Lib Dems step up pressure on Brown over Lockerbie comments silence

by Stephen Tall on August 25, 2009

Gordon Brown has, after five days’ silence, commented on the Scottish government’s decision to release on compassionate grounds Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of involvement in the Lockerbie bombing. Mr Brown said he was “repulsed” by the welcome Mr al-Megrahi received on his arrival home.

Ed Davey, the Lib Dems’ shadow foreign secretary, is unimpressed:

Gordon Brown’s comments on Lockerbie are a masterclass in evasion. When a decision is made by another politician, and has such grave international consequences, the Prime Minister’s refusal to say whether or not he supports it almost amounts to negligence.

“It is hard to see why he can’t tell us what he thinks of the decision to release a man who has been convicted of the worst terrorist attack in British history. As long as Gordon Brown remains silent on this issue, people will suspect he has something to hide.”

This appears to be yet another example of Mr Brown’s tin-ear for communication. It strikes me the Prime Minister had two choices, both of which are (to my mind) equally valid.

He could say Mr al-Megrahi’s release was a quasi-judicial decision devolved to the Scottish executive, and that it would be inappropriate for him to comment. Or he could say he respected the Scottish executive’s decision, recognised it was a hard choice, and that he agreed/disagreed with it. The one thing he needed to do was to choose one of those options promptly.

As it is, Mr al-Megrahi’s release has become a process story about the Prime Minister’s inability to communicate or to lead. He has only himself to blame.

Incidentally, the Lib Dems have just issued a press release noting that Mr Brown is not normally so shy in giving his views on decisions made by the Scottish government. In March 2008 in a speech to the Scottish Labour party conference, Mr Brown claimed the SNP would put youngsters’ futures at risk through cuts in education spending. And at the 2009 conference he called on Labour to “work each day to expose the SNP’s vicious programme of cuts.”

A good bit of research, though I think most folk will recognise that this decision – a quasi-judicial one which touches the lives of terrorist victims as well as Mr al-Megrahi’s family – is a little different from domestic squabbles about public spending.

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When the hapless Brown said he was “angry and repulsed” by the reception Al-Megrahi received when he got home (could anyone seriously have been surprised?) Ed Davey should have lampooned him for then warmly welcoming and shaking the bloodsoaked hand of the extremist Netanyahu who had, only a few months ago, ordered the slaughter of 1400 Palestinian civilians and the maiming and thousands, and rendered hundreds of thousands homeless.

That nasty piece of work is still murdering and stealing on a daily basis, and here he is at No.10.

by Noisy Tappet on August 25, 2009 at 8:01 pm. Reply #

“Gordon Brown has, after five days’ silence, condemned the Scottish government’s decision to release on compassionate grounds Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi …”

Eh? Am I missing something?

by Herbert Brown on August 25, 2009 at 8:22 pm. Reply #

@Herbert – my error. Have amended the article accordingly.

by Stephen Tall on August 25, 2009 at 9:02 pm. Reply #

The Lib Dem line on this is totally wrong. As much as I disagreed with the initial decision, and as much as I despise Gordon Brown (Texture Like Sun), the fact is he has absolutely no business opining on devolved matters. Davey and Cleg’s attacks are just coming across as deeply childish opportunism.

by iainm on August 25, 2009 at 9:21 pm. Reply #

Politicians opin on devolved matters all the time. What’s wrong with saying what you’d have done in the circumstances?

by Grammar Police on August 25, 2009 at 9:25 pm. Reply #

Iainm is right. The line being taken is cringe-making.

by Noisy Tappet on August 25, 2009 at 10:10 pm. Reply #

The biggest loss of life from terrorism ever, and the only person found guilty serves two weeks per life taken, of course everyone has an opinion on the decision to release him…Brown wont say if he agreed, or disagreed.

Meanwhile, Newsnight suggests the latest opinion poll puts Labour back where they were last June at their lowest level ever recorded. Labour 25, Conservative, 41, Liberal Democrats 19 per cent according to the Guardian’s ICM.

“Labour are slipping back, the Labour Party is only ahead of the Tories on one issue, Europe,” said the pollster to Newsnight.

Tessa Jowell said on Newsnight that Gordon Brown was right not to express a personal view, as Prime Ministers dont express personal views, and dont interfere with devolved parliaments.

Begs the question why he had a view of Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent, and Ministers complained about Arlene Phillips being dumped as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing.

“The most difficult job for a Prime Minister is to know when to stay quiet. Opposition leaders have attacked the Prime Minister, they didnt express a view on whether it was right or wrong to release this prisoner,” said Tessa Jowell. “And I wont be drawn into it by expressing my view on this. Gordon Brown has made his position clear on this today.”
She added “the latest poll makes pretty grim reading. ”

There will be a battle of ideas on three fronts, who has the right answers on the economy, and the Tories blinkered thiking over Europe and internationalism, said Tessa Jowell…Kirsty Walk said thank you very much before we heard what all three big ideas will be Tessa’s interpretation of the battleground.

Olly Gender said why couldnt Brown say he was “repulsed” before he expressed his joy over the saving of the Ashes.

by Philip Young on August 25, 2009 at 10:48 pm. Reply #

Tessa Jowell must have got this wrong.

Surely our leaders wouldn’t attack the PM for expressing no view on the release while not expressing one themselves?

by Antony Hook on August 26, 2009 at 12:08 am. Reply #

This man (if guilty) and WAS found guilty, deserved no compassion as showed no compassion in killing hundreds of people. He gave up all of his rights when he committed the crime, and should have died in prison, with the guilt hanging over him.

No time for this kind of person, or politicians who do deals for oil.

What would Nick have done?

by LibDem Guru on August 26, 2009 at 12:36 am. Reply #

Meanwhile Brown welcomes terrorist Netanyahu, who has enough innocent deaths to his credit to put Lockerbie in the shade, and Opposition leaders aren’t in the least offended. Funny old world.

by Noisy Tappet on August 26, 2009 at 3:56 am. Reply #

Al-Megrahi co-incidentally managed to smuggle a bomb from Malta to join a connecting plane to the US via 2 flight changes on the same morning as the Heathrow perimeter fence was breached by persons unknown – a fact not disclosed to the court that tried him. An unsound conviction if ever there was one.

He will always be guilty though. If the judgement against him were ever overturned, Libya would demand repayment of the compensation it paid to the relatives of the Lockerbie victims, causing further political embarassment in Westminster and the White House. What place for the truth in such circumstances?.

Gadhafi knew this when Al-Megrahi was offered up as the fall guy of course. And once again, Britain appears bent over a barrel of the black stuff. Our party would do well not to pander to the baying, populist lynch mob mentaility on either side of the Atlantic. I’m with David Steel on this.

by Andrew Duffield on August 26, 2009 at 9:46 am. Reply #

David Steel didnt say, one way or the other, on the question of whether it was right to release him.

…. Equally, Cameron criticised Brown for being silent, but have we read anywhere what he would have done?

What are you saying – because he put a bomb on a different plane at Malta, he cant be guilty of the Lockerbie murders?

by Philip Young on August 26, 2009 at 1:07 pm. Reply #

“David Steel didnt say, one way or the other, on the question of whether it was right to release him.”

He gave a pretty good indication:
“I think it was a bit ham-fisted, I don’t think he necessarily made the wrong decision. Most opinion in Scotland is in favour of the decision on compassionate grounds.”

by Herbert Brown on August 26, 2009 at 2:04 pm. Reply #

The rant from Americans needs to be put into the context that a lot of people in Iran feel agrieved that American couldn’t offer an apology, or recompense, when a trigger- happy sailor fired a rocket from a warship in the gulf that brought down an Iranian passenger plane, (1991?), causing a similiar sort of scale to Lockerbie in terms of sudden loss of life. Iran wouldn’t be feeling quite so hard done by if this accident had been dealt with decently. A case of “wrong-identity on a radar screen” didnt go down too well in Iran. Of course the head of the F.B.I. and all the others forget their own mis-deeds…

by Philip Young on August 26, 2009 at 3:20 pm. Reply #

What this party should be doing is calling for a full, independent enquiry, which the UK Families of Flight 103 have been asking for since 1989. The UK government has consistently refused their request, despite the questions which have not been dealt with in any of the examinations of the case or the trial.

We still do not know:
– the motivation for the bombing, although many theories have been advanced over the years, including the plausible suggestion that it was retaliation by Iran for the shooting down of its passenger aircraft earlier in 1988, which the International Civil Aviation Organisation had predicted at the time was likely.

– who was involved. Megrahi was charged with “acting in concert with others”. Somehow, it has not been possible to establish who these others were. Surely, this is a major failure on the part of the criminal investigation team? No-one believes that the bombing could have been the work of one man. The Libyan government has never accepted any responsibility itself, only paying compensation to the relatives ”because of the actions of its agent” and never offering any more information about the bombing, despite this being a requirement for the lifting of UN sanctions.

– why, after a considerable number of recorded warnings, some very explicit, the intelligence and security services failed to prevent the disaster.

The real tragedy of Al-Megrahi’s release is that his appeal – and the answers to some of these questions – will now never be heard. An independent inquiry is the right thing to be calling for. That would be the real test of Gordon Brown’s “leadership” – and our own.

by Andrew Duffield on August 26, 2009 at 8:23 pm. Reply #

Andrew is quite right that we should be calling for an independent inquiry, instead of this puerile attempt to get Brown to say what he would have have done in MacAskill’s shoes.

by Terry Gilbert on August 26, 2009 at 9:03 pm. Reply #

He is clearly a troll and nothing to do with the LDs

by Geoffrey Payne on August 26, 2009 at 10:25 pm. Reply #

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