Thursday, 14 December 2006

Why I take no joy from Tony Blair's shame

So far Liberal Democrat bloggers appear to have been remarkably quiet about the announcement today that the Prime Minister has been interviewed by police over the "cash-for-honours" scandal. Perhaps this is wise. Until we know the outcome of the investigation, it is too early to crow.

Actually, I doubt very much whether I will ever manage a sense of schadenfreude over this issue. The fact that a serving Prime Minister has been questioned by police fills me with a sense of great sadness and some degree of shame. Where even lesser-ranking Labour dignitaries to face trial, let alone be found guilty, it would be a lasting shame to our country and its political system.

One of the reasons why Britain has done so well economically over the past quarter of a century is that we are known internationally as a place where business is transacted honestly, free from the corruption that blights so many other jurisdictions. This is why another, unconnected story, fills me with equal concern. The Attorney General announced today that the investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into corruption relating to BAE's Al Yamamah contract has been discontinued. The reason given was that it was in danger of harming Anglo-Saudi relations, and implicitly our chances of future arms sales.

I have never been one of those who believed that we should not sell arms internationally, or that the Saudi's were beyond the pale (I would happily sell them aircraft, but would draw the line at items that can be used for internal repression or torture). But the cancelling of this investigation also suggests that Britain is prepared to tolerate corruption if the price is right.

These two stories, coming as they do on the same day, can only harm our image internationally and (imperceptibly, because such damage is always harder to discern than the obvious quick-win) impact upon our economy. Perhaps more seriously, it damages a reputation for honesty and integrity of which we can be justifiably proud.

1 comment:

Tristan said...

Its also extremely worrying that the government can just tell the police to abandon an investigation...

Its all very troubling, and highlights the need for reform and a written constitution circumscribing the executive's power...