Friday, 23 July 2010

The Lockerbie boomerang

Why these shortbread-eating surrender monkeys, they'll be saying in Washington today.

I just put my jet-lagged head down for five minutes last night and the Lockerbie story leapt to another chapter.

Salmond, MacAskill and Straw are now being called to give evidence to the Senate committee hearing on Lockerbie. Tony Blair, intriguingly, has been excused duties although a letter was drafted to him.

Predictably, and wisely, everyone is running a mile from this invitation to a hanging.

Whoever turns up in the Senate would carry the can for the depth of US anger over the Gulf of Mexico oilspill which the release of the Lockerbie prisoner has become a lightning rod. And let's face it Kenny MacAskill and Jack Straw - they're no George Galloway.

There will be yellow belly headlines and the anger of US relatives to bear out over the next few days but Salmond, and everyone else, will be strategising how it plays to a domestic audience.

At the time of the release the political forecast was that such a polarising decision would not change Scottish voting intentions too much one way or another.

Those who thought MacAskill made the right call, largely SNP supporters, would stay loyal and those who thought him wrong would carry on voting the other way.

Being reminded of the Lockerbie bomber release won't, I don't think, swing the election but if voters are building a unconscious list in their minds of why they're unhappy with the SNP it will in in there.

The election will be fought over who can best defend Scotland from "Cameron's cuts". Salmond, who can't run on independence and can't boast a great record in government, will present himself as Scotland's champion.

But the defining image of Megrahi's release - the flags over Tripoli welcome - was the beginning of a long boomerang shot that has landed back in the SNP government's lap this week.

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