Polonius

To thine own self be true

A matter of semantics

Posted by Polonius on 2 September, 2009

Just heard Evan Davis try to talk David Milliband into a corner on Radio 4. Davis’ point seemed to be that the UK government was saying one thing to the Libyans while saying something else (or trying to avoid saying anything) to the Americans. But much of the dispute seemed to be about a false dichotomy. The question under discussion was “Did the UK government want Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi to die in prison?”. There are, to my mind, three possible cases here:

  1. The UK government positively wanted him to die in prison.
  2. The UK government had no view on the matter.
  3. The UK government positively did not want him to die in prison.

Milliband seemed to be at great pains to say that the government’s position was not Case 1 (while leaving open the option to choose Case 2 or Case 3). Davis repeatedly demanded a straight answer to the question “Did the UK government want him to die in prison?” Milliband didn’t want to answer “No”, because that would be interpreted by many as Case 3.

Of course the UK government wants to distance itself from the Scottish government’s decision. If there is any truth to the conspiracy theory, the UK government almost certainly colluded in that decision, and I’m sure the US government was at least aware of it too. But that’s realpolitik, and the electorate wouldn’t understand.

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