Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Get a new ghostwriter, Ming

There was a strange article in the Guardian under Ming Campbell's name yesterday. I shall do him the honour of assuming that he did not write it himself.

It contains echoes of the ill-judged effort to "put the zing into Ming" from his early months as leader. So we are reminded that he was an Olympic athlete himself, and he forecasts:
Whatever my work commitments I won't be able to resist setting aside some time to watch the athletics in Beijing, particularly the sprints.
At least that has more credibility than the thought of his watching Strictly Come Dancing, but the idea of selling Ming as a man of the people is doomed to fail. Better, as I always insist, to let him be himself and hope that people will come to have respect for wisdom and experience.

But what is worse is the article's confusion over human rights in China. It rightly says that
According to Amnesty International, the situation is currently getting worse, not better, as the Olympics countdown continues apace. In fact there's even evidence of the targeting of the very activists who have tried to draw attention to the plight of those evicted from their homes as a result of Olympics-related construction projects.
Yet rather than using this to launch an attack on the Chinese regime, the article goes on to find a most unconvincing bright side to be encouraged by. We may have hoped that allowing China to host the games would encourage them to improve their record on human rights, but if it has not done so we should recognise the fact and say so.

Instead we have weak formulations like "Let's not mince words. China's record on human rights is poor." But to describe that record merely as "poor" is to wince your words. Wouldn't "appalling" or "shameful" be nearer the mark?

And then we have the mystifying: "More fundamentally, Beijing 2008 is a once-in-a-life opportunity for China to clear the bar that it has itself raised to a higher level."

This article betrays a lack of confidence in the party among Ming's advisers. Increasingly, the Liberal Democrats represent a clearly defined constituency, and one of the things that constituency likes about us is our unequivocal support for human rights.

They will not be impressed by this article. And they won't be much more impressed to learn that Ming watches telly just like they do.

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