Wooing the rights abusers

There's another twist in the tale of the UAE and a visiting delegation of British MPs. 

For the benefit of new readers, the story so far is that the Emirati government's news agency, WAM, issued two reports last weekend claiming the MPs had praised the UAE's awful human rights record. Both reports were mysteriously deleted from the internet a few hours later and one member of the parliamentary delegation, Stephen Timms, has since said the quotes attributed to the MPs by WAM were fabricated.

Flick Drummond MP. The structure 
in the background of her Twitter avatar is 
Portsmouth's Spinnaker Tower, 
sponsored by the UAE


Another member of the delegation, Flick Drummond, the MP for Portsmouth South, was quoted by WAM as saying that human rights in the UAE are "moving on the right track". Unlike Mr Timms, Ms Drummond has so far not responded to a request to clarify her position via Twitter and a report today in her local paper, "The News" of Portsmouth raises more questions about her activities during the trip to the UAE. The report begins:

The MP for Portsmouth South is spearheading bold efforts to secure tens of millions of pounds from the Middle East to bring prosperity to the region.

Flick Drummond jetted out to the United Arab Emirates in a bid to win over wealthy investors who can transform Portsmouth’s economy and make it a thriving international destination.

Mrs Drummond wants multimillionaires to spend their cash creating the city’s first five-star hotel to attract more lucrative visitors which would see more top companies want to move their businesses to the city.

And she is hoping to convince foreign entrepreneurs to inject millions into the creation of the much-delayed Northern Quarter shopping complex off Market Way, a plan that’s been talked about for more than 10 years and never happened due to cash and legal wrangles.

She also wants more money to make the University of Portsmouth to become an elite educational institute.

[Before accepting Emirati cash, the university would be well advised to consider the UAE's attitude to academic freedom.]

In the light of the above report it's reasonable to ask how seriously Ms Drummond views rights abuses in the UAE. While it's unlikely she praised the Gulf State's record in the terms reported by WAM, it's also hard to believe she would have been robustly critical while going cap-in-hand to try and drum up Emirati investment.

The MPs were visiting the Emirates as a delegation from the UK-UAE All-Party Parliamentary Group. Others believed to have taken part include Charlotte Leslie (Bristol North West), Paul Scully (Sutton & Cheam), David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale), Tasmina Sheikh (Ochil & South Perthshire), and Lord Wood of Anfield.

It is not known how the trip was funded, though a previous trip by the all-party group in 2013 was paid for by the UAE embassy in London.

Posted by Brian Whitaker
Wednesday, 6 April 2016