SAS rescues Libya Britons despite Jeremy Hunt gaffe
The SAS Libya rescue isn’t just good news for families of British oil workers
Of the many sighs of relief emanating from Whitehall after the SAS yesterday pulled off a daring rescue mission, flying back scores of Britons from Libya in two Hercules bombers, one is louder than the rest.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has more reason than many to be thankful that the mission went off smoothly: as the minister who let slip that the secret plans were going ahead on live radio, he would have been more than red faced if anything had gone wrong.
Hunt made his gaffe as he spoke to presenter Nick Ferrari on London's LBC Radio on Thursday. Apparently unaware that the military really prefer their secret plans to be, um, secret, Hunt said: "The most significant news is the SAS troops that are now ready to spring into action."
Obviously relieved to be able to answer the Government's critics with news that something was to be done, he added: "They are obviously thinking very, very carefully about these 170 trapped oil workers and the issue now is how do we deal with people outside Tripoli rather than inside Tripoli."
The blunder came in the middle of a terrible week for the Government, one in which the unthinkable happened: the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror published interchangeable front pages.
Fulminating over the Foreign Office's apparent failure to organise a flight home for Britons stranded in Colonel Gaddafi's perilously collapsing nation, the Mirror asked: "Is Anyone Actually In Charge?" while its right-wing antithesis resorted to sarcasm, with: "Makes You Proud to Be British!"
Today, though, comes the news that between 150 and 170 UK oil workers, rounded up by the SAS over the last few days, were yesterday scooped up from the desert by two RAF Hercules bombers and taken to Malta (above), from where they will fly home later.
One of the workers, Glyn Jones, said: "It was a very surreal experience. The last thing we expected to see was a Hercules landing.
"All the guys made phone calls to one another in their different locations and tried to get as many as possible together at the airport. There were some soldiers there, they just took names, everything was very relaxed."
It was good news for the workers' families and for Jeremy Hunt. The bad news is that around 300 more Britons are thought to still be stranded in Libya. ·
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