Comment at end
30th August, 2009
BLAIR IS INNOCENT
OF ANY & ALL BACK-DOOR DEALS
Blair, Brown, Straw and the Scottish (SDP) government. What did they ALL know?
Following today’s Times article – Lockerbie bomber ‘set free for oil’ – and its leaked letters from Jack Straw to the Scottish Justice Minister, we are all at the conspiracy theorising again. And since, like Alex Massie at The Spectator, I can’t see Salmond sitting down to a comfy chat over ANYTHING with the hated British government, we are left with few choices:
1. Megrahi’s release really WAS only on humanitarian grounds.
2. The Scottish government too knew it would benefit Scotland financially from the ‘prisoner for oil’ arrangement.
QUICK BACKGROUND: THE LIBYA CONNECTION
Tony Blair resigned on the 27th June 2007. Since 2003 through largely PERSONAL efforts, he had brought Libya in from the international cold. He had stopped their nuclear ambitions AND had secured hugely important and lucrative commercial deals for Britain. Then came the Lockerbie bombing and the conviction of Megrahi. Blair never ONCE agreed to include Megrahi in any future tit-for-tat arrangement on prisoner release, despite being constantly pressed by the Libyans.
TONY BLAIR’S HANDS ARE CLEAN
On this video interview Tony Blair on CNN explains WHY exactly he did not and could not have had any link with any “arrangement” over Megrahi’s release.
“I did not have the power.” More from Blair here, 22nd August 2009.
One month after Mr Blair left office, July 2007, Jack Straw attempted to hold Blair’ s line on Megrahi’s possible future release NOT being tied to trade agreements. The new SNP government also STRONGLY wanted Megrahi excluded. It may be that his inclusion would have given them a responsibility too many. Straw was not successful with the Libyans.
Six months later, December 2007, fearing the possible collapse of the commercial deals secured by Blair since 2003, Straw capitulated to Libyan demands to include Megrahi in the PTA arrangements. He immediately TOLD the Scottish government that Libya would not agree to his exclusion. (Odd how we have not been reminded of any of this until now, don’t you think?)
Six weeks later, in early 2008, BRITISH PETROLEUM signed a lucrative Libya-oil based deal with the UK government.
CONCLUSION on BLAIR:
All the way through HIS ten years in office Tony Blair NEVER EVER agreed to include Megrahi in any deal of any sort, trade or otherwise.
THAT, Blair’s fair-weather friends, should be remembered by you ALL.
- Secret delegation went batting for British interests in Tripoli
- Revealed: how Shell won the fight for Libyan gas and oil
- When truth about Britain’s dealings with Libya turns out to be a mirage
BROWN’S GOVERNMENT: JACK STRAW’S INPUT
POLITICAL DUCKING AND DIVING
Clearly there has been ducking and diving by all parties involved for ALL sorts of reasons. Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, says that the Scottish Nationalist government wanted a “carve-out” for Megrahi from the prisoner transfer agreement. They did NOT (at that time) want any possibility of his being released under any agreement.
The Libyans would not agree with this exclusion and so Megrahi was not excluded.
Straw says it is all “an absurd argument” because the SNP government has released Megrahi outwith any Prisoner Transfer Agreement and only on “humanitarian” grounds.
On a Radio 4 interview today Jack Straw said that in 2003 “we forced Libya to abandon its nuclear weapons development.” (He may have misremembered. He meant to say – “Blair forced …”) Straw also pointed out that it was always open “at any time” to the SNP government to release Megrahi for their own reasons. Until last week Salmond’s government could have decided either way. According to Straw the whole debate is absurd and “academic because Magrehi was not transferred under PTA.”
CONCLUSION on STRAW
This is politics. Impure and simple.
THE SCOTTISH (NATIONALISTS) CONNECTION
The Prisoner Transfer Agreement, April 2009
Alex Salmond: “The United Kingdom and Libyan Governments ratified a prisoner transfer agreement on Wednesday 29 April 2009.”
[Aside: That’s 29th April 2009. This year. The PTA discussions were clearly set in train by Mr Blair as were Libya’s return to the international community and its dropping of its nuclear arms ambitions. However, two years have passed since Mr Blair left office. Two years to amend the PTA before final acceptance and ratification. In the end the actual wording of the agreement had nothing do with Tony Blair.]
SALMOND continued: “An application for prisoner transfer has now been received from the Libyan authorities on behalf of Mr Al Megrahi. The application will be considered according to the agreement, relevant legislation and the merits of the individual case.
Any decision on the transfer of prisoners who are held in Scotland is for the Scottish ministers. In practice, the CabinetSecretary for Justice makes the decision on any prisoner transfer request. That emphasises our point that, whatever decisions are made elsewhere, our decisions will be made on judicial grounds, not economic or political ones.”
CONCLUSION on SALMOND’S SDP GOVERNMENT’s DECISION
They wanted to play with the big boys. They can expect the rules to be tough. This too is realpolitik, Mr Salmond
The Scottish government’s message:
They are NOT the British government. They are NOT under Westminster’s control. They will decide for their OWN reasons and through their OWN justice system, notwithstanding the British government’s and people’s interests.
That might be worth remembering, all my fellow-Scots still based in Scotland, when Salmond presents you with a referendum on Independence due within the year.
It’s also worth remembering that the SDP were NOT in power in Scotland when Blair started to discuss a PTA with the Libyans, and were possibly never expected to be. In fact they had just come into power a month before Blair left in June 2007 years after he had started to negotiate a PTA with Libya.
The new devolution arrangements since devolution in 1998 were always likely to lead to some confusion over power and authority on international issues.
With an anti-union party in place in Scotland – perhaps we ain’t seen nothing yet!
MORE ON THE STRAW MAN
Today in The Times
The British government decided it was “in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom” to make Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, eligible for return to Libya, leaked ministerial letters reveal.
Gordon Brown’s government made the decision after discussions between Libya and BP over a multi-million-pound oil exploration deal had hit difficulties. These were resolved soon afterwards.
The letters were sent two years ago by Jack Straw, the justice secretary, to Kenny MacAskill, his counterpart in Scotland, who has been widely criticised for taking the formal decision to permit Megrahi’s release.
The correspondence makes it plain that the key decision to include Megrahi in a deal with Libya to allow prisoners to return home was, in fact, taken in London for British national interests.
In a letter dated July 26, 2007, Straw said he favoured an option to leave out Megrahi by stipulating that any prisoners convicted before a specified date would not be considered for transfer.
On December 19, 2007, Straw wrote to MacAskill announcing that the UK government was abandoning its attempt to exclude Megrahi from the prisoner transfer agreement, citing the national interest.
In a letter leaked by a Whitehall source, he wrote: “I had previously accepted the importance of the al-Megrahi issue to Scotland and said I would try to get an exclusion for him on the face of the agreement. I have not been able to secure an explicit exclusion.
BETWEEN A ROCK AND A SOFT PLACE
A couple of points to sum up –
Straw’s and Brown’s inability to finalise Blair’s trade deals without excluding Megrahi from the PTA does NOT in my opinion make Straw or Brown guilty of anything other than of not being Tony Blair. He it was who brought Gaddafi and Libya in from the cold internationally. He it was who got the oil and other commercial deals in the first place. Whether there would have been backtracking on the inclusion of Megrahi if Blair were still Prime Minister in December 2007 we will never know.
Brown may have been invisible again recently, but the Scottish Nationalist government too has been illiberal with the verity. They say they made the decision to free Megrahi NOT on trade/oil/co-operating with the British government grounds, but for humanitarian reasons. They all knew that Straw had failed to carry through on Blair’s refusal to include Megrahi’s release in the PTA. None of this prior knowledge has been mentioned until today. For the SNP they wanted and NEEDED it to be known that they were above all this grubby trade shenanigans. Their holier-than-thou approach was that Scotland was particularly humanitarian (presumably in comparison to the rest of us.)
As a Scot I can tell you this –
We Scots are no more humanitarian than anyone else in this great island or in the western world. In fact the Irish are far more generous charity givers than the Scots pro-rata.
The SNP for all its hand-wringing and whiter-than-white cries is as politically driven as any other political party.
But, for their own reasons, oil to replace Scotland’s offshore diminishing resources perhaps, they are just as ‘grubby’ as any politicians in this world where humanitarian, diplomatic and commercial considerations do not always make comfortable or vote-winning bedfellows.
So if not humanitarian what WERE the real reasons for the Scottish government releasing Megrahi early?
SIMPLER EVEN THAT ALL THE ABOVE?
Perhaps the SNP’s action and the ongoing furore is far more simple than all of this. Could it have been a desire NOT to draw attention to the fact that it was Tony Blair, Salmond’s nemesis, who stood firm for years against keeping Megrahi OUT of a PTA. That admission – that Mr Blair was on the SNP’s ORIGINAL side on this – would today be hard for Salmond to own up to and harder to admit publicly.
Instead did they choose to sell the release of Megrahi as being on humanitarian grounds, insisting that the British government had not interfered and could not interfere with their decision? With this, at least the present British government was happy to concur.
So was it just that Salmond wanted to draw attention away from the fact that on this issue, Mr Blair was and still is the only politician whose position has not moved on prisoner transfer?
Worse still, from Salmond’s angle, given all of the mishandling of the Megrahi release decision, Mr Blair above all others has particularly clean hands. His input was only ever for good. Our trade arrangements with Libya will soon come to fruition and prove their value, as will Libya’s increasing distance from its past threatening position vis-a-vis nuclear weapons.
Thank you Mr Blair.
SICKENING, ISN’T IT, MR SALMOND?
Alan Cochrane at The Telegraph takes some stick from his commenters after telling the conspiracy theorists to cease their mindless prattle, more or less. There you go, Mr Cochrane – you can’t tell ’em. THEY KNOW, y’know.
- Libya/Megrahi/Truth/Chinese Whispers
- From ‘Scots Law News’: Compassion for Megrahi
- Straw: Megrahi inclusion in Libya prisoner deal was ‘in UK interests’
- The Herald: Lockerbie is history. Time to talk business
- Megrahi’s Release
- Gaddafi’s son says “no deal”
- Fox News: Obvious tied to oil
- Sky Report – Gaddafi targetted Megrahi retiurn during Blair talks
- Wikipedia on Megrahi