James Forsyth

Hague statement does little to clear up SAS mystery

Hague statement does little to clear up SAS mystery
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William Hague’s statement to the Commons this afternoon did little to clear up the mystery behind how a bunch of SAS soldiers ended up being detained by the Libyan opposition. Hague’s explanation was that they were accompanying diplomats trying to make contact with the opposition and it is a dangerous neighbourhood. But if that was the case, then why didn’t they just make contact with the transitional council based at the courthouse and why were the soldiers carrying multiple passports and explosives rather than just normal weapons?

As Douglas Alexander rather wittily put it, "the British public are entitled to wonder whether, if some new neighbours moved into the Foreign Secretary’s street, he would introduce himself by ringing the doorbell or instead choose to climb over the fence in the middle of the night?"

The political danger of all this is that it adds to Labour’s narrative about government incompetence. Alexander rattled off the list of government bungles on Libya: Hague’s suggestion that Gaddafi had fled to Venezuela, the delayed evacuation and the government getting ahead of itself in talking up a no-fly zone. Put these together with the SAS incident and you don’t get a positive impression of the government’s competence.