My pride’s taken a battering

I know I keep harking back to the old days but, as an admitted reactionary old wotsit, some of the pride I used to take in this country is starting to evaporate. We ve had the Saudi Arabians threatening to pull out of the biggest contract ever let to this

I know I keep harking back to the old days but, as an admitted reactionary old wotsit, some of the pride I used to take in this country is starting to evaporate.

We've had the Saudi Arabians threatening to pull out of the biggest contract ever let to this country unless Tony Blair somehow put an end to a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into alleged slush funds used to grease the wheels of that particular deal.

And we've had Russian diplomats furious that Mr Blair did not "gag" Mr Litvinenko and somehow suppress the deathbed accusations against Mr Putin's Government.

Not that many years ago - certainly well within my own lifetime - it would have been totally unthinkable for any nation to approach Great Britain with such suggestions or threats. Our reputation for the absolute integrity of our Government and its Civil Service was so great that the nations concerned would not even have thought of these gestures.


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I know there is a lot at stake in the Saudi contract. The first part of the Al Yamama deal signed in 1985 was worth something like £43billion to British Aerospace; the additional deal for 72 Typhoon Eurofighters, signed last year, was probably worth another £10billion. Something like 50,000 jobs hang on the deal. However, I find it somehow degrading that a bunch of MPs are trying to persuade Mr Blair to "lean on" the Attorney General to rein back the SFO.

Similarly, with regard to the Russians, a minister (unnamed, of course) was reported as saying that they were "too important to us to fall out with them over this".

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I find it all a bit depressing, as I say. Mind you, once you have a reputation for flogging peerages and leaning on an Attorney General to get the answer you want about the legality of foreign adventures, I suppose the other nations can be excused for trying it on. Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

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