Gaddafi, Blair and The Sunday Telegraph

John Rentoul

lockerbie 270x300 Gaddafi, Blair and The Sunday TelegraphMore of the same old journalism by innuendo in The Sunday Telegraph yesterday. “Lockerbie, Labour and the Gaddafi arms deal” on the front page. Inside, picture of Tony Blair shaking hands with Gaddafi. When a headline has the word “and” in it, you know the connections are unsubstantiated.

And so they remain. Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, was released by the Scottish government on compassionate grounds. He was not released under the Prisoner Transfer Agreement, which was in any case signed by the UK government when Gordon Brown was Prime Minister.

What is new about The Sunday Telegraph’s story is that the British ambassador to Libya said that, if the Libyans signed the contract to buy the air defence system, they would get the Prisoner Transfer Agreement, which they certainly saw at the time as the means of freeing Megrahi. That linkage certainly seems morally dubious, although we don’t know what Blair made of it – when he was Prime Minister the UK government insisted that Megrahi be excluded from any Prisoner Transfer Agreement.

The other revelation in the story is less shocking: that the ambassador advised Blair, visiting Libya as a former prime minister, that “the Department for International Development was eager to use another Libyan fund worth £130 million to pay for schemes in Sierra Leone and other poverty-stricken countries”.

The wickedness of Blair, as imagined by some of his detractors, knows no bounds.

Update: The Guardian repeated this innuendo later, inaccurately, and carried a correction (see end), which contradicts the implication rather more succinctly than I have succeeded in doing.

Second update: I was unfair to my friend and former colleague Robert Mendick, who wrote the Sunday Telegraph story, in the previous version of this post, in that I suggested that an air defence system is not “arms” (of course it is); and that it was the Libyans who linked the PTA and the arms sale. Apologies. I should make clear that I think this is a genuine story; but that it does not show that Blair was up to no good – and indeed Mendick’s article does not say he was, even if the headline and photo try to imply it.

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  • mightymark

    A people rising in revolt against a dictator – as some said we should have allowed to happen Iraq, rather than invading it.

  • JohnJustice

    Someone has to put the record straight.

  • johnplatinumgoss

    Mr Rentoul, your toadyism towards Blair is as bad as his toadyism towards Bush. It is evident from your recent defence of him regarding breaking English coronial law in setting up an Inquiry into the death of David Kelly three hours after the body was found and before a pathologist had arrived on the scene. And now these Lockerbie lies. Blair knew everything. He was a dictator. Clare Short talked of his diktats in cabinet. Why defend this war criminal?

  • petersimplex

    Of course you know what Blair made of it, your mate would have told you.

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