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David Cameron's big Egyptian gesture

Tim Montgomerie

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Paul has already written about the Prime Minister's "stop" in Egypt and he raises some important questions about the serious difficulties that lie ahead. I want to be more hopeful, however. Whatever the difficulties I admire the big gesture. The chutzpah. Cameron meeting the country's new leaders and pro-democracy protestors is such a contrast with the photographs of Blair and Brown meeting the man they kow-towed to, Libya's Gaddafi.

As Con Coughlin has blogged, Cameron hasn't waited for America or the EU to get to Cairo first. He's got on the front foot and demonstrated solidarity with the pro-democracy groups. Quite rightly he is meeting the interim military leaders, too, but is avoiding the Muslim Brotherhood.

Cameron commented:

“This is a great opportunity for us to go and talk to those currently running Egypt to make sure this really is a genuine transition from military rule to civilian rule and see what friendly countries like Britain and others in Europe can do to help.”

What next?

ROGERS Ben 2 Britain needs to put pro-democracy and pro-human rights movements at the heart of its foreign policy. Ben Rogers of the Conservative Party's Human Rights Commission comments:

"As the Prime Minister said at Davos, and as he and the Foreign Secretary have said many times, it is absolutely in our own national interest to support freedom, democracy and basic human rights around the world. Dictators do not make reliable partners - they sow instability, reek of corruption, and preside over poverty and suffering. Many of the world's worst humanitarian crises are caused by oppressive regimes who create conflict and do nothing to help their people. Terrorism is often either fostered or assisted by dictators. In an inter-connected global economy, Conservatives, for whom the freedom of the individual is a core value, must be champions of liberty. It is in our own interests to be consistent with our values."

I agree with every word of that. It's not a question of propping up dictators or siding with democracy movements. The future lies with popular movements. George W Bush was right but just a little ahead of time. Britain needs to invest in hi-tech initiatives of the kind supported by Hillary Clinton last week - that will give protest movements internet access when hideous regimes attempt to block it. We must also consider whether we should be selling arms to totalitarian regimes. For a long time I've thought "no".

I think we need to be careful about calls for a new Marshall Plan. Many of these countries are quite prosperous. I've just been speaking to Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, who is heading to Brussels for a meeting of his European counterparts. He says that these countries mainly need "Know How" (technical assistance) and the EU's Neighbourhood Fund for south-facing countries, including Libya and Egypt, is well resourced enough.

> James Forsyth is thinking similarly over at Coffee House; saluting David Cameron's "Garibaldi moment".

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