Yesterday night’s news that a senior FCO official lobbied Oxford University on behalf of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi adds more
ordure to the already fetid story of Britain’s role in Colonel Gaddafi’s rehabilitation. The Woolf Inquiry into Saif’s dealings with British universities and businesses found
that, ‘It was made clear [to Oxford] … that the FCO would appreciate help in this case since Libya was opening up to the West again.’ Oxford resisted; but this episode has hardly
covered Britain’s elites in glory: the civil service, BAE and august universities are all criticised in Woolf’s report.
Murmurs of disquiet about the Labour Party’s relationship with the Gaddafi clan continue to sound in certain quarters — the legacy of those awkward pictures and forced smiles in the
Colonel’s tent, to say nothing of cosy shooting parties and the Lockerbie bomber’s release. New questions were also raised by the Sunday Times last week when it revealed that former Labour defence minister Adam Ingram made a substantial donation to the Gaddafi International Charity and
The party political dimension is diverting but largely irrelevant: the 2010 election result did not alter Britain’s Libyan policy.
Indeed, the FCO continued to boast of very close ties with the Gaddafi regime, and joint trade fairs were planned deep into 2011. The accompanying blurbs for these
jamborees are blackly comic in hindsight, describing Libya’s polite and commercial future under an enlightened dictatorship. Essentially, it was business as usual for this government
until Gaddafi turned on his own people — so much for ‘moral
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