A surprisingly large turn-out last night for the launch of the Conservative Friends of Russia, given the recent ‘Pussy Riot’ trial mess. A notable absence from the Kremlin ambassador’s garden was Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the group’s Hon. President. There was also a distinct absence of parliamentarians.
Lumbering up to the plate was John Wittingdale, whose proclaimed love of the motherland goes beyond his Russian girlfriend. The Chairman of the Culture Select Committee has been known to be close to the country for years and extolled his love of Russian literature to the two hundred strong crowd.
He mentioned the latest Putin controversy and did indeed declare himself a music fan. A barely audible nod to disagreements was ruined by an acceptance of ‘dialogue being key’ and ‘no doubt Russian criticisms of us’. Mr Steerpike wonders whether that extends to jailing the sort of bands for which Mr Wittingdale’s committee argue for more funding. As the vodka flowed, a diplomatic exit was pursued. The group’s new organisers argued that they will be opening up relations with the Russian people as well as the government, but the proof of that pudding remains to be seen.