So, do you remember that bit in the Better Together pitch to the people of Scotland in 2014 when they told us that Scotland needed the heft and credibility of the UK to represent us on the world stage? See if you swallowed that. See the Brexit negotiations. See Boris Johnson. See Priti Patel. Are you not pure dead mortified now? Whit a riddy. The only notable thing about Britain striding the world stage is how many pratfalls it makes. British diplomacy is a laughing stock.
Britain notoriously doesn’t do a great deal to help those of its citizens who get into trouble while abroad. That’s one reason why the former BBC world affairs correspondent John Simpson used to travel to war torn regions using his Irish passport. Simpson said in an interview with the Guardian that the Irish government would be far more likely to help get him out if he was arrested or kidnapped. The Irish actually give a toss about their citizens who get into difficulties abroad, but it’s also true that all too often Britain is one of the reasons a region is war torn in the first place. However you’d imagine if you were a British citizen who had been arrested by a foreign government on trumped up charges that the very least that the UK could do would be not to make things even worse for you. But Britain can’t even manage that.
The British-Iranian journalist Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested and jailed by the Iranian authorities when she was on a private visit to the country with her infant daughter, visiting her parents. She’s now serving a five year sentence in an Iranian prison for a supposed crime whose details have never been revealed to her. Her young daughter has been denied an exit visa, and her English husband denied an entry visa, separating the child from both her parents on top of everything else. Her husband has persistently pressed the British Government and the Foreign Office for help, without much success.
Then along comes Boris Johnson with his big mooth and his even bigger ego. Boris confidently asserted to a parliamentary committee that Nazanin was in Iran in order to teach journalists, contradicting everything Nazanin, her family, and her employers have been telling the Iranians. Shortly after he made the statement, Nazanin was hauled out of her jail cell and into an Iranian court where she now faces an additional five years on top of the sentence she’s already serving. Iran claims that the Foreign Secretary’s remarks provide evidence that she was agitating against the Iranian regime.
Not even a grudging apology could be dragged out of Boris Johnson, he actually tried to deny that he had claimed Nazanin was teaching journalists even though his words had been recorded by both the committee minute takers, and by the TV cameras which were present. The most he would concede was that he “could have been clearer”. But he was perfectly clear, and he perfectly clearly said something incorrect that risks keeping a British citizen years longer in an Iranian prison. Boris has a big mooth, he has a bigger ego, but he’s an irrelevant little man with big pretensions representing a irrelevant little country that imagines it’s still important.
Priti Patel, the international development secretary, went on holiday to Israel. I don’t know about you, but when I go on holiday to somewhere warmer and sunnier than the UK, which is most places, all you want to do is laze about in the sunshine, eat and drink too much, and take in the local sights. For Priti the local sights included the offices of senior Israeli politicians, including the Prime Minister Netanyahu, the former finance minister, and the public security minister. She also met with officials from the foreign ministry and with representative from a number of other Israeli organisations. In a holiday lasting less than a fortnight, she managed to fit in 12 meetings with government representatives and politicians. That’s not just a degree of workaholism that really needs the intervention of a 12 step therapy programme, it was also both breathtakingly stupid and arrogant because Priti forgot to mention any of this to the British Foreign Office, the British embassy in Tel Aviv, or her boss Theresa May. Worse, when the story first came to light she tried to claim that the Foreign Office knew all about it, when in fact she hadn’t notified them in advance at all. She hadn’t really meant to do anything wrong. If she had met with Benjamin Netanyahu is was just because she was the 3 millionth tourist in Israel this year and he wanted to surprise her.
Brexiteer Priti wanted Britain out of the EU in order to restore full sovereignty to the Westminster Parliament, but she changed her plans about an official trip to Africa and got an earlier flight so that she wouldn’t have to face questioning in the Commons. Which is just as well, at least for her, as it now transpires that she held another two undeclared and undisclosed meetings with senior Israeli officials since she got back from her holidays.
It turns out that Priti wanted to send British government aid money to the Israeli army for projects in the Golan, a Syrian territory which Britain and the international community regard as being illegally annexed by Israel. She came to an agreement with the Israelis without clearing it with the Foreign Office, the Prime Minister’s office, or the British embassy in Israel, all of whom would have told her that she was overstepping her authority by holding meetings without clearing them in advance, and that it’s a breach of international agreements entered into by the UK for the British government to send aid money to the Israeli army for spending in occupied territories.
Worse than that, it transpires that a lobbyist from the Conservative Friends of Israel group was present during some of these meetings and had a role in arranging them. Breaches of the ministerial code don’t come much clearer. Either Priti Patel didn’t know what she did was a breach of the ministerial code, in which case she’s too inept and incompetent to remain in office, or she did know and did it anyway, in which case she’s unfit for office.
In a normal world, Boris and Priti would both have been sacked immediately. But this isn’t a normal world. This is Brexit Britain which has a Prime Minister who is too weak to keep her idiot ministers in check, and they’re too weak to force her out of office because they fear that bringing her down risks another election in which they’d have to face the voters and be held to account for their rank incompetence.
At the time of writing, Priti Patel was on a plane, having been ordered to cut short her official trip to Africa and return to London for a meeting with the Prime Minister. It is quite likely that by tomorrow, Priti Patel’s formal title will be the Digraced Former Minister Priti Patel. But just like her colleague, the Disgraced Former Minister Liam Fox, who was very keen to defend Priti over the past few days and to downplay her actions, the chances are that she’ll serve a wee while on the backbenches, and then crawl back into government like nothing had happened. That’s how justice works for the powerful in the UK.
Look at Boris and Priti, look at a Theresa May who heads a government that’s as chaotic and stable as a paralytic drunk on roller skates, and considerably less clear headed. This is what the broad shoulders of the UK look like. This is the security and stability of the UK that Scotland was told it relies upon. There is no certainty in the UK except that the UK is an international embarrassment which is only fit for providing tax avoidance schemes in its overseas territories for the super-rich. The sooner Scotland escapes from its clutches the better.
We couldn’t possibly do any worse by being independent. At least we could hold our heads up high and if a Scottish goverment behaved even a quarter as bad as this mob in Westminster, we could boot them out of office. As part of the UK, all we can do is hold our heads in our hands and watch as the clowns destroy our futures. It’s a Priti fine mess that voting No has got us into.
The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.
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