I listened to David Cameron's words at CPC15 with open-minded enthusiasm. I have been a big C Conservative for approximately 3 years but have never followed the party with blind loyalty. Cameron's branch of conservatism is one which appeals to my politics; that is, socially liberal and fiscally conservative. I considered his recent speech to be his best since being in office, in what was a 1997 Blair-esque, strong move to win over the centre-ground.
Or so I thought, until I began digging deeper in to him signing off two members of the Saudi kingdom on to the United Nations human rights council and learnt that he is, like so many politicians, a man who relies on rhetoric and a decent speech writer above any action. I shall no longer be supporting the Conservatives until I see evidence to the contrary.
My frustration with the Prime Minister who, up until recently I massively respected, stems from a case which has not gained anywhere near enough publicity (particularly on UK soil), but which represents everything wrong with the Saudi Arabian government and the UK's allegiance with it.
Ali Mohammed Al Nimr was 17 when he engaged in peaceful political protest at the Saudi Arabian protests during the Arab Spring in 2012. The tyrannical Saudi Arabian government, not one to accept criticism or any form of democracy, quickly arrested him and he is now awaiting execution (by beheading) and crucifixion at 21 years old. Coincidentally, Ali's uncle is the prominent Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, an independent Shia Sheikh, who is famous (or infamous in the eyes of the KSA government) for openly criticizing the state. It is widely suspected, by both Ali's family and close followers of the case, that this is in fact the reason for the innocent young man's death sentence.
On Tuesday, Philip Hammond, who I consider to be robbing Michael Gove of the role of Foreign Secretary, said "I do not expect Mr Andree to receive the lashings that he has been sentenced to and I do not expect Mr al-Nimr to be executed." Filling nobody with confidence, I have persistently followed the case to understand what the UK is doing - and it appears to be not much. Louise Mensch, who has been PRing the case, was actually blocked by the British Embassy, @UKinSaudiArabia, for daring to ask what it is doing about it. I too, have asked repeatedly. My profile is of course zero but I want the embassy to know that there are people who are not going to let this go.
The French President and PM asked Saudi authorities to cancel the execution sentence. Generally unpopular (I'm a huge fan) but hugely principled, Michael Gove has personally spoken out against the party line, likely much to the detriment of his relationships with peers and the PM in parliament. Jon Snow, a man I seldom agree with, put pressure on Cameron in an interview for C4 which revealed that the UK is wriggling when it comes to Saudi Arabia. The stark reality is that compared to some of our European counterparts, our behavior when it comes to justice and doing what is right is embarrassing. The French take an admirable stance -f rom their reaction to Je Suis Charlie to the Saudi government's medieval punishments. Our mainstream media also need to do more - Buzzfeed (in particular), the Huffington Post, the Independent and the Guardian have done well to highlight issues - the rest need to step up and give this more attention, instead of adding it to the bottom of articles which are focused on other issues.
Cameron did have the (supposed) decency to speak up over a British grandfather who is due to receive a crippling number of lashings for breaking the law by drinking in the Kingdom. I am of course sympathetic - the punishment is brutal - but Cameron's pledge to help appeared to be more of a popularity strategy than genuinely sincere and furthermore, the British man knew the punishment for breaking the law. For those that say Cameron can more easily wade in for a British citizen, I agree - but as the British PM, he has a moral duty to speak out against farcical executions when he signed off on the UNHRC appointments and while we continue to do dealings with KSA.
We were once governed by men and a woman who spoke their minds and we were reassured that what they said and what they did correlated. I am a massive critic of Corbyn but he has spoken out against this case and for that I respect him, regardless of whether he was playing politics or not. Of course it is easier in opposition, when the economy and trade are not so much your problem, but human rights, justice and what is morally right should come before oil and money and we should not be tied to the Saudis because of commodities. The British people deserve to be represented by a government who reflect and uphold our values. At the moment, we aren't.