Spot the Difference

13 07 2010

Category: Media, Middle East, Politics

Russian spy Anna Chapman has been speedily deprived of her UK citizenship, but there has been stony silence in relation to the use of false British passports by other members of the Russian spy group.

When it was alleged earlier this year that Israeli agents had used UK passports the reaction was quite different. As the Wall Street Journal noted a few days ago:

At this stage during the Dubai affair in mid-February, the Labour government had already summoned the Israeli ambassador and announced criminal investigations amid furious statements from all political parties. It expelled another Israeli diplomat a month later. The Guardian newspaper ran some 17 articles highlighting the passport accusations.

By contrast, a week into the Russian forgery story, there is not a hint of a diplomatic row between London and Moscow. The Guardian mentioned the fake passport allegations in two articles that lacked the breathless condemnation directed at Israel. The paper’s editorial on the Russian spy-ring ignores the passport angle altogether.

In announcing the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat in March 2010 for “the misuse of British passports”, the then Foreign Secretary David Milliband said:

The Government take this matter extremely seriously. Such misuse of British passports is intolerable…it represents a profound disregard for the sovereignty of the UK… No country or Government could stand by in such a situation.

Don’t we have ‘such a situation’ with the Russians? Apparently not.

Or perhaps the change of Government is the reason. That seems unlikely given that the current Foreign Secretary, then Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague said the following:

I thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement, and for setting out the measures that are to be taken. Let me say at the outset that the Opposition agree with them..we cannot permit cloning of, interference with or misuse of British passports by another state.

We cannot permit misuse‘, unless, it seems, the allegation relates to a country that is not Israel. In which case we permit away.

Or perhaps it’s the moderating force of the Conservatives’ coalition partners the Liberal Democrats? Nope. Their spokesman said in that debate;

It is indeed intolerable that a close ally should treat Britain and British nationals in this way. I fully support the proportionate measures proposed by the Foreign Secretary today.

So what is the explanation for this silence?

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