As readers will probably know I am no great fan of the current incumbent of No10. To me UK government is a snivelling pile of ordure, exemplified by its contempt for anybody who fails to fit into its world view – or indeed is just an inconvenience. Take the case of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese dissident.
Below is a letter sent today to Jack Straw by Michael Ancrum.
I write following the EU Foreign Minister’s meeting held last week in Maastricht. Your decision to admit Burma into the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) is of grave concern to many.
As Foreign Secretary you represented the United Kingdom and must therefore be prepared to explain your collective action. Since the Dublin meeting earlier this year the Burmese authorities have not advanced the cause of democracy one iota. Dublin set down three conditions for Burma's participation in ASEM, viz. the release of Aung San Suu Kyi; allowing the NLD to operate freely; make changes to the National Convention procedures to allow the democratic groups to participate. Burma has failed to meet all three conditions, so it should not be allowed to participate in ASEM. Perhaps you can explain the rationale behind the European Union’s decision to execute such a splendid volte-face and back down from its own conditions. In fact the EU has no effective economic sanctions against Burma. It has a visa ban that has had no impact, and an asset freeze that has not been fully implemented and has resulted in less than £4,000 being frozen across the whole of Europe. It also has an arms embargo. The only country with an effective sanctions package against Burma is the United States. It has banned new investment since 1997 and banned all imports and financial transactions last year. Did you consider a similar package? If so why were you against it?
Far from being tough on the Junta, your Government has actually been quite soft. You have been tough on the rhetoric yet weak on delivery. Since Labour came to power imports from Burma into the UK have more than tripled, rising from 17.3million pounds in 1998 to 62.2million pounds in 2003. Britain ranks as the second largest investor in Burma in the past decade, with $1.4 billion of approved investment. This compares to just $64 million by neighbouring China, which is ranked 15th.
Is the EU decision final, can you not rescind it? If not how do you explain to Aung San Suu Kyi, her NLD supporters and the people of Burma that you have let them down?
James became well know when he took to getting himself arrested by the Burmese junta. After his release in 2000 he turned up in Brussels following an invitation that I (trumpets please) had sent to address the Parliament on the Burmese issue. Later at dinner I discovered that far from being a boss eyed loon he seemed to a perfectly sane chap. When describing the actions that lead to his arrest he was very precise about what activity would result in what sentence from the authorities.
“Well,” he said over the pizza and wine, “If I had done less they would have locked me up for five years, much more and they might have executed me. If they had locked me up for five years or less there is no way that there would have been such a massive campaign to get me out. People would have said, ‘Silly bastard, he deserves it’ and they would have let me rot”. He smiled and went on, “I had to spend ages studying the Burmese criminal code to get the offence just right”.
I asked him what he wanted to do next?
“Not sure but I do not plan to go back to a Burmese prison, I think I have done my bit there”. He had however already been approached by publishers with healthy advances which meant he would not have to work for quite a while. “After I finish the book, I would like to become an MP”.
“Which party?” I asked, already guessing the answer.
“The Tories of course”.
I gulped. Here as this attractive, competent, brave, young, personable, intelligent fellow who wanted to become a Tory MP. If I had thought about it the party should have been obvious. His mother wouldn’t get of the phone when I was trying to trace him, proud as punch but going on about village fetes and stuff like that (with a healthy dose of euro-scepticism thrown in, and his twin brother with who he had gone to hide after his release was an officer in the Gunners in Germany. The next morning the poor fellow was staring at a party membership form.
However the purpose of this digression is that young Mawdsley was one of the main backers of Michael Ancram’s doomed leadership bid in 2001. Thus the detail and punch in the letter do rather suggest to me his handiwork.
Wherever it comes from, it should be applauded.