I promised a post on MacAskill visiting Megrahi. I’ll do that later in the week, using the Official Report of the Parliament but something came up, something that angered and upset me.
So to explain.
I like twitter. Initially cynical I find it an effective way to communicate with people, sometimes to debate, sometimes to share a daft joke, sometimes to share a mood – and discover that you’re not alone. Caron has earlier today pulled together details of a lot of the Scottish bloggers on twitter. The interaction between the Scottish blogging community is good. Interesting posts are shared – and people banter. There’s a good-humoured side to the engagement.
The engagement by politicians on twitter is also a good thing. Some it use it very well – Eric Joyce, the Falkirk MP in particular engages with queries, and tries to respond to constituents via the system. Others, as is the way of these things use it as vehicles for shameless self-promotion. A number of PPCs use twitter too. Among them is novelist Louise Bagshawe. She is the PPC for Corby (no, me neither). A recent profile of Ms Bagshawe describes her as "Successful, likable and somewhat glamorous, Bagshawe has stated that women “can have it all – if they want it all”."
You can judge likability for yourself from the exchange below from twitter that I had with her yesterday. Me? I make no claim to likability, and am nowhat glamorous, and success is relative but I do nicely thank you.
Anyway, the tweets can be viewed on our respective twitter profiles. You will appreciate that I have collated the 140 character messages into a coherent flowing text. The occasional breaks are because our replies were to earlier replies by the other.
I should preface my comments by noting: (a) I am not a regular SNP supporter; (b) I am not a regular Labour supporter; (c) my party preference is for the Lib Dems generally, but, I’ve voted for every major party at one election or other apart from the Conservative party – I’ve never really liked their attitude; (d) I think Kenny MacAskill made a big mistake when he visited Megrahi in prison (see posts passim); (e) I think Kenny MacAskill had a really difficult job to do and I can’t believe that anyone would have really wanted to be in his position. can you imagine the stress? Can you imagine having to live with it, whatever decision he reached?; (f) on his judgment call I think he probably got it right; (g) the people wanting Gordon Brown to comment on the substantive decision are doing so from unworthy motives – this was a quasi-judicial decision of the Scottish government, any comment from the UK government as an official line is superfluous and would – in my view – be interfering with a devolved quasi-judicial decision. This is not like commenting on a political decision made by the government.
Anyway, back to the point.
Louise Bagshawe’s initial tweet on this was: "Simply unacceptable for Gordon Brown to refuse to comment on Lockerbie. He must say if he had a part in the decision. Political coward"
I replied "He didn’t have a part in the decision. MacAskill explained that yesterday. I don’t understand your point."
LB: "oh yes he did. Mandelson met Gadaffi’s son. The UK govt are in this up to their necks. Cameron can comment, and so can Brown"
me: But you are conflating two decisions: the compassionate release application and the prisoner transfer application. The prisoner transfer application was incompetent, whatever the SNP said or was discussed anywhere (Art 3 precludes it if an extant appeal). The compassionate release application is based on medical reports/social works reports/parole board reports and prison governor and police reports (under an Act brought in by the last Conservative government). It is wholly
LB: discretion was part of this and trade deals were too. Mandelson meeting Gadaffi was part of this. Brown should admit it
me: a matter for the Scottish justice secretary. Representations (which MacAskill indicated were not made by Uk government) would have been a wholly irrelevant legal consideration (based on precedent of these applications) I should say I am not an SNP or L:abour supporter & was in Lockerbie in immediate aftermath of disaster as I had family there on the night. Mandelson’s meeting could promise what it liked (if any promise was given) but could not impact on decision. if you think the Uk government could instruct the SNP what to do I’m afraid you don’t get their mutual loathing I think the decision to release on compassionate grounds was right (as does my sister who still receives treatment for PTSD)
LB: was not right to release to Libya and a circus. Release in Scotland to a secure hospice, sure
me: I think that legally the decision to release on compassionate grounds was almost inevitable – http://bit.ly/TWnUc
LB: it certainly was not. Plenty of discretion available for a without-precedent crime of mass murder
me: I think Annabel Goldie’s suggestion was disingenuous. Hospice care is meant to be restful respite for patients. How would arrival of a media circus with megrahi (and the inevitable security) impact on the care of other patients? based on the legal precedents – and the recommendations of all relevant bodies consulted megrahi would have a legitimate
LB: Scottish police quite capable of securing a hospice, banning media etc. Compassion one thing. Mockery of victims another
me: expectation in administrative law terms for release. see jonathan mitchell QC’s blog post that I copied to you. Would you have proposed emptying part of the hospice and denying care to other cancer sufferers? My family were victims in this. My sister’s life ruined. I don’t feel mocked. I feel angry about politics played with it My family’s story is on my blog at http://bit.ly/1O7zhl .
LB: no. I would secured it. Face it, this decision was an epically awful one and both SNP and Labour are rightly on hook for it
me: True my sisters didn’t die so my family were lucky. they were 4 doors away from destruction.
LB: thank God they survived. But hundreds didn’t and he was convicted. Release to cheering Libyan crowds was utter disgrace
me: Well, my sisters and my relatives present in Lockerbie that night think his release was right. But then while people claim to speak for the people of Lockerbie on this – no-one asks them.
LB: I think the Americans are speaking on behalf of most victims who were blown to bits. All victims matter hugely. most people in the UK, and the US, are clearly utterly appalled that a guy that blew up hundreds gets a hero’s welcome.
me: I think that tweet is beneath you.
LB: and for that hero’s welcome, Mandelson & Gadaffi, the prison visits, the trade talks – Lab and SNP must answer.
me: I know people were "blown to bits". I saw body parts. I saw arm hanging from the body in the window at the rear of the house
LB: I think their relatives have every right to rage and disbelief at this. It’s also clear we will never agree on this matter
me: I still dream about that stuff. Do you think I don’t care? Do you think I don’t find the scenes on his return objectionable? But his release was the right thing to do.
LB: no, it was the wrong thing to do for the wrong considerations. Release to a secure hospital facility = compassion + justice and finally, if Gordon Brown cares to defend the decision I believe he took part in, let him have the guts to make his case
me: But he had no part in that decision (which is where we came in)
I left it for a bit but was really angry about the line about the Americans speaking on behalf of most victims.
So I replied
me: Sorry for coming back to this, but I continue to find the tweet I’m replying to beyond the pale. The rest is fair debate although I do not think your are fully aware of the Scottish legal position, but I was not taking the view that American relatives were not entitled to a view – although I find it misleading to suggest that view is homogeneous. But the line "Americans are speaking on behalf of most victims who were blown to bits" suggests their grief is more important than that of other nations (there were 40 nations affected) because there were more of them. And additionally, suggests that the the suffering of the victims of the ground – who saw their houses damaged or destroyed, fire fall from the sky, the stench of kerosene in their town for days afterwards as bits of body and luggage were found throughout their town – is less worthy somehow. The townswomen gathered the clothes of the deceased, washed them and sent them home. Their ice rink became a mortuary. They had to put up with intolerable press intrusion by imbeciles asking for views on the severity of the incident. And they have faced the mental scars, with no adequate mental health provision in the area from that point for years – meaning many of those treated had to make a 600 mile round trip to visit the unit that could treat them. I found that line "the Americans are speaking on behalf of most victims who were blown to bits" cheap. Very cheap. I’d thought you were better than that.
LB: this is Twitter; you can email me on Louise4Corby@aol.com if you want longer debate.
me: Sorry for the length of that but that really angered me. Playing politics with the tragedy (on whatever side) makes me sick.
LB: that said, in sum, suffering of victims on the ground was appalling. But suffering/terror of those actually slaughtered and their families was even worse. I think the voice of the relatives of the murdered was brutally ignored, and it’s right that both the SNP and Labour with Mandelson meeting Gadaffi answer to this abominable, cruel, decision. final tweet on this, to you at least: and the almost universally condemnatory reaction in UK and US seems to agree with me.
Before that last series of replies I’d packed up and logged out. I was thinking about what I’d seen.
I was thinking about my sisters in their twenties shaking when there were fireworks outside.
I was thinking about my sister, married and in her late 20s crying curled on the floor in my mother’s arms unable to leave her house.
Last night I had uneasy dreams.
I hope Louise Bagshawe slept well.