LETTER:John Lloyd has forgotten his South African past

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The Independent Online
From Mr Paul Trewhela

Sir: There is a single issue for the Labour Party and the electors in Exeter in the affair of the Labour candidate, John Lloyd: has Mr Lloyd been candid with them? The point is: he was not candid, and still is not. Maritz van den Berg and Ron Press (Letters, 31 October) do not address this when they describe the campaign around Mr Lloyd as being "vindictive" and a "vendetta".

Last week, Mr Lloyd said he was not "a free agent" in his decision to give evidence against two friends in South Africa in 1964, one of whom was hanged, the other jailed for seven years ("I do not condone terrorism", Independent on Sunday, 29 October). This confirms his statement that he had turned state witness "under duress" (" 'Terrorism' returns to haunt candidate", 27 October). Mr Lloyd here confuses and conflates two distinct moral stages.

The first refers to information given to the secret police under torture. I do not know of anybody who was tortured then who did not make a statement of some kind as a result. Those of us who went to prison at that time never accused anyone of "betrayal" for giving information under torture, we considered the act to be morally neutral. It could not be judged. Full culpability lay on the South African state.

A radically different situation followed later. After interrogation under torture, every one of us who was later convicted and sent to prison had the prior option of turning state witness. In this situation, there was no physical duress.

We were free to choose, either to face the consequences of being convicted in court, or of giving evidence for the state against friends and colleagues.

It was a situation highly charged with moral choice and personal responsibility. Contrary to his most recent statements, it was a decision in which Mr Lloyd was indeed a free moral agent.

Individuals might well feel they do not wish to judge Mr Lloyd for his actions in a far away country three decades ago, when he was a young man. The Labour Party and the electors in Exeter are, however, entitled to expect full and honest disclosure. Instead, Mr Lloyd continues to fudge. Do they feel he can be trusted as an MP to show sufficient moral courage over issues that may arise in the next Parliament?

Or is this no longer a matter of concern in New Labour?

Yours sincerely,

Paul Trewhela

Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire