Lord Avebury, Vice-Chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, writes for Liberal Democrat Voice:
Bernie Ecclestone is an appropriate person to be the public face of Formula 1, a ‘sport’ which is fast becoming known as the event of choice for autocrats who wish to launder their international reputation, as evidenced by the appearance of races in Bahrain and Dubai in recent years.
Ecclestone famously praised Thatcher, Hitler and Saddam a few years ago, saying that he preferred strong leaders, that Hitler was a man who was ‘able to get things done’, and yet paradoxically, that politics ‘is not for me’.
If the race does go ahead this year, it will be the duty of the media to use it as the introduction to a closer scrutiny of Bahrain’s abysmal record on human rights, democracy and the rule of law. They should also look at Britain’s shameful friendship with this former colony of ours. We supplied them with their chief torturer Ian Henderson in the 1990s, and today they are regular buddies with the Queen and the Prime Minister. This doesn’t stack up with our claim to promote the freedoms we enjoy ourselves across the globe.
This is all a matter of indifference to Ecclestone. He reportedly told the Bahraini activist Alaa Shehabi last year that he wouldn’t mind if the race was cancelled, because he had already cashed the check from the Bahraini government. His priority is profit and he evinces no sign of concern about the suffering of those who have to pay the price for it.
Let’s hope that Bahrain will follow in the steps of South Africa, where the Formula 1 races were cancelled in 1985 amid rising international awareness of the moral bankruptcy of the Apartheid regime. Bahrain’s regime is equally discriminatory and corrupt, and deserves the same fate.