Libya and lying about “The Scottish decision”

Sending Mr al-Megrahi home to Libya has produced one of the most interesting muddles and mysteries of our time. I don’t think we can trust anyone in authority to tell us what they really think. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I produced a letter on this which the FT were good enough to run, letters, 28 August 2009.

What I love about the issue is that it brings every kind of motivation into play. The Scots Nats apparently hate London’s New Labour machine. So did that influence their decision? Apparently the decision would always have been a Scottish one, even before devolution. But has devolution added a dimension to London’s pain (if any) at the compassionate release of Mr al-Megrahi? What does Gordon Brown or Jack Straw or Ed Milliband really think about any of this? Is oil the only really big issue, or is Libya’s approach to terrorism also very important? Which government – Scottish, UK or US – stood to suffer most if Mr al-Megrahi’s appeal had gone ahead? Isn’t it delicious that we have no real idea how to unravel the complicated and conflicted reactions all the players must have?

As I told Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show (on Tuesday, 1 September 2009), I don’t think it matters that we are not necessarily being told the truth. A Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman said that my view was quite wrong and that British people had died for the right to be told the truth. I only slightly agree. I think they died for the right to democratically elect the politicians whom we sometimes require to lie to foreigners and even to ourselves.

Of course, in the end – after 10, 20 or 30 years – everything ought to come out. Interestingly, in our new age of transparency and accountability I imagine much of what really matters will be kept totally privvy, never to be disclosed. After all, we’re getting to the point where anything in writing may be demanded, leaked, stolen, or mislaid.

We can expect to be misled now by politicians who know that the public is more and more cynical but less and less robust. It’s almost as though we insist they deceive us.

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Publication date

02 September 2009