Sarah Olney: Theresa May’s visit to Turkey betrays our liberal values

Sarah Olney has written a blistering article in the Guardian, attacking the Prime Minister for betraying our liberal values instead of safeguarding our trading relationship with the democracies on our doorstep.


Fresh from her meeting in Washington with a man who has extolled the effectiveness of torture, admitted sexually assaulting women and who thinks building walls between nations is a good idea, our Prime Minister heads today (26th January, 2017) to meet the leader of a so-called democracy where human rights mean nothing and journalists are imprisoned.

This tawdry tour shames Britain. This is a defining period on the international stage and we must consider to what extent this new course is safeguarding both our interests and values around the world.

"In an age of “alternative facts”, there is no doubt about the realities of the Erdoğan regime. Even before last July’s failed coup, Erdoğan had begun systematically dismantling Turkey’s democratic institutions. Since the coup, he has embraced full-frontal authoritarianism. He is not only locking up journalists, but teachers, professors and policemen – all without due process. Not quite the outfit you’d have in mind for a regime described yesterday as an “indispensable partner” by Theresa May.

Indeed, turn the clock back eight months and our now foreign secretary was slating the Turkish president. Yet Boris Johnson has fallen unusually silent – refusing to call Erdoğan out on his shocking crimes. There is a pattern here: ministers pursuing business deals on the international stage at odds with Britain’s best traditions and values.

The Tories are ignoring breaches of international humanitarian law in Yemen for an arms and trade deal with Saudi Arabia. May is cosying up to an American president who not so long ago she was criticising for his anti-Muslim diatribes. Far from defending liberal values, the Conservatives are happy to sell them to the highest bidder, or indeed any bidder."

Her analysis of the government is spot on.

"This is not a strong, confident government, it is a shifty, grubby regime, tin-eared to the views of our friends and brainwashed by the Ukip world view. Is this really what people imagined of life outside the EU? Whether you were leave or remain, it should be deeply troubling to see ministers pursue a strategy both damaging to our economic interests and undermining of our best and most cherished values.

That is why Liberal Democrats will not simply fall behind the government in pursuing a hard Brexit. Unlike Labour, we will vote against article 50 if the people are not given a say on the final deal. Nor will we turn our backs on our friends in Europe at the expense of strongmen with weak principles around the world."

She concludes with a call for all those who believe in liberal, progressive values to rally to protect them.

You can read Sarah's whole article here.

* Originally posted in LibDem Voice Newshound here