But isn’t the most pressure going to be on Brown’s government?
With the storm over the release of the Lockerbie bomber continuing unabated on both sides of the Atlantic William Hill has opened a market that “Alex Salmond will cease to be SNP Leader on or before December 31, 2009”.
Today the Holyrood parliament is being recalled so justice minister Kenny MacAskill can make a statement. With talk of a boycott of Scottish goods in the US there’s a suggestion, according to the main lead in the Times, that the affair could end up in a vote of confidence on the SNP minority government.
Labour, the Tories and Lib Dems at Holyrood have condemned the freeing of Megrahi and the arithmetic doesn’t look good for SNP which has 47 members in the 129-member Parliament. But would the opposition parties push it that far? My guess is no because of the ramifications.
But isn’t the Edinburgh activity only a diversion and that the biggest political fall-out will be the affair’s impact on the troubled-Labour party at Westminster?
For as well the the US condemnations the other developing story is on the role of Labour ministers and former PM Tony Blair. This biting piece by the Guardian’s Labour-leaning columnist, Jackie Ashley, is well worth a read.
She writes: “It’s a morality tale about modern government, truth-telling and hard choices. But it now looks as though the release of the terminally ill, convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi to Libya won’t just be a grim footnote to a long and bloody mystery. No, it will be a full-scale political crisis to greet Labour MPs when they return from holiday…
…now the media and opposition have a string of leads to follow up, and any rational ministerial explanation won’t get heard. When Mandelson says there was no agreement between the British and Libyan governments, we have been schooled to ask: what is an “agreement” and what is a nose-tapping “understanding”? When he says that “people are reading far too much into this”, he is talking about the British public, who have learned to read between the lines of bland governmental reassurance.
Yes, we are cynical. Yes, we know the difference between a formal instruction and a helpful nudge. Yes, we think we are governed by those who use the subtlest forms of words to avoid a direct lie. Yes, we suspect there are little cliques of super-rich chums doing deals around the world. But whose fault is that?”
As to the William Hill Salmond bet I’m not so sure. For the gamble is on whether he will move on before the end of the year – and you can envisage circumstances where the SNP government falls but Salmond remains as leader. I’m not tempted.