Megrahi found in a coma, "at death's door"

Lockerbie bomber, apparently close to death, located at his family's villa in Tripoli.

Two years after he was released on compassionate grounds by the Scottish government and given three months to live, it seems that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, is close to death. CNN's international correspondent Nic Robertson found Megrahi in a coma at his family's palatial villa in Tripoli, "surviving on oxygen and an intravenous drip."

In recent days there have been calls for Megrahi's extradition but Robertson's account of a man "near death's door" ("much iller, much sicker ... just a shell of the man he was") suggests there is little prospect of him returning to jail in Britain or, as some have suggested, to face trial in the US. In any case, the National Transitional Council has consistently maintained that it will not hand over a Libyan citizen to the west, insisting that Megrahi has been judged once and will not be "judged again". Andrew Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, has since indicated that the government will not challenge this decision. Speaking on Radio 5 this morning, he said: "In the case of al-Megrahi, he has been through a legal process and, as we have found out overnight, his life does appear to be drawing to a close."

However, he indicated, that the government would seek the extradition of Yvonne Fletcher's alleged killer, Abdulmagid Salah Almeri. He remarked: "In the case of the assassin of Yvonne Fletcher, there has been no legal process, and I think a new regime in Tripoli, the NTC delivering both a new constitution and credible elections within the eight month period they have set themselves, there's plenty of room for discussion about a situation where there hasn't been any legal process at all so far."

Megrahi's conviction is, of course, widely disputed, a fact noted this morning by some of the relatives of the victims of the bombing. For instance, Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter was killed in the blast, spoke of a "tissue of lies which led to a politically useful outcome". At the very least, it is absurd that Megrahi is the only person who has been convicted of involvement in the bombing. But it appears increasingly likely that he will take the truth with him to the grave.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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How the Lib Dems learned to love all-women shortlists

Yes, the sitting Lib Dem MPs are mostly white, middle-aged middle class men. But the party's not taking any chances. 

I can’t tell you who’ll be the Lib Dem candidate in Southport on 8 June, but I do know one thing about them. As they’re replacing a sitting Lib Dem (John Pugh is retiring) - they’ll be female.

The same is true in many of our top 20 target seats, including places like Lewes (Kelly-Marie Blundell), Yeovil (Daisy Benson), Thornbury and Yate (Clare Young), and Sutton and Cheam (Amna Ahmad). There was air punching in Lib Dem offices all over the country on Tuesday when it was announced Jo Swinson was standing again in East Dunbartonshire.

And while every current Lib Dem constituency MP will get showered with love and attention in the campaign, one will get rather more attention than most - it’s no coincidence that Tim Farron’s first stop of the campaign was in Richmond Park, standing side by side with Sarah Olney.

How so?

Because the party membership took a long look at itself after the 2015 election - and a rather longer look at the eight white, middle-aged middle class men (sorry chaps) who now formed the Parliamentary party and said - "we’ve really got to sort this out".

And so after decades of prevarication, we put a policy in place to deliberately increase the diversity of candidates.

Quietly, over the last two years, the Liberal Democrats have been putting candidates into place in key target constituencies . There were more than 300 in total before this week’s general election call, and many of them have been there for a year or more. And they’ve been selected under new procedures adopted at Lib Dem Spring Conference in 2016, designed to deliberately promote the diversity of candidates in winnable seats

This includes mandating all-women shortlists when selecting candidates who are replacing sitting MPs, similar rules in our strongest electoral regions. In our top 10 per cent of constituencies, there is a requirement that at least two candidates are shortlisted from underrepresented groups on every list. We became the first party to reserve spaces on the shortlists of winnable seats for underrepresented candidates including women, BAME, LGBT+ and disabled candidates

It’s not going to be perfect - the hugely welcome return of Lib Dem grandees like Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Julian Huppert to their old stomping grounds will strengthen the party but not our gender imbalance. But excluding those former MPs coming back to the fray, every top 20 target constituency bar one has to date selected a female candidate.

Equality (together with liberty and community) is one of the three key values framed in the preamble to the Lib Dem constitution. It’s a relief that after this election, the Liberal Democratic party in the Commons will reflect that aspiration rather better than it has done in the past.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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