When Matthew Hedges was imprisoned and tortured in the UAE, Britain was shamefully slow to act. The reason for this cowardice now seems clear: a web of sinister relationships between ministers, Conservative donors and Gulf allies had left human rights an afterthought.
Hedges’ ordeal showed the human cost of Britain’s craven policy with the UAE. Yet we now learn Foreign Secretary James Cleverly attended lavish weekends with Michael Hintze, a Tory donor, and the UAE ambassador. As Middle East minister at the time, Cleverly was responsible for ties with the UAE—yet he failed to declare these meetings, breaking ministerial rules.
For a government that trumpets “Global Britain” as a defender of values, the UAE relationship is a moral black hole. Security and trade interests have trumped all else, allowing abuses like Hedges’ mistreatment. Ministers have since received UAE gifts, confirming where their loyalties lie.
When Hedges was jailed in 2018, ministers claimed ignorance of his work. Emails show the opposite: the government knew full well, but chose to protect its ally. Hedges’ wife fought tirelessly for his release, as Britain dragged its feet.
The Hintze weekends suggest why. In Boris Johnson’s government, access and influence are there for the buying, accountability and ethics be damned. As Hintze’s millions pad Tory coffers, and Gulf allies provide trade and clout, this government will never challenge them on rights and wrongs.
Cleverly’s failure to declare the meetings fits a pattern: six ministers similarly failed to disclose attending Hintze’s birthday party. The stench of cover-up hangs heavy.
Britain cannot claim moral purpose while its foreign policy is dictated by political donors and tyrants. If ministers wish to show principle, they should start by coming clean about their UAE dealings and Hintze hospitality. An apology and policy change are owed to Hedges.
The government must recognize that true global leadership means defending rights, not only realpolitik. And the Conservatives should ask whether Hintze’s cash and Gulf courtship are worth the reputational price.
Hedges deserved better from his country. Britain must learn that kowtowing to despots will only embolden them and make the world a more dangerous place.
Written by Eagle