Carlton-Browne of the FO


A rather anachronistic outbreak of colonialism in the Turks and Caicos Islands, which sounds like a pirate republic but is actually a British colony – or an Overseas Territory, as these more politically correct times would have it – to the south-east of the Bahamas. The Ts and Cs, despite being almost impossible to find on a map, have emerged from a long period of poverty following the collapse of the salt industry to become a popular holiday destination with Americans, who like the lovely weather and the laid-back lifestyle. They are also, as is the case with many small island nations down that neck of the woods, a popular destination for the trans-shipment of drugs.

As is often the case with small nations that come into money all of a sudden, there have been persistent allegations of corruption against the local elected government. Back-handers have been talked about. Members of the islands’ parliament are said to have benefited from dodgy land deals. You may immediately think of the expenses scandal at Westminster, but the two aren’t really comparable. As there are only about a dozen members in the Ts and Cs parliament, it’s really very small beer.

This has not, however, prevented the Brits getting on their high horse about malfeasance in the colonies. Foreign Office minister Chris Bryant has taken time off from posing in his underpants on the internet to dismiss the elected government and impose direct rule from London, via the appointed governor. Happily, the handful of remaining governors in the FCO still get outfitted with goose-feather headgear, so as to lend an appropriately Terry-Thomas air to proceedings.

Needless to say, dismissed chief minister Galmo Williams is not at all amused:

However, Mr Williams told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We have a British governor who’s responsible for good governance; who’s responsible for civil servants.”

This made the British government equally responsible for systemic weaknesses, he said, adding that his administration could have worked alongside the UK to address the problems.

“It’s a very sad day for us in Turks and Caicos to see… that democracy has been taken away from the citizens,” Mr Williams said.

He said his administration had not been given the same opportunities as British politicians, who were being allowed to put right the issues exposed by Parliament’s expenses scandal.

I think Mr Williams is right. If the inhabitants of the Turks and Caicos want to be governed by a bunch of crooks, surely that’s their democratic prerogative. The people of Italy can elect as their prime minister a degenerate spiv with the morals of a rat, and he’ll be welcomed at all the best international summits. And, given all the scandals at Westminster, it’s hardly edifying for Chris Bryant to act as moral arbiter for some black men in the West Indies. Yes, the spirit of the pith helmet lives on.