David Miliband heightened the chaos the government now finds itself in on the Today programme when he very foolishly remarked: “We did not want him to die in prison”. It was a slip of the tongue that undoes the government’s wilfully neutral stance over the al-Megrahi affair, stoking the rumour that the government may have attempted to influence Kenny MacAskill’s decision. I suppose it’s too much to ask that Gordon Brown will break his silence by explaining why he and the Foreign Secretary didn’t want al-Megrahi to die in prison.
The Lockerbie papers do not prove that there was a Megrahi-for-oil deal, but neither do they disprove the suggestion. What two years of correspondence between Holyrood and Whitehall does prove is that Libya was placing pressure on the UK government over al-Megrahi’s release, that the British government was telling the US one thing and the Libyans another – you can choose to call that double dealing or realpolitik – and that the Scottish government was, as Alex Salmond put it, ‘left to deal with the consequences’ (more on that later). There are documents pertaining to this case, such as details from the two Blair Gadaffi meetings and the minutes from meetings leading to the UK Libya deal signed on 2 October 2007, that need to be published: David Cameron is right to call for an independent enquiry.