How proud am I of Vince Cable today?

Oh, very! I am grinning with pride and have been since I heard that Vince was going to be boycotting the Saudi Dictator’s visit to the UK!

I remember years and years ago, sitting in an 'International Relations Theory' lecture and learning for the first time about the two different paradigms of nation state behaviour in an international setting. It is soo good to be part of a party that actually puts their commitment to internationalism into practice!!

There were basically two ways to behave in international relations: you could be a ’realist’ or an ‘idealist’. No prizes for guessing which point of view chose the terms!!

‘Realism’ refers to a belief in the primacy of the nation state, acting in its own self interest and pragmatically interacting with other states on the basis of how much can be gained for and lost for itself from the interaction. Idealism on the other hand, is more internationalist in nature believing in co-operation between states, that nation states should be subject to international law and through this global stability can be achieved. Think Machiavelli for the first and United Nations for the second…..

I knew immediately which one I believed in. I also remember sitting in the lecture theatre half way up Penglais Hill, bristling with indignation (some things never change) that the so called realists had won the spin war decades before by referring to ‘idealism’ in such pejorative terms….and it does still seem that to call somebody an idealist is to call them naïve, immature and foolish.

You see, with Saudi Arabia, there is no question that it is a vicious dictatorship, which spreads its corruption throughout the world, which effectively enslaves the female half of its population by treating them as the property of men and that exports such an extreme and illiberal ideology as wahabism throughout the world including the UK, under the guise of community investment. Nobody is actually arguing that that is an incorrect analysis of how Saudi Arabia conducts itself in its own country and in the world; what they are arguing that despite all of that it doesn’t matter because the pragmatic approach, the approach that is in the best interests of the UK is to ignore all that, invite them to dinner and let them ride around in a big golden coach.

And this is what we need to deal with, the idea that the pragmatic ‘realist’ way is best and there is no alternative. We need to point out that it is harmful to the UK if we allow companies such as BAe Aerospace to be corrupt, that we undermine free trade in such a way to undermine the competitiveness of our own defence suppliers. We need to point out that a ‘pragmatic’ approach is generally the short term, tactical approach and therefore rarely best in the long run. We need to point out that the Sadu family is basically blackmailing us into accepting them by refusing to cooperate with gathering intelligence on terrorism. For sure, global warming is not the only reason why we should be looking to find alternatives to oil; money used to bribe the Saudi Royal family might be more productively spent, in the interests of the UK, in investing in alternatives to oil. But we need to challenge the idea that, given our current dependence on oil, that the only option left open to Britain is to pay backhanders to the dictator and invite him to tea.

And you know what, even if it does just come down to principle, then what can we really thinking about people who curry favour with a man who rules a country so that torture is carried out in the way described by Sandy Mitchell, in Johann Hari’s once again, excellent column in the Independent today? I do hope Messrs Brown and Cameron think of the years of dried blood on the walls of the office where … …. was tortured as they shake King Abdullah’s hand over the next couple of days. I know that the country never expected integrity of David Cameron but surely this must put an end to any rumours of Gordon Brown being a man of principle and integrity.

I know, I know…politics is a dirty business and we may expect too much of our leaders to keep themselves above the fray. But I say, you get the government that you deserve and if we don’t make a stand, as Vince Cable is, then we should not be surprised if our political class lacks integrity and principle not just in its dealings with other countries but in its dealings with us.


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