Beneath the royal weddings, Formula One races and other events that bore many normal people (myself included), the Anglo-Bahraini relationship is purely material. Bahrain has at least ten years of oil reserves left, and produces 40,000 barrels a day, representing a serious resource pool for British energy needs.
Like last year and the year before that (when the Bahrain race was cancelled), the imminent arrival of hi-tech racing cars, celebrity drivers, harassed team crews (and doubtless several crates of soon-to-be-wasted Moët) on the tiny island state of Bahrain has now become an annual occasion for examining the country's human rights record. That record, like the famous Formula One finishing flag, is ... well, extremely chequered.
There was some eloquent PR spin from Crown Prince Salman al-Khalifa as he took a leisurely stroll around the Sakhir circuit paddock with F1's boss, Bernie Ecclestone. Both were mobbed by reporters naturally hungry for comment on the political-cum-social-cum-sporting situation (or fiasco depending on your point of view) in the kingdom, but only one of them really made an effort to answer the questions and offer valid thoughts on Bahrain's problems.