Archie Bland: Why won't Bernie
Ecclestone lead by example in Bahrain?

Our Deputy Editor on why doing nothing is a form of complicity

Share
Related Topics

Let's say Bernie Ecclestone and a Bahraini official are conducting a business deal. As they shake hands on their transaction, the official uses his other arm to punch a passerby in the face. Mr Ecclestone continues to shake and the deal is done. Is he complicit in the violence?

Most of us would say yes, I think. Not Mr Ecclestone, or his fellow decision-makers in Formula One. For Mr Ecclestone, that would presumably be an act of internal politics, just like the protests that are still consuming Bahrain, and hence none of his business. "We don't get involved in politics," he explained recently. "They will sort out their internal problems, I'm quite sure." Accordingly, this weekend's Grand Prix still looks set to go ahead.

What Ecclestone and Co apparently fail to appreciate is that doing nothing can be just as meaningful an act as making a fuss. In Bahrain, as in South Africa during the apartheid years, the options aren't a powerful political statement vs a position of strict neutrality; instead, the two options are equally forceful.

By pulling Formula One out of Bahrain for a second year, Mr Ecclestone and his colleagues would be sending a signal that the country is still in crisis. That's a position strongly reinforced by an Amnesty International report earlier this week. Doing nothing, by extension, makes the opposite statement.

Since last year Formula One deemed a race in Bahrain would be a bad idea, the decision to go ahead this time implies that things are getting better. Max Mosley, a former Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile president, gets it: the Bahraini authorities, he wrote in The Daily Telegraph, "hope to show the world that the troubles were just a small, temporary difficulty... By agreeing to race there, Formula One becomes complicit in what happened."

There's still time for Ecclestone to see sense. But that looks increasingly unlikely. The chairman of the circuit, for one, sounds bullish, making the remarkable suggestion that the race will "put things in perspective", a claim that suggests we'd finally realise how meaningless all the death was when we saw a few cars whizzing round his track. And there's an official version of events that sounds similarly blithe. "The eyes of the world are trained on Bahrain," it proclaims, and "... the most important sporting event witnessed by the region."

That's half-right, I suppose. We'll all be looking at Bahrain this weekend. But we won't be watching the contest. And if Bernie Ecclestone really wants to stay out of the country's politics, he'd be well-advised to remove himself and his race cars from the picture before it's too late.

React Now

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

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mary Christmas: the Bethlehem story is Mary's moment, when a poor peasant girl gives birth to the Son of God in a stable  

The appeal of the Virgin Mary: A supernatural hope at a time of scepticism

Peter Stanford
 

Letters: Why Cameron is wrong about EU child benefits

Independent Voices
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
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'