It was back in the autumn of 2009 that I revealed a “fleeting” and “co-incidental” meeting between Lord Mandelson and Saif Gaddafi in a Mediterranean villa – just before the release of the Lockerbie bomber.
As I wrote then:
Lord Mandelson met Colonel Gaddafi’s son at a Corfu villa only a week before the announcement that the perpetrator of the Lockerbie bombing could be released from prison, the Financial Times has learnt.
The business secretary was not overenthused by the article, telling me late one night during Labour conference that he would “cut short” my career. (Perhaps he was merely joking.)
To be fair, one can sympathise with the view taken by New Labour that absorbing Gaddafi back into the international fold was better than the alternative. Douglas Alexander tried to express this last night on Newsnight when he said:
“It is inherent in foreign policy that sometimes you have to talk to and engage with people with whom you disagree most profoundly. I’m sure there were many people in Northern Ireland who were revulsed by the imagery Bill Clinton shaking hands with Gerry Adams at an early stage in the peace process, but most people would recognise that was now a necessary step in a transition for Republicanism within Northern Ireland.”
And yes, the second son of Colonel Gaddafi did talk a good game about democracy and modernisation – an impression only dispelled this week when he warned that Libya’s streets would run with “rivers of blood” if the protests continued.
It transpires that Saif is an excellent networker with many friends and acquaintances in business and politics, having recently described Tony Blair as a personal family friend. According to this morning’s Times he was a frequent guest at dinner parties in London thrown by Vincent Tchenguiz, the property tycoon, whose generous hospitality I can vouch for.
But the most curious friendship of all, arguably, was that between Saif and Joerg Haider, the far-right Austrian leader, whose funeral he attended in October 2008. It would be fascinating to know more about that particular friendship and where the two found common ground.