Sunday, 23 August 2009
So the UK Government did pressure the Scots to release Megrahi after all, according to the Sunday Times. Once Mandelson starts denying something, you know there's a story.
Some choice quotes:
Ivan Lewis, the Foreign Office minister responsible for Libya, is said to have written to the Scottish government, encouraging officials to send home Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi. The Sunday Times has discovered that less than three weeks before Megrahi was freed, Lewis wrote to MacAskill that there was no legal reason not to accede to Libya’s request to transfer Megrahi into its custody under the terms of a treaty agreed between Tony Blair and Colonel Gadaffi, the Libyan leader, in 2007. A UK government source who saw the letter said Lewis added: “I hope on this basis you will now feel able to consider the Libyan application in accordance with the provisions of the prisoner transfer agreement.” The Scottish government interpreted it as an attempt to influence MacAskill’s decision. A source close to MacAskill said: “That clearly means, ‘I hope on this basis you will feel able to approve the Libyan application’. That’s the only conclusion you can take from it.”
That's the only conclusion I would draw. And it's pretty obvious that, for all his canny manoeuvring on independence issues, Salmond wouldn't allow a big decision like this to be taken without the implicit approval of the UK government.
Yesterday Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, denied any deal between Brown and Gadaffi to free Megrahi. “It’s not only completely wrong to make such a suggestion, it’s also quite offensive,” he said.
Ah yes, 'offensive'. A word usually used in these situations by those embarrassed by the position they are required to adopt. So a complete and categorial denial by Mandelson, then. Someone's lying, and since Mandelson is involved, my money is on him.
The Foreign Office also denied a claim by Saif [Gadaffi's son] that Megrahi’s freedom was linked to a trade deal and a claim from his father that Brown had “encouraged” the release.
A denial by an unnamed source is as near to an admission as you could wish for.
Brown has so far been silent on Megrahi.
Well, of course. As usual, Brown is nowhere to be seen. "It wasnae me!" "Another boy did it and ran away!"
There's a lot more to this than meets the eye. For Britain to risk offending the US by the action of releasing Megrahi suggests that there are huge interests at stake. After all, we got ourselves into an unjust and illegal war in Iraq (probably the most catastrophic foreign policy mistake since the Suez Crisis) just so that Tony Blair could keep his 'special relationship' with Bush. There's something big (and probably very boring, trade relations or whatever) behind this. Making the decision appear to come from some Scottish politician that no-one outside Scotland has ever heard of has all the hallmarks of 'deniability', and gives the UK government some wiggle room, but I'm convinced there is a lot more to come out of this yet. But two things are clearly evident:
1. Brown, yet again, hiding in the woods when some leadership is required, and
2. The British public being lied to, yet again, by their employees.