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.

Grant Shapps on the campaign trail. Photo: Getty
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Grant Shapps resigns over Tory youth wing bullying scandal

The minister, formerly party chairman, has resigned over allegations of bullying and blackmail made against a Tory activist. 

Grant Shapps, who was a key figure in the Tory general election campaign, has resigned following allegations about a bullying scandal among Conservative activists.

Shapps was formerly party chairman, but was demoted to international development minister after May. His formal statement is expected shortly.

The resignation follows lurid claims about bullying and blackmail among Tory activists. One, Mark Clarke, has been accused of putting pressure on a fellow activist who complained about his behaviour to withdraw the allegation. The complainant, Elliot Johnson, later killed himself.

The junior Treasury minister Robert Halfon also revealed that he had an affair with a young activist after being warned that Clarke planned to blackmail him over the relationship. Former Tory chair Sayeedi Warsi says that she was targeted by Clarke on Twitter, where he tried to portray her as an anti-semite. 

Shapps appointed Mark Clarke to run RoadTrip 2015, where young Tory activists toured key marginals on a bus before the general election. 

Today, the Guardian published an emotional interview with the parents of 21-year-old Elliot Johnson, the activist who killed himself, in which they called for Shapps to consider his position. Ray Johnson also spoke to BBC's Newsnight:


The Johnson family claimed that Shapps and co-chair Andrew Feldman had failed to act on complaints made against Clarke. Feldman says he did not hear of the bullying claims until August. 

Asked about the case at a conference in Malta, David Cameron pointedly refused to offer Shapps his full backing, saying a statement would be released. “I think it is important that on the tragic case that took place that the coroner’s inquiry is allowed to proceed properly," he added. “I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place. It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply.” 

Mark Clarke denies any wrongdoing.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.