Is the problem now Brown’s handling – not the release itself?

Is the problem now Brown’s handling – not the release itself?


Can we expect more contradictions to come out?

The war of words over the release of the Lockerbie bomber takes moves forward another step this morning with an interview in the Daily Telegraph which appears to contradict what the Prime Minister was saying earlier in the week.

Then Brown was adamant that “There was no conspiracy, no cover-up, no double dealing, no deal on oil, no attempt to instruct Scottish ministers, no private assurances.”

That’s all very hard to square with a Telegraph report of an interview with Jack Straw. For when asked in the if trade and BP were factors, Straw admits: “Yes, [it was] a very big part of that. I’m unapologetic about that… Libya was a rogue state..We wanted to bring it back into the fold. And yes, that included trade because trade is an essential part of it and subsequently there was the BP deal.”

In a very pointed column this morning the Mail writer, Peter Oborne, notes that this was the “sort of difficult choice that prime ministers down the ages have been forced to make”.

He goes on: “Gordon Brown wrestled with these issues and I believe that he acted in a genuinely patriotic way by putting Britain’s prosperity and national security ahead of moral decency and integrity.

Indeed, Tony Blair made a similar decision when he suspended the Serious Fraud Office investigation into alleged bribes offered by British Aerospace to the Saudi Royal Family in exchange for arms contracts.

Blair knew that the price of continuing with the criminal investigation would have been the estrangement of a key international ally and the potential loss of tens of thousands of highly skilled British manufacturing jobs.

The decision he made to intervene and drop the corruption case was very uncomfortable, but I still believe it was a brave one. And so Gordon Brown’s current problem over the Lockerbie bomber’s release was emphatically not his original decision to accede to Gaddafi’s wishes for the Libyan mass murderer to be allowed to return home to die. Instead, it was the way he handled the controversy.”

Last weekend I wrote here “Where I think that Labour is going wrong here is in trying to cover up what has happened… Why not come out and say that the paramount objective was energy and the need to open up new areas? A reference to Russia’s aggressive energy strategy would underline the point.”

Looking back at what has happened that was pretty good advice. For as we have seen repeatedly the collapse in support for Labour is being driven by the government’s appearance that it is floundering politically. And blame for that, surely, goes right to the top.

Is it any wonder, then, that the talk now is all about whether Brown can hang on to his job until the election? I’m coming to the view again that he won’t and my bets on this might be winners after all.

Mike Smithson

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