Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Weasel words on Lockerbie
I am still reeling from the interview with David Milliband on the Today programme this morning.

Not since Michael Howards notorious Newsnight clash with Paxman in 1997 (when he simply would not give a straight answer to the question 'did you threaten to over-rule Derek Lewis ?' even when asked by Paxman thirteen times) have I heard a politician evade, swerve, obfuscate and ignore a perfectly simple question put by an interviewer.

What Evan Davies was asking was simple enough. In papers released yesterday it became clear that foreign office minister Bill Rammell had told the Libyans that Gordon Brown and Milliband 'did not want to see Al Megrahi die in prison' all he was asking was 'is this true?'

Milliband wriggled and wriggled, he darted this way and that but he would not give a straight answer.

I wonder why?

The statement was lifted from minutes of a meeting between Scottish justice ministers and a Libyan delegation on March 12. These recorded how Abdulate Alobidi, the Libyan minister for Europe, had relayed details of a visit to Tripoli the previous month by Bill Rammell, then a Foreign Office minister, to discuss a Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA).

“Mr Alobidi confirmed that he had reiterated to Mr Rammell that the death of Mr Megrahi in a Scottish prison would have catastrophic effects for the relationship between Libya and the UK,” it stated. “Mr Alobidi went on to say that Mr Rammell had stated that neither the Prime Minister nor the Foreign Secretary would want Mr Megrahi to pass away in prison but the decision on transfer lies in the hands of the Scottish authorities.”

What is abundantly clear is that the Libyans were applying a great deal of pressure over Megrahi - implying that trouble would follow if he died in prison. Clearly the Government were absolutely convinced that this would be a problem and were desperate to get the ailing man home as quickly as possible.

Aside from the accusations of giving way to threats from Libya, general bungling, double dealing and various 'oil for terrorsts' consipracy accusations there is something else that troubles me even more.

This is a Government that has infringed our civil liberties like no other in peacetime. British citizens are routinely being bugged, monitored, investigated and imprisoned without trial -and occasionally tortured abroad, or shot dead on the tube, and all in the name of a 'war on terror'. Yet the one man we have so far managed to catch and prosecute for actually carrying out an international terrorist murder was released after a derisory ten years in prison.

Labour has a lot of form on this. Early release of prisoners has been a constant activity since 1997. No other Government in British history has released as many criminals before their sentence has been completed. No other Goverment has been responsible for unleashing unrepentant violent offenders onto our streets to offend again. No other Government has such a shameful record of releasing murderers and rapists out of custody early who have gone on and murdered and raped again.

This is New Labour. "Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" - but soft as butter on the criminals and terrorists who are responsible.

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