Peter Hoskin

Libya catch-up: Gaddafi on the precipice

Libya catch-up: Gaddafi on the precipice
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Aside from official – and provocative – proclamations from Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the news from Libya is still arriving piecemeal. The latest reports are that the protestors have prevailed in Zawia, in the west of the country, to add to their "liberation" of Benghazi last night. And there is some speculation that Gaddafi Senior has fled the country, which would certainly reinforce the sense that his power is being whittled down, potentially to naught.

As for Britain, the questions about our prior relationship with Libya still hover awkwardly over proceedings, and over the heads of the last government in particular. There was the al-Megrahi deal, of course, as well as all those meetings in Gaddafi's tent. But after Saif Gaddafi's statement last night, I naturally thought of Charles Moore's scoop, in the pages of The Spectator, about Peter Mandelson dining with the Libyan dictator's son chez Lord Rothschild in 2009. Here's how Mandelson responded, in interview with Fraser:

PM: I don’t regard [Saif Gaddafi] as an alright chap or a bad chap, I mean how can you judge?

FN: I thought you knew him a little bit.

PM: I’ve met the chap three times, once in a meeting which was a formal meeting, once briefly in Corfu, because again I arrived at 11 o’clock at night and he left at half past eight the next morning, and then briefly the other night or two weeks ago. But the whole thing is flammed up in such a ridiculous way, anyway.

There are plenty of lessons in all this for David Cameron, who today has become the first Western leader to meet with the Egypt’s new military overseers. We can all understand the point, and purpose, of realpolitik. But there is such a thing as being unduly close to the globe's less edifying regimes. 

P.S. Blogger and Coffee House regular Wrinkled Weasel gets in touch to flag up this photo of Blair and Gaddafi. As he puts it, "Gaddafi has a throne of Gold Leaf and Brocade, and Blair has a white plastic garden chair that looks as if it cost £2.50 at B&Q. A clever, if slightly obvious, metaphor."