We’re better off with Hamas in Qatar, than out

The news that Qatar is ‘re-evaluating’ its role as mediator in the ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas, amid claims by the Qatari Prime Minister that its efforts are being ‘misused for narrow political interests’, will have been met with consternation in many western and Middle Eastern capitals. Qatar’s potential withdrawal comes at a time when talks to secure a truce and the release of the hostages still being held in Gaza have stalled. A ground assault into the final Hamas stronghold of Rafah looks likely to be the next chapter in a gruelling war.  The threat is most likely a negotiating ploy to force progress in the talks Should Qatar cease its

Joe Lycett and the trouble with wokescreening

The word ‘wokescreen’ is (like its naughty older sibling, the carelessly carbon-producing smokescreen), an alibi which hides the truth about a nefarious action. But what marks it out from old-fashioned hypocrisy is that – rather than being a mere rogue – the wokescreener poses as a social justice hero, looking down from a great height at the great unwoked. From the Sussexes’ private planes to Justin Trudeau’s blackface antics, the wokescreen is a fine example of modern Magical Thinking – if you identify as good, you can then be bad to your sanctimonious little heart’s content. A prime example is the comedian Joe Lycett who – having condemned David Beckham

Qatargate and the dubious moral authority of NGOs 

The Qatargate scandal haunting the European Union is not merely about corrupt politicians and officials. The deplorable role of a non-governmental organisation is at the heart of the scandal, which highlights the interlocking of NGOs and EU parliamentarians and decision makers. The most interesting feature of the corruption scandal surrounding the detention of the EU parliament’s vice-president Eva Kaili and politicians and EU apparatchiks is their connection to a supposedly squeaky-clean NGO called Fight Impunity. The current president of the organisation is Pier Antonio Panzeri, 67, a former Italian leftist MEP. He was arrested after €600,000 in bank notes was found in his house in Brussels. He and his wife and daughter are alleged to have received bribes from a Moroccan diplomat. Even more interesting is the revelation that

The curse of Belo Horizonte

When England play the USA this evening in Al Khor, Qatar, it will be the twelfth time the two sides have met. England have had the upper hand in most of the previous 11, winning eight and recording scores as comfortable as 10-0, 8-1, 6-3 and 5-0. We easily beat them 3-0 at Wembley just three years ago.  And after their respective opening games in this tournament – England thumping Iran 6-2 in their best-ever start to a World Cup, the USA nervy and stuttering by the end of a 1-1 draw with Wales – most neutrals would expect nothing other than a routine win for England. The bookies make England

It’s a lonely life for Wags

As ocean-going metaphors go, the news that a £1 billion cruise liner (usually charging £2,434.80 – love that 80! – for a nine-night jaunt, complete with a shopping mall, 14 jacuzzis, six swimming pools and the longest ‘dry-slide’ at sea) will host England’s Wags during the World Cup in Qatar could not have been more splashy.  This is a particularly bad time for football. The England players are off to Qatar, along with LGBT-friendly football personalities – led by ‘gay icon’ David Beckham – to shill for a country where migrant workers are treated like chattels, women are treated like children and homosexuals are treated like criminals.  Like many greedy charlatans, Premier League footballers appear to

How Prince Charles’s €1m bagman infiltrated the British establishment

The Queen rarely – if ever – accepts invitations to dinner at private houses, no matter how grand. But in the summer of 2014 the oil and gas rich Gulf state of Qatar became the first ‘official partner’ of Royal Ascot and secured branding rights for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II stakes. The Qataris also agreed to pay for the upkeep of the Castle of Mey which is owned by the royal family. And so breaking with tradition the Queen accepted a dinner invitation and joined the ruling family of Qatar and assorted guests. The Qataris had just spent an estimated £75 million on their London mansion at Dudley

Petrol states splash the cash for MPs

Boris Johnson is out in Saudi Arabia, urging Mohammed bin Salman to turn on the oil taps again. But the Prime Minister isn’t the only politician who’s been able to sample the delights of the Middle East this year. No less than nine of his parliamentary colleagues jetted out to the region last month, running up a total bill of more than £44,000 in flights and hospitality to Qatar and the UAE. The Qatar push is especially interesting, given the forthcoming World Cup scheduled to be held there. Some £15,460 was spent in February on flying four MPs including former Defence Secretary Sir Gavin Williamson out to the tiny Gulf state. Indeed Qatar’s lobbying efforts

Qatar’s World Cup lobbying operation

Lobbying was a persistent theme of 2021 as first David Cameron and then Owen Paterson found themselves embroiled in various scandals over their paid activities. So it was with some trepidation that Mr S examined the first register of All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) of 2022. These informal cross-party organisations have been involved in all sorts of shenanigans over the years. What have they been up to in recent months? A close inspection revealed some interesting gems. Theresa May’s office is bankrolling the ‘First Do No Harm’ campaign, being the sole donor of some £20,000 towards the APPG’s efforts on securing safer medical devices for women in pregnancy. British American Tobacco is

The burden of being a Newcastle United fan

The second thing I learned about football, after moving to London, is that you can never, ever switch your allegiance. That was unfortunate, because the first thing I discovered was that I liked Newcastle United and had already chosen them as my team. It’s been fairly relentless pain ever since. In 2016, I watched Newcastle get relegated. They bounced back to the Premier League the next season, but it’s been utter mediocrity ever since. I’ve followed them from stadium to stadium, unwavering in my support, cheering on often extremely boring and disappointing football. I like the idea of loyalty in sports; to ditch a team because they depress you would

The folly of American imperialism

Gstaad Mercedes Benz heir Mick Flick and I have been friends for more than half a century. We both married Schoenburgs, both like the odd drink, both adore the fair sex, and we are now both candidates for a visit from the man in the white suit, yours truly first in line. Mick gave a wonderful dinner the other evening for around 30 of us. It was in his upper chalet, the one that’s half art gallery and half live-in space. He also has a lower chalet for his two sons and daughter. The dinner was seated and the wine was Latour. I think I had two bottles before the

Will England pull out of the World Cup?

I wonder if the moral guardians of our country — the England football team — intend to participate in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar? Most of the players are currently kicking their heels (and presumably missing) in such places as the Turks and Caicos Islands, so they have plenty of time for rumination. Having become, in the words of their manager, a ‘beacon of light’ within a country of savages and bigots, it will be interesting to see if their moral stance extends to boycotting a tournament which is to be held in a totalitarian slave state that outlaws homosexuality and isn’t entirely up to speed on the issue

How does ‘taking the knee’ help Qatar’s World Cup slaves?

What was going through the minds of England players as they took the knee, yet again, prior to their victory over Poland in their 2022 World Cup qualifier at Wembley last week? George Floyd? Racism in sport? Nothing in particular?  We’ll never know. But it seems unlikely they were thinking too hard about the destination where, if their good form holds, they will be representing their country next winter: the tiny gulf state of Qatar. If they had, they might have spared a thought, and perhaps a gesture, for the 6,500 migrant workers estimated to have died since Qatar won the right to host next year’s tournament. The issue of migrant worker

High life | 10 May 2018

New York Talk about high life this is not. I smelled a rat long ago, but then the scent got weaker and weaker. Now it’s back — and stronger than ever. I’m talking here, of course, about the Saudis, the Qataris and the son-in-law who has also risen, Jared Kushner. Almost a year ago the Saudis issued an ultimatum to Qatar to meet its list of demands or face a blockade by Saudi-allied countries in the Gulf. All sorts of accusations were made and the Qataris were given 24 hours to comply. While the 300,000 Qatari citizens froze en masse, the couple of million non-Qatari migrant workers went about their

Morally bankrupt sport fans will forgive any abuse

The death of Zac Cox is more than a horrible industrial action but a metaphor for modern sport: the scale of its corruption and the readiness of  its fans to tolerate the intolerable as long as we are entertained. Mr Cox was 40 and working on a World Cup stadium in Qatar when a catwalk collapsed underneath him. He fell 130 ft and didn’t stand a chance. To the authorities he was a nobody, and his death was an embarrassing inconvenience. A report into the accident was completed within 11 days, but the firms building the stadium did not pass it on to his family in Britain. One of the

In defence of Neymar’s transfer fee

A season ticket at the Parc des Princes, home to Paris Saint-Germain, will set you back somewhere between £336 and £2,116, with individual tickets ranging from £25 to over £100, depending on how good your eyesight is. But this is a small price to pay in order to watch footballing luminaries like Edinson Cavani, Ángel di María and Dani Alves light up a league that has long been the sickly cousin of the European superpowers. Indeed, if you’re a PSG fan, this cost will be nothing compared to the phenomenal resurrection, started in 2011, of a European superpower that appeared to be in terminal decline. PSG are on the verge

Qatar can thank Donald Trump for its current woes

The deadline imposed on Qatar to agree to the demands made by the Saudi-led Sunni coalition has passed without Doha caving in. This was to be expected — the main stipulations, among the 13 made, had no chance of being accepted. The deadline has now been extended by 48 hours and the Kuwaitis are trying to mediate. The Saudis and their cohort meanwhile are threatening more sanctions against Doha and possibly even extending  them to countries which continue to trade with Qatar. Qatar may also be expelled from the Gulf Cooperation Council. There is, for the time being, no threat of military action. To recap: Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt

High life | 29 June 2017

A major Greek ship owner, whose political knowledge matches his wealth and business acumen, explained to me what the Qatar brouhaha is all about. My friend Peter had the foresight to invest in liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers, among the most expensive of ships to build but big-time money-makers. Why is it that it takes a major ship owner to tell us what’s really going on? Forget the bull put out by American hacks, whose minds no longer seem to function — at least since Trump’s triumph last November. Here goes: we sat on my terrace in Gstaad under the stars, watched the mountains turn from grey to dark blue,

Let’s have a dose of business sense in Downing Street before it’s too late

Take no notice of the resilience of the FTSE100 index, which, having reached record pre-election highs, shed barely 100 points at its opening last Friday and recovered most of them by Monday. Dominated by multinational companies, it is being sustained by global market sentiment and the relative weakness of the pound, which makes our blue chips look good value; it is not offering a signal that investors think all is well. But do take notice of the Institute of Directors, speaking largely for mid-sized businesses, when it says that confidence among its members has crashed since polling day: from 34 per cent optimistic vs 37 per cent gloomy last month,

Portrait of the week | 15 June 2017

Home Theresa May, the Prime Minister, spent the week confronting the consequences of the general election that she had called to bring ‘stability and certainty for the future’. It had instead surprisingly left the Conservatives with no overall majority. They won 318 seats (a loss of 13) and Labour 262 (a gain of 30). The Scottish National Party won 35 (a loss of 21), with the Conservatives gaining 12 extra seats in Scotland, even capturing Stirling. Labour won an extra five seats in Scotland. Angus Robertson, the SNP leader at Westminster, lost his seat, as did Alex Salmond. Nick Clegg, the former Lib-Dem leader, lost his seat, but Sir Vince Cable won

Portrait of the week | 8 June 2017

Home Eight people were killed and 48 taken to hospital when three men, in a hire van travelling south shortly after 10 p.m. on Saturday, ran into pedestrians on London Bridge, then jumped out with knives and attacked people in pubs and restaurants around Borough Market. A policeman tackled one of the knifemen with a truncheon and was wounded. At 10.16 p.m., police firing 46 shots killed the men, who were wearing fake explosive vests with visible canisters. A bystander was wounded in the head by a police bullet. Police led people to safety and cleared a wide area. The Islamic State said it was behind the attack. Police named