The focus in the past week or two has, not surprisingly, been on the drama unfolding in domestic politics and in the National Party in particular.

Human frailties have of course been the dominant theme of that saga but we should not lose sight of the significant issues of policy and principle revealed at the same time. The secret influence of private money in our democracy is after all a matter of substantial concern and poses a threat to a properly functioning democracy.

And, while all this has been going on at home, we should not fail to register that some major, and worrying, developments have also occurred overseas.

Perhaps the most disturbing of those has been the fate of the Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. He was resident in the United States and wrote for the Washington Post - but he was also a trenchant critic of the Saudi government and royal family (the two are hard to distinguish from each other).


He was filmed some days ago entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where he had gone to have his divorce papers finalised so he could re-marry. He was not seen again - though what appears to have been a "body double" (no doubt in an attempt to mislead) was filmed leaving the consulate.

The Saudi government now admits - having earlier denied all knowledge of the affair - that he was killed (they say in a fist fight), though quite why a posse of at least 15 Saudi officials, including the Crown Prince's bodyguard, was seen to enter the consulate is not explained.

Recordings presumably made secretly by the Turkish authorities apparently reveal that Khashoggi was assaulted, tortured and then dismembered while still alive; his dismembered body was then removed and disposed of, possibly buried in a nearby forest.

The international community is, not surprisingly, appalled at such barbarity and at the repression practised by the Saudi regime. Many countries, including Britain, France and Germany, have expressed their shock and displeasure - but the United States has not joined them.

President Trump has, on the contrary, emphasised the value of Saudi Arabia as a trading partner - they buy $450 million worth of "things" he says - and they are allies in his vendetta against Iran. The US President has thereby signalled to the Saudi regime (and to all those "strong men" - Vladimir Putin of Russia, Kim Jong Un of North Korea, Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines - whom he seems to admire so much) that they can murder and torture as much as they like without any censure from the United States.

Nothing more clearly demonstrates the American willingness, under President Trump, to give up any claim to moral leadership of what used to be called the "free world".

The Americans and Trump are at the centre of another international crisis. A huge army of the poor and dispossessed from Honduras and Guatemala has assembled and is walking through Mexico on its way to the US border in an attempt to secure admission as refugees and migrants.

Everyone can see that this poses a threat to American immigration policy and that it must somehow be dealt with. The suspicion is growing, however, that the march is welcomed by Trump since it will arrive just before the mid-term Congressional elections. The public anxiety that it arouses may well allow the Republicans to do well enough to retain control of Congress, which would mean that any attempt to impeach or otherwise remove President Trump would be frustrated.


The extent to which immigration and the fortunes of the Trump presidency are intertwined can be seen in an apparently minor administrative detail. The American census form, it seems, requires those completing it to declare their citizenship. Many members of immigrant communities are naturally reluctant to complete the form for fear that it will be used against them. The views and interests of those immigrants will accordingly be understated, and can more easily be ignored by the Trump administration.

Against an international backdrop with these complexities, our own political missteps seem comparatively minor. And our Government seems to have a good feel for when to get involved, whether in domestic or international controversy, and when to stay clear.