On this week’s episode of The Spectator Podcast, we look at the new Saudi Crown Prince as he visits the UK. Is he the great moderniser that some imagine, or are we sweeping the more unpleasant elements of his regime under the carpet? We also consider the many strands of Labour’s Brexit position, and look at a rocky week for British sport.
First, Mohammed bin Salman, known to some as MBS, is making his first trip to the UK this week since assuming the role of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince last year. He has been heralded by some as the radical modernising force that the country has been calling for, whilst others are concerned about lack of counsel and the ruthlessness of his course. What’s the truth? In the magazine this week, Christopher de Bellaigue urges caution when it comes to the prince’s PR machine, while John R. Bradley is more hopeful about MBS’s reforms. Christopher joins the podcast along with Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia. As Christopher writes:
“This week, Mohammad bin Salman, also known as MBS, is on his not-quite-state visit to Britain. A parade down the Mall and a state banquet could only be afforded to his father, old King Salman, who made MBS crown prince last June and has given him unprecedented latitude to liberalise Saudi society, lock up his enemies and light fireworks abroad. MBS arrived in London on Wednesday fresh from visiting one friend, Egypt’s General Sisi, and will go on to see another, Donald Trump, on 19 March. Theresa May’s aim will be to show that Britain can thrive outside the EU, but she should think twice before co-opting this new strongman who reputedly encourages his courtiers to call him Iskander — the name by which Middle Easterners know Alexander the Great.”
Next, one of the great mysteries of British politics over the past year and a half has been the exact position that Labour is taking on Brexit.