I was constantly told that Russia was the Evil Empire and that the problem was Communism. It turns out that even when communism collapsed and the various states gained independence the problem was still Russia whilst after direct conflict with in Korea and indirect conflict in Vietnam and no collapse in Communism China is seen as a business model!
    Let me suggest that the actual problem with the Middle East is that Bush and Blaire continued a series proxy wars to remove Russian allied states as had been done in Afghanistan in the 1980s. the result of which was to curtail imperfect but emerging secular nations and to strengthen political Islam. Let me also suggest that there is a huge contradiction in trying to fight extremist religious “terrorists” whilst trying to aid “moderate” Islamists topple governments that had achieved a level of stability across faiths.
    By the way some Right Wingers both here and in America argue that what Russia is doing in Syria is right. So I have a basic problem with the idea that the Left believes this and the Right believes, this is a Left wing stance etc. Personally, I think if we didn’t keep interfering then we wouldn’t need close military or political ties to dubious regimes, plus we could spend less time reducing hard won Liberal freedoms at home. My view on the middle East is we should keep it cordial, but distant. Which is, I suspect, what the general public in Britain want.

  • Alex Macfie 6th Jan '16 - 8:07am

    To be clear, the sort of left-winger who is silent on allegedly socialist despotic regimes such as Zimbabwe, Nicaragua, Venezuala and Cuba is not a liberal, although they are often wrongly called “liberal” in the media. It is precisely this sort of attitude among illiberal trendy lefties that leads me to want this party to distance itself from Corbyn’s Labour. A necessary (but not sufficient) condition of being a liberal is opposition to tyranny in all its forms. So we must distinguish the liberal left (who oppose all tyranny) from the illiberal left, who are silent over socialist excesses.

  • Alex Macfie 6th Jan '16 - 8:11am

    “chair a human tights body”? Would that be Sock Shop, or Calzedonia?

  • Eddie, softpedalling on Saudi is not a left-right issue. You can look at everything through that prism if you want, but the hard right and hard left dont care about human rights, liberals do, this is the distinction.

  • I do believe there is widespread support for human rights in this country and that it could also influence the voting habits of as much as 10% of the electorate – witness the hundreds of thousands of individuals who support Amnesty International, Palestine Solidarity Campaign (about 200,000), Human Rights Watch, and dozens of others. Interest in human rights and internationalism more broadly will in part have explained the estimated 50% support for the Lib Dems among students in 2010. It is in our interests as well as absolutely in accord with our principles therefore to be consistently strong in this area.
    We should surely be particularly firm with those with whom we are most cosy and who will be most inconvenienced by us putting pressure on them: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Israel and Egypt spring immediately to mind. We could start by urging a visa blacklist for people identified by Amnesty (say) as having a particular responsibility for human rights abuses.

  • Alex Macfie 6th Jan '16 - 9:56am

    Just for the avoidance of doubt, there are human rights abuses perpetrated by the Palestinian side as well as by Israel. For me the appropriate liberal response to that conflict is contemptuous neutrality, in combination with support for liberals/moderates on both sides.

  • Alex,
    Why point out a typo. What does this achieve. Personally I think it’s just a bit petty.

  • Alex Macfie 6th Jan '16 - 10:42am

    It was intended as a joke

  • nigel hunter 6th Jan '16 - 10:47am

    Lets face it The country has a lot invested in Saudi Arabia, oil and no doubt other vested interests so the Government will not drastically “rock the boat” to show abject disgust.

  • Good points from Glenn and Alex . I do wish others would stop equating the individual party Likud , with Israel . Shimon Peres is not a baddie , nor is Zipi Livni et al ! Israel entered the Eurovision Song Contest with a transexual twenty years ago , the liberal voice is alive there !!! it is a democracy , there is hope !

  • nigel hunter 6th Jan '16 - 10:03pm

    Yes, we have got interests in the area. Maybe we should start looking round for alternative suppliers of oil. Find other countries that would be interested in our arms industry to ensure jobs are not lost. Sunni and Shia have been fighting their religious disagreements for centuries if we reduced our dependency on them maybe they will realise that the world has moved on.

  • Did Libdems in 2011 while in coalition comply with leaving Saudi Arabia off the list of countries to be challenged over the death penalty?

  • @ Nigel Hunter “Find other countries that would be interested in our arms industry to ensure jobs are not lost”. And what about lives that are lost ???

    As the old song said :

    Even when the darkest clouds are in the sky
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry
    Spread a little happiness as you go by
    Please try

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