Dear Prime Minister,
In the run-up to the release of the Lockerbie bomber, I attempted to interact with the Scottish First Minister and Justice Secretary, asking them to reconsider their intention to release Mr Al-Megrahi.
As you know, they refused to heed the concerns of many people throughout the UK and abroad and release was sold to us on compassionate grounds stating the prisoner had only three months to live. Now, of course, we hear the medical advice was inaccurate and Mr Al-Megrahi, ten months on, continues to live in Tripoli and there are predictions he may live for more then ten years.
Today I have learnt of calls by senior American Senators for an enquiry and investigation into this release, given the fact the Scottish Justice Secretary made such a dreadful mistake. The Scottish Executive has made a decision of a profoundly misguided nature which has had an impact on the standing of the United Kingdom in the eyes of the Arab world and beyond.
I therefore ask you as Prime Minister to assess how your government can hold the Scottish Executive to account and urge you to work towards holding a full public enquiry into the release.
I look forward to hearing from you.Yours,Daniel Kawczynski MP
Actually, when I said notoriously, that wasn't quite accurate. Poor Kawczynski's inner detail and individuality has generally been hollowed out by the press, who have styled him in generic silhouette as "a Tory MP". Since I first encountered this story, I've been trying to puzzle out what it might be about, what might have precisely motivated Kawczynski. Despite representing an English constituency, he has Scottish connections, having been educated at the University of Stirling. His epistle certainly focuses on the actions of Scottish ministers, with some dark insinuations that some secret motivation impelled MacAskill to order Megrahi's compassionate release, which the Tory suggests were merely "sold to us", presumably in a hucksterish fashion. Quite what he believes to have been the actual, private motivations of Scottish Ministers, he doesn't say. To quote Alex Massie's worthy, surgical dissection of the procedural and substance ignorance demonstrated by US Senators Gillibrand, Lautenberg, Menendez and Schumer, cited by Kawczynski:
If much of the press reporting is to be given credence we are asked to suppose that MacAskill would have released Megrahi come what may. This, of course, is because of BP and HMG and all the rest of it. But for this to be true we have to believe that if the doctors had said Megrahi's prostate cancer was not so serious and he'd live for another year at least MacAskill would have said, Well that doesn't matter I'm going to release him anyway and so what if this rides roughshod over both established practice and the law? I want to be a Big Boy playing on the big stage. I suggest that this is implausible.
There is, of course, another version not addressed by Mr Massie. Kawczynski may take a different view and suspect Kenny MacAskill of any number of outrages and undeclared secret allegiances which really motivated his release of Megrahi. He may be alleging some form of subversion, or bribery and corruption. If that is his belief, if that is his allegation all evidence despite, then his intervention begins to make some sense. In Kawczynski's fevered imagination, Scottish Government giggerypokery, cover-up and loose practice of scandalous degree is implicated. Alternatively, he may be making a weaker case, ably set out above, that some other overweening aspect of the MacAskillite personality took over. One of these understandings is presumably appealed to in his innuendo-laden phrase about "selling" compassionate release. It is difficult to discern which.
However, there is an alternative explanation for Kawczynski's actions. Given the mounting cynicism and bad faith of all of this, I can't help but wonder if this late low-level Conservative agitation isn't really an excuse slyly to stick it to their Labour predecessors. It may well me that my own fevered Machiavellian consciousness is retrodicting cause from consequence, seeing Tory deliberation and cunning where there is only misinformation and ignorance. Whether by accident or design, as a stratagem, it isn't bad.
Consider. While the letter ostensibly lingers on Scottish ministers, their response was pointed and predictable - distinguishing the heavy attitudes of the compassionate release with the fast and louche international diplomatics and oleaginous commercial fug surrounding in the Prisoner Transfer Agreement which Labour concluded with Gadaffi. Crucially, this riposte was predictable. All it took was a little Conservative provocation. All in the best interests of the Coalition, you might think, to summon back to mind and reinforce perceptions of the outgoing government's record of murkiness, want of transparency and dodgy international dealing. They're all pregnant themes, ones to give Labour's current leadership contenders restless nights and bad dreams. But it was not so easy to turn the story into one about Labour's custodianship of its governmental offices. Kawczynski couldn't just produce a shovel, shift a clod or two and simply produce the body and expect the press to give a fig. Rather, he had to press the instrument into gravedigger Salmond's hands and have him remind everyone what a band of villains the coalition has seen off and out of office. This morning's Herald furnishes a stinging headline encapsulating everything I mean: "Salmond: Ask Blair about Megrahi", with the quotation:
“If the US Senate wants to get the truth about the deal in the desert by the UK and Libyan governments in 2007, they should call Tony Blair to give evidence. Blair was its architect – he would be the one who knows about an oil deal.”
After all, the accusation of "ducking responsibility" or attempting to slither out of accountability hardly seems to apply to MacAskill, unless you assume he acted in bad faith and that bad faith has gone undetected. If alternatively you opposed the release but do not assume undisclosed occult mischief in the Scottish Government, MacAskill's accountability has abounded with critical Scottish parliamentary statements, debates, votes and reports on his conduct and his decision. That's what makes me wonder - just wonder - whether the Tories knew this all along and calculated that they'd rough up the SNP to give the Labour party and ex-Labour ministers a fresh bruising. That the Nationalists receive a cut or two in the process is merely a welcome collateral wounding. You may think such finesse political gouging is beyond Tories in general or Daniel Kawczynski in particular. Whether by intention or design, however, "the Tory MP's" Megrahi sally has not served so much to hold Scottish ministers to account as to make another coterie of ministers blush, rummaging for fig-leaves to conceal their own shame.