In a post in October I noticed
This month’s government adjustments to things like local authority’s discretion in procurement and investments (that is - the outlawing of local authority’s previous ability to chose to avoid contracts or investments on ethical grounds - those who are involved in anything from the arms trade to settlements in Palestine are the cited examples) is fundamentally disabling; reminding people about the impact of boycotts of South African goods in the past doesn’t make any difference... [and] this month’s admission to the Common’s Foreign Affairs Committee by the Foreign Office's Permanent Secretary that increasing exports (our economic well being) is now a greater priority and that protecting human rights (the tackling of global injustice) has less of the ‘profile it did in the past’ is equally disabling; holding up a placard saying ‘Not in my name’ hardly makes a difference either.
Three quite different things in the last week pull this picture into sharp focus.
The first is the striking fact that the government’s further announcements about local authority’s liability if they pursue ethical procurement and investment policies was made not just in London but also in Tel Aviv. A general government point is that ‘there is only one government foreign policy and local authorities should not be promoting alternative foreign policies’ – but the choice of venue for the announcement appears to say very specifically this is about supporting a particular military ally in its opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and in promoting the economic well being of the colonies it continues to establish in the territories it occupies. The Prime Minister had, of course, already spoken out against BDS when invited to address the Knesset a couple of year's ago.
The second is the reminder, from newly released thirty-year old government papers, of just how little sympathy earlier Conservative government did actually have for the campaign to boycott South African goods and sport. When the Prime Minister was told about her Foreign Secretary that ‘in Sir Geoffrey’s view the problem is that, because of our vigorous and persistent public opposition to comprehensive economic sanctions, many Commonwealth leaders now see us as the main defender of the South African government and of apartheid’ the words ‘bury this’ were written on the note.
The third is the intention to forbid charities which receive government grants from using such money to criticise or campaign against government policy. A general government point is that ‘it is absurd for government to pay for lobbying against government’ – but no allowance is apparently to be made for the fact that those who deliver government financed work might want to reflect back the impact they see that delivery having or the ways in which they find regulations unhelpfully restrict such delivery.
Sharply in focus is a situation in which our government does not just want to promote and follow through its own increasingly explicitly non-ethically based policy but wants to restrict any ethically-based publically funded alternative voices and actions. I can’t see why they should think that is so self-evidently an obviously straight forward and sensible thing to do.
The picture was taken this week in St Michael’s (obviously not by me having still not been able to retrieve my camera’s memory card from the inner workings of my computer, although a new memory card is now to hand) but by Hugh Winfield (North East Lincolnshire Regeneration Partnership’s Archaeologist); the head is so tucked away in one corner of the Lady Chapel that I’ve never been able to get a decent picture of it myself.