Wedding guests whose presence shames the nation

Published in The Times (April 28th, 2011)

Tomorrow’s royal wedding is not a state occasion, say Palace officials, just a private event for Wills and Kate. Total nonsense, of course, as is clear from a quick glance at the guest list. Is, for example, Peter Robinson, the dour First Minister of Northern Ireland, really among the happy couple’s 1,900 closest friends? Hard to see him downing crack baby cocktails at Boujis with the best man.

No, the event is a showcase for Britain with invitations drawn up by the Royal Family and vetted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This is why it was a terrible mistake to invite the Crown Prince of Bahrain to join the festivities while his family brutally crush a rebellion. Thankfully, the Queen will be spared the embarrassment of shaking his hand as he has now decided not to attend.

But several others who should not have been sent the gold-embossed invitations will still be there, including Bahrain’s ambassador. So will Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz and Princess Fadwa bint Khalid bin Abdullah bin Abdulrahman of the Saudi Royal Family. The Saudis are supplying the forces of repression in Bahrain, having already exported a medieval form of Islam that oppresses women and homosexuals and gave birth to al-Qaeda.

Then there is the King of Swaziland, the last absolute ruler in Africa, who bans political parties and this month used teargas on democracy campaigners. While his impoverished country endures economic crisis, his Government urges austerity and more than two thirds of his subjects live in poverty, he is reported to be staying at the Dorchester with 50 hangers-on.

The Libyan ambassador was not asked, as Britain is bombing his boss. But human rights activists are disgusted that Gabriel Machinga, President Mugabe’s man in London, was sent an invitation. They want it withdrawn “in a show of solidarity with the suffering people of Zimbabwe”. And North Korea’s ambassador will attend, despite representing the last bastion of Stalinism, where three generations of a family get sent to labour camps in reprisal for dissent, and where there is state-induced starvation. What they would give for a slice of Wills’s wedding cake.

The guests also include a close friend of the Prince of Wales, named Joe Allbritton. He was chief executive of a bank revealed by a US Senate investigation to have had illegal dealings with some of the world’s vilest despots, including General Augusto Pinochet, whose Chilean regime killed thousands of political opponents.

The focus tomorrow will be on the bride and groom, but all these representatives of repression will be lurking in the pews. Their presence does our nation no favours.

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