The ConHome verdict on Tories' BAE bribes silence

by Stephen Tall on June 11, 2007

It isn’t only Liberal Review and the Lib Dems’ Corruption is a Crime website which have noted how quiet the Tories have been about BAE’s Al Yamamah deal, and the Labour Government’s decision to squash the Serious Fraud Office’s investigation of advance commissions cash bribes.

Surely this should be the ideal opportunity for David Cameron to take the attack to Labour on precisely the same ground – dodgy foreign arms dealing – that so damaged the Tories in the 1990s?

Yet as the Conservative Home website notes:

The Conservatives, unlike the LibDems, have been as quiet on the recent stories about Prince Bandar’s role in the Saudi arms deals (known as Al-Yamamah, “the dove”), and the alleged cover-up by Lord Goldsmith, as they were when the Serious Fraud Office’s investigation was dropped (it was about to uncover what we’re starting to find out now).

They note a possible explanation:

There’s also the allegations that Oxfordshire businessman and prominent Al-Yamamah middleman, Wafic Said, has donated money to David Cameron (possibly up to £550, 000 through auctions). Cameron spoke in support of an International Arms Trade Treaty over a year ago but didn’t question any existing British contracts … there is no question that [Saudi Arabia] fails Cameron’s “unsuitable regime” yardstick.

The comments suggest an equal split among Tory readers of Conservative Home:

“[The Conservative Party’s] response to this has been a disgrace.”
(Graeme Archer)

“The price of doing business in the Mid-East is the payment of Advance Commissions, to middle-men and those with influence, to obtain state contracts which are in the purview of the ruling family. … It is time to lay the Saudi/BAE deal into its grave and leave it alone.” (George Hinton)

‘Traditional Tory’ sums up the Tory dilemma:

It’s interesting to note that much of the support for a ‘realistic’ arms policy (which I share) is coming from Cameroons.
But how does that square with the supposedly ‘ethical’ approach to foreign relations which Cameron proclaimed soon after becoming Tory leader?
Some of us assumed that the vague noises about Darfur and his fulsome ‘apology’ for the party’s past South African policies might set the trend for a policy which was at least consistent if nothing else.