UK Politics

Bahrain Grand Prix should not go ahead, says Ed Miliband

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Media captionLabour leader Ed Miliband: "Given the violence we've seen... I don't think the Grand Prix should go ahead"

Labour leader Ed Miliband has said the Grand Prix in Bahrain should not go ahead, amid continuing protests against the government.

He said the race should be stopped due to "human rights abuses" and urged the government to "make its view clear".

Amnesty International says Bahrain faces a "human rights crisis".

Prime Minister David Cameron said peaceful protests should be allowed - but reform had begun in Bahrain and it was a matter for Formula 1.

Mr Miliband's intervention comes after his shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, called on British Formula 1 drivers such as Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton to boycott Sunday's race.

'Weigh in'

The Labour leader told journalists the government could "weigh in and express its view" to put pressure on Formula 1 to stop the race going ahead.

"Given the violence we have seen in Bahrain, given the human rights abuses, I don't believe the Grand Prix should go ahead and I hope that the government will make its view clear and say the same."

Image caption Unrest on the island forced the cancellation of the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix

But Prime Minister David Cameron said: "It's a matter for Formula 1, but let me be clear, we always stand up for human rights and it's important that peaceful protests are allowed to go ahead.

"But I think we should be clear that Bahrain is not Syria, there is a process of reform underway and this government backs that reform and wants to help promote that reform."

'Blood on tracks'

However, Liberal Democrat president Tim Farron echoed calls for the race to be stopped, saying "it endorses and legitimises the regime".

And Respect MP George Galloway said: "There is blood on the tracks and anyone who drives over them will never be forgiven."

Image caption Protesters plan three 'days of rage' to disrupt the Bahrain Grand Prix

Protests against the government have been going on for more than a year.

This week Bahraini security forces fired stun grenades at protesters in the capital Manama, 25 miles away from the race circuit.

Last year's race was cancelled after 35 people were killed during demonstrations.

On Wednesday, members of one team, Force India, were caught up in clashes between protesters and security forces. The four mechanics had to flee when petrol bombs were thrown near their car.

British Formula 1 fans travelling to Bahrain are being urged by the Foreign Office to "maintain particular vigilance".

The race is due to be broadcast on the BBC's Radio 5live. Station controller Adrian Van Klaveren said: "We are committed to bringing our listeners the fullest possible coverage of events in Bahrain this weekend.

"We will cover all of the news stories surrounding the Grand Prix - as well as the race itself - and we will reflect the broadest range of opinions to give our listeners the best possible understanding of the story."

But shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter, who chairs the all party parliamentary group for democracy in Bahrain, told BBC 5live he would be "very pleased if the BBC pulled out" of covering the race.

"Organisations like the BBC are giving legitimacy to the al-Khalifa regime, which is... a dictatorial regime, which is killing many of its own citizens," Mr Slaughter said.

McLaren driver Jensen Button told an interviewer he would not talk about the controversy surrounding the event.

"I'm not going to get into the details of it. You are here interviewing me as a driver and that's exactly what I am going to talk about - motor racing," he said. "The outside issues, I'm not going to talk about."

Seventeen MPs have signed a House of Commons motion calling for the race to be cancelled, saying it will be "used by the Bahrain government as an endorsement of its policies of suppression of dissent".

The early day motion, put forward by Labour's Jeremy Corbyn, has been backed by Conservative MP Peter Bottomley and Lib Dem Stephen Williams among others.

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