Saturday, November 27, 2004
Despite his encounter with a thesaurus, Oborne provides an insight into Jack Straw's recent admission that the UK was aware of the plot to over Equatorial Guinea's kleptocrats since last January.

Even so, it is unlikely that the British government, as Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe has mischievously claimed, was behind the coup attempt. On the other hand, there is little doubt that HMG could have intervened to prevent it had it really wanted to. That is why Jack Straw’s startling admission that there was foreknowledge of the attempted coup is by no means without its consequences for Sir Mark Thatcher, who is at present languishing under house arrest in Cape Town. Till now, Sir Mark has looked a lonely figure. Jack Straw has granted him the opportunity to use what might be termed the Matrix Churchill defence. He can claim that his actions, however illegal, were nevertheless carried out with the tacit approval of the Foreign Office.

No doubt, FO inaction will be publicised in the forthcoming extradition hearing. Don't forget that under EU common foreign policy, HMG would be in the wrong, since we should endeavour to support international law, even when it acts as a defence for dictators.

There is also a Mandelson connection: he borrowed a house from one of those accused of plotting the coup. This may show a poor judgement in friendships but Churchill and Blair are not immune to this accusation. One wonders if this quiet admission was to provide a backstop in case it came up in the European Parliament. Not enough meat on the bone for the Farage sliderule, I suspect.


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