Dalai Lama lunch off the menu as 'Number 10 feared Chinese backlash'

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The Dalai Lama visits Blair Castle in Perthshire during his two-day tour of Scotland in June. Photo: PA Wire

There's an interesting story in today's Telegraph which claims that a leaked letter from two MPs reveals that Number 10 put pressure on them to pull out of a lunch with the Dalai Lama at short notice earlier this year.

The story in the Telegraph is based on a letter leaked to the Channel 4 'Dispatches' programme:

The ministers – Tim Loughton (the MP for East Worthing and Shoreham) and Norman Baker (MP for Lewes) – were barred from attending a private lunch with the Tibetan spiritual leader in the apartment of the House of Commons Speaker John Bercow minutes before it was due to start.

The pair then wrote to the Prime Minister to protest after the “deeply embarrassing” incident in June this year, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Channel Four Dispatches programme.

– The Daily Telegraph

In June this year the G20 was meeting in Mexico and David Cameron was among EU leaders hoping for a Chinese injection of £27 billion into the IMF, to provide a fighting fund for the failing southern European economies.

The PM's apparent concern was that any meeting between his MPs and the Dalai Lama could potentially derail talks over the Chinese cash for the IMF. He had reason to worry as Beijing had blasted the UK just a month before over Mr Cameron's own meeting with the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama has made two visits to the UK this year. Back in May the Tibetan spiritual leader met David Cameron and Nick Clegg, but even though a conscious decision was taken not to meet with him at Number 10 Downing Street, the Chinese were still furious.

At the time an Chinese official spokesman said the UK should "stop conniving and supporting separatists", ministerial meetings were suspended and the UK Ambassador Sebastian Wood was summoned to the Chinese Foreign Ministry for a telling off.

Today's leaked letter appears to give us an insight into just how worried Number 10 was about upsetting the Chinese again.