Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Mr Cameron goes to Washington, and gets a Scottish hangover

WH1212 is at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue today as David Cameron comes stateside for his first official meeting with President Barack Obama.

And what a day to be a Scottish journalist in Washington. The controversial release of Abdelbaset Ali al Meghari by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill is dominating Cameron's time here in the capital.

A story the size of Sauchiehall Street has just landed in the West Wing where we're sitting waiting for the joint press conference.

In response to US pressure on the issue Cameron has already asked Cabinet Secretary Gus O' Donnell to review and release all papers relating to the Libyian prisoner.

Many Whitehall documents already have been released under FOI requests but the PM's dictat won't include the full medical evidence that led to MacAskill's decision to release Megrahi.

These are Scottish government papers and in any case medically confidential although that hasn't stopped the Scottish Tories demanding their release again today.

Cameron has just now been holding the line in radio and tv interviews, saying once again that he disagrees with the Scottish government decision to release the convicted Lockerbie bomber on compassionate grounds.

"I agree with the senators and huge numbers of people not just in America but also in Britain that releasing Megrahi was wrong.

"He was convicted of the biggest mass murder in British history. In my view that man should have died in jail full stop, end of. You don't release people convicted of a crime that serious.

"We should be clear about who was responsible for the decision to release him. It was a decision taken by the Scottish government. They believe they followed all the correct processes under their law, and they took that decision and they have to be
the ones held accountable and responsible for it.

"Today I'm asking the Cabinet Secretary in the UK to go back over all the paperwork and see if there's anything that should be released so there's the clearest possible picture out there of what decision was taken and why".

But Cameron left the door open for a Westminster inquiry into Megrahi's
release with a carefully worded answer: "I don't currently think another full inquiry by the British government is necessary. I don't need an inquiry to tell me what I think I already know which is it was a bad decision to release

When Cameron flew into Washington last night, on a commercial flight, he announced he would invite four US senators to a meeting later today (tues) to discuss their concerns over the release of the Lockerbie bomber from a Scottish jail.

Cameron has adjusted the schedule of his first visit to the US because he
says he recognises "the strength of feeling" over the SNP government
decision to free of Abdulbaset Ali al Megrahi on compassionate grounds.

As he touched down in Washington for his first official meeting with US
president Obama Cameron invited New York and New Jersey senators
Bob Menendez, Frank Lautenberg, Charles E Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to
the British residence.

The move is designed to head off growing US anger that is linking the BP
oil spill and lobbying for access to Libyian reserves to the controversial
release of the Megrahi from Greenock jail last year.

The press conference in an hour should all be about standing "shoulder to shoulder" on Afghanistan and tackling the global economic crisis. Obama is the last Kensyian standing in the room calling for governments to spend thier way into growth while Cameron has come to Washington like a Herbert Hoover - the US president who saw the huge deficit caused by the Wall St Crash of 1929 and started cutting spending to pay off the deficit. The result was the Great Depression.

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