It is clear that the al-Megrahi release has damaged Labour, not least because their collective refusal to condemn, or at least have an opinion on, the release of the Lockerbie bomber has confirmed that the government is totally out of touch with public opinion. On the other hand, David Cameron has played a blinder. In stark contrast to the Prime Minister’s Trappist monk act, Cameron has led this issue, voicing considered condemnations of Kenny MacAskill’s decision, the government’s reticence and the its supposedly ethical foreign policy. Cameron writes a piece in today’s Times
branding the entire affair a ‘fiasco’ and a ‘failure of judgement by the Scottish government...the British government...and the Prime Minister’. And again he urges Brown to be ‘candid’ and give the public his opinion, which is sound advice the PM should take. The difference between the two leaders, their sense of right and, yes, their ability to grasp opportunity, couldn’t be more apparent.
I don’t think it’s sensational to suggest that the al-Megrahi scandal has sent the government into disarray. Ministers contradict each other as every new leak emerges. And, the BBC reported (though this doesn’t seem to be available on the website yet) that the Scottish government decided to publish correspondence between Edinburgh and Whitehall, in the hope that it proves there was neither pressure applied on the Scottish government to release al-Megrahi nor a deal with Libya. The BBC claimed that Holyrood had to twist the government’s arm to agree - though perhaps this turn of events was always intended to be the grand finale of the ‘this is purely a matter for the Scottish government’ line? In short, the government is listless and Cameron has benefitted.