Newmarket snubs sheikh by blocking town honour

Jim Hardy and Lucy Bannerman
October 4, 2018, The Times

Newmarket snubbed the Dubai ruler over his country’s human-rights record

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum is a man with many titles, not least the ruler of Dubai and vice-president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

One title he will not be enjoying in the immediate future is that of freeman of Newmarket after the town council refused him the honour because of his country’s record on human rights.

Sheikh Mohammed, 69, is one of the most famous faces in British horse racing and is often seen with the Queen and other VIPs at race meetings.

Ollie Bowen, a Labour councillor, said: “Giving the title of freeman of the town is a medieval practice which originally granted select citizens freedom from serfdom. Other medieval practices continue in the UAE, where Sheikh Mohammed is vice-president, including stoning, flogging and the detention of those who criticise authority.”

A motion to award the title was withdrawn before a vote was taken. The council agreed to send a letter thanking Sheikh Mohammed, who has been investing in Newmarket since 1981. Two years ago, he founded the Newmarket Academy Godolphin Beacon Project, which works to improve the education and facilities at Newmarket Academy and will be building their new library this academic year.

Rachel Hood, mayor of the town, said: “The really important thread that I saw at the meeting was the gratitude of our speakers for the investment in Newmarket. Academy students have been able to perform at significantly higher levels thanks to the school’s transformation. We have benefited as a community and recognise that our children have benefited immensely from Sheikh Mohammed’s generosity.”