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Britain and Libya’s web of deceit and hypocrisy

This article is over 13 years, 2 months old
The resignation of LSE director Howard Davies has exposed ruling class ties to the Libyan regime—and they go deeper than the media has explored, writes Simon Basketter
Issue 2242

From the “diplomatic team” of spies captured in Libya to the senior common rooms of elite universities, the role of corporations and imperialism in propping up Colonel Gaddafi has come to light.

It started at a meeting in a tent outside Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte in 2007 (picture right). Tony Blair shook hands with the dictator to sign an oil deal.

The deal was worth £545 million.

Inside the tent was Peter Sutherland, then chair of British Petrolium (BP). He was about to become chair of the court of governors of the London School of Economics (LSE).

Mark Allen, MI6’s chief spy in the region, set up the meeting.

A year later Britain imported nearly £1 billion of petroleum from Libya. The export of goods from Britain to that state rose by nearly 50 percent the following year.

Gaddafi came in from the cold—and the LSE followed enthusiastically into a murky world of spin and corruption.

The whole affair is an indictment of the cynicism, hypocrisy and deceit that runs through the British establishment.

The media focus is on which academic did what at the LSE.

But the key issue is not academic mismanagement. It is that the British establishment carried out a concerted effort to promote Gaddafi’s regime in the interests of the oil industry.

And the intelligence services were heavily involved to make sure that the oil kept flowing.

The LSE became the hub for the promotion of Gaddafi.

The college accepted a £1.5 million donation from Gaddafi’s son Saif—a year after he was awarded a PhD. It was then awarded a £2.2 million contract with Libya to train its civil service.

LSE director Howard Davies—a former deputy governor of the Bank of England—resigned last week following student protests over links between the Gaddafi regime and the university.


He sent his resignation letter to the LSE chair of governors—former oil boss Peter Sutherland.

Sutherland is also the former head of the World Bank and chair of Goldman Sachs.

The connections are dizzying—and disgusting.

An alliance of influential figures linked to the last Labour government and MI6 spies promoted Gaddafi and his son in return for huge handouts.

It was while Mark Allen was running MI6’s Middle East desk that he fixed the BP-Libya oil deal.

After he left the foreign office in 2004, Allen went to work as a special adviser to BP.

Allen is also a senior adviser to the Monitor Group—“a global consultancy and private equity firm”.

The firm is headed by Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6 and adviser to BP.

The Boston-based group “advises governments as well as major corporations on international issues”.

Monitor drew up a strategy to “enhance the profile of Libya and Muammar Qadhafi” with plans to target key

opinion-formers, including Anthony Giddens, Blair’s political guru and a former head of the LSE.

“Libya,” as a leaked document from the firm observes, “has suffered from a deficit of positive public relations and adequate contact with a wide range of opinion-leaders and contemporary thinkers. This program aims to redress the balance in Libya’s favour.”

To that end the Monitor Group facilitated the payment of generous consultancy fees and study trips.

Saif Gaddafi arrived at the LSE in September 2002 to do his doctorate titled “The Role of Civil Society in the Democratisation of Global Governance Institutions: From ‘Soft Power’ to Collective Decision-Making.”


He needed interviews with powerful people on which to base his thesis.

The Monitor Group carried out at least 40 such interviews on his behalf.

Even with help from spies, it isn’t clear whether he wrote any of the thesis himself or whether all of it was copied.

The shifting sands of who the US and Britain wanted as allies in the Middle East shaped this tangled web. The interests of the oil industry decided the pace of events.

So Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, who was wrongly convicted of the Lockerbie bombing—was released to Libya as part of the engagement process in 2009.

The Libyan British Business Council has had a prosperous few years.

Its members include BP, Barclays, GlaxoSmithKline, British American Tobacco and LSE Enterprise—the business wing of the college.

Now the sands have shifted again in response to the mass revolt in the country.

The change of direction is bringing to the fore some of the reality of what British “national interest” really means.

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