Vladimir Putin must find it hilarious that David Cameron won’t back Europe on Russia’s abuses

In his latest dispatch our columnist reports from a George Michael concert and has some advice for Andrew 'Thrasher' Mitchell, the under fire Tory MP

Share
Related Topics

I’m not sure who will pick up the well-deserved Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the EU, but it should be the High Representative Cathy Ashton, who will be dining this Sunday with the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov. Cathy has more steel in her than Corby and Corus put together (albeit wrapped in a paisley shawl), but this will be tough, as the EU is finally beginning to lose patience with Russia.

Successive European leaders used to fly solo to Moscow and do their own little deals with Vladimir Putin, but Russia’s disgraceful intransigence on Syria, together with the departure of Putin’s mate Silvio Berlusconi and arrival of François Hollande in France, has persuaded them that Europe needs to adopt a more united front. All of this puts Cathy firmly in the driving seat in the run-up to the EU-Russia summit later this year.

Sadly, the fly in the ointment is David Cameron, who is trying to play both ends against the middle. British relations with Moscow have been fraught since the murders in Britain of Alexander Litvinenko and in Russia of the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who worked for a British firm.

Earlier this year, the Commons unanimously passed a motion demanding that anyone involved in Magnitsky’s death or the corruption he unveiled should be barred from Britain. Yet at a Council of Europe meeting last Tuesday five Tory MPs (Brian Binley, James Clappison, Edward Leigh, Ian Liddell-Grainger and Robert Walter), two Tory peers (the Baronesses Eaton and Eccles) and one Lib Dem (Mike Hancock) voted with representatives of Putin’s party against a report criticising human rights abuses in Russia.

With torture endemic in the Russian criminal justice system, the courts subjugated to political control, politicians imprisoning their opponents, independent journalists murdered with impunity and pride marches banned for a hundred years, it’s difficult to see how these British politicians can square their vote with their conscience, unless their sole motivation is mercantilist. This is just shabby appeasement – and all the evidence is that, far from impressing Putin, this kind of craven behaviour makes him even more disdainful of lily-livered Western ideas about human rights.

The story that Henry Kissinger asked “what number do I call when I want to call Europe?” may be apocryphal, but Cathy Ashton jokes that she has an answer anyway. If the US president rings her he first gets some options, “for the German position press 1; for the Italian position press 2; and for the British position call back later”. It’s a nice joke, but the truth is that Europe needs to speak with a single voice if it doesn’t want to be laughed at by Putin, and Cameron needs to butch up.

Sticking it to the oldies

I’m often shocked by the behaviour of older people. At a George Michael concert in Cardiff last week (at which hundreds of women screamed “I love you” so often anyone would think they hadn’t noticed he was gay), I spotted the 60-or-so-year-old fan behind me take her chewing gum out and stick it to the chair in front of her.

Fearful of being thought too snooty for my own good, I um-ed and ah-ed about whether to say anything. Finally I summoned up courage as she was leaving. “Would you like to take your gum with you?” I said. She looked at me with thunder in her eyes. “Why, would you like it?” she said before storming off.

Mitchell should sing a Moyet tune

It being Tory conference week, we went to see the elegant and slimmed-down Alison Moyet at Ronnie Scott’s. She had an adoring set of fans hanging on her every trill, so it was a bit disturbing when the band struck up the first tune and she launched into her song, only to stop with a couple of robust swear words. She recovered well, pointing out: “If you get something wrong here and you can get over it, then that’s jazz. But if you can’t get over it – well, it’s just wrong and you’ve got to start again.” I wish Andrew Mitchell had heard her. He must surely know that his recent bum notes mean he can’t take the Chief Whip’s traditional seat two down from Cameron next Wednesday for PMQs. Better to give up and start again.

Lords can lobby too easily

This week the Lords debated the Defamation Bill, which has profound implications for the press. Interestingly, one of the peers who sat on the joint committee to consider it is the Conservative Lord Guy Black. I don’t mind that he is parti pris as the former director of the Press Complaints Commission. Everyone is entitled to a past. What I do object to is his direct conflict of interests.

He is executive director of the Telegraph Media Group. He and his company personally stand to benefit by this legislation. Had he been a member of the Commons he would have been obliged not just to register and declare an interest (as he has done), but he would have been barred from the committee and from initiating any legislation. Yet in the Lords debate he suggested a string of amendments, which he will doubtless move when the Bill is in committee. Different rules apply in the Lords, but when peers use their position in the Lords to pursue the financial interests of their employer, they are effectively engaging in paid advocacy and bring the whole place into disrepute.

He has broken no rules, but the rules are bust.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
RIP Voicemail?  

Voicemail has got me out of some tight corners, so let's not abandon it

Simon Kelner
A sculpture illustrating the WW1 Christmas Truce football match in Liverpool  

It's been 100 years since the Christmas Truce, but football is still changing the world

Jim Murphy and Dan Jarvis
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there