Patrick Haseldine

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Patrick Haseldine presenting a petition at 10 Downing Street in July 1994

Patrick John Haseldine (born 11 July 1942)[1] is a former British diplomat who was dismissed in August 1989 by the then Foreign Secretary, John Major, for writing a letter to The Guardian newspaper, which was considered to constitute "various disciplinary offences constituting breaches of the Diplomatic Service Regulations".[2] Haseldine was suspended on 7 December 1988 upon publication of a letter he had written to The Guardian in which he publicly accused then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of "self-righteous invective" over her handling of an extradition request.[2]

Marking the 25th anniversary of the December 1988 Lockerbie bombing, The Ecologist online magazine published two articles by Patrick Haseldine:

"Why Flight 103?" on 21 December 2013;[3] and,
"Flight 103: it was the Uranium" on 6 January 2014[4]

Both articles challenged the Lockerbie official narrative by accusing apartheid South Africa of targeting UN Commissioner for Namibia Bernt Carlsson on Pan Am Flight 103, but it was the second that provoked a particularly angry reaction from author, journalist and film researcher John Ashton in the January 2014 edition of Private Eye magazine:

Most hacks and news organisations have long blocked or junked rants from the Lockerbie-bombing conspiracy theorist Patrick Haseldine. Not so The Ecologist magazine.
Oliver Tickell, the new editor, has just published "the shocking truth" of Lockerbie by the man who styles himself "Emeritus Professor of Lockerbie Studies". Haselnut has long claimed that Pan Am 103 was blown up by the apartheid South African government in order to kill an unfortunate Swedish passenger, Bernt Carlsson, the UN Assistant Secretary-General and UN Commissioner for Namibia.
As well as aiming various far-fetched accusations over the years at people connected to the Lockerbie investigations and trials, Haseldine has also claimed that he was "nominated" for last year’s Private Eye Paul Foot Award – by which he meant he had in fact submitted his own material for consideration.[5]


Haseldine attended St Ignatius' College in London (1953–58) and enrolled at the Open University in its initial year (1971). He graduated with a BA degree in 1974.[6]


In the year prior to being recruited into HM Diplomatic Service, Haseldine was employed at the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority. He joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in May 1971 and within four years was posted as Commercial Attaché to the Paris Embassy. In January 1978, he was posted as Third Secretary (Aid), later Second Secretary (Commercial/Aid), to the British High Commission in Freetown, Sierra Leone. In November 1982, he was posted back to London and spent a year in the FCO's Southern African Department.

In July 1983 he was appointed on assistant on the South Africa desk in the FCO's Southern African Department (SAfD) in London where his responsibilities included monitoring the voluntary cultural and sports boycott of South Africa, and enforcing the mandatory UN arms embargo against South Africa.[2] However he was seconded to another department after his superiors deemed him unsuitable to work in a political department.[2] In January 1986, he was unsuccessful in appealing against this unfavourable performance review, which he alleged was politically motivated.[2]

For two years from 1984, he was seconded to the Office of Fair Trading before returning to the FCO in December 1986 (Defence Department).[7]

Question Time[edit]

On 22 February 1988, Haseldine was a member of the invited studio audience of the television show Question Time.[2] He participated anonymously in a debate on South Africa, without making any controversial statements; he was the first member of the audience to vote on the question of sanctions.[2]


In March 1988, after a disagreement with his manager in the Defence Department, Haseldine was instructed not to publish any further documents in his own name. The following month, after circulating material within the civil service without authorisation, he was suspended from his job for six months.[2]

He was invited back to join the FCO's Information Department on 3 September 1988.[2]

Guardian letter[edit]

Haseldine's letter as published in the Guardian

On 7 December 1988, Haseldine wrote a letter to The Guardian from his work address (Information Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office)[2] in which he criticised the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher for using "self-righteous invective" over an extradition request for an Irish priest, Father Patrick Ryan, to face terrorism charges in the UK.[2] He contrasted the case to that of the Coventry Four, four South African businessmen charged in 1984 with evading the United Nations Security Council Resolution 418 ban on military exports, who were subsequently released by the Thatcher government.[8]

Haseldine labelled the four South Africans "terrorists", a term deriving from Michael Dukakis and from some anti-apartheid activists calling apartheid South Africa a "terrorist state" to trigger automatic sanctions.[9]

He was immediately suspended from work on full pay.[2] In a House of Commons written question on 13 December 1988, Tam Dalyell asked the Prime Minister "when she expects to receive the report from Sir Robin Butler on the case of Mr P J Haseldine and his letter to The Guardian; and if she will make a statement?" The Prime Minister replied, "I do not expect to receive such a report. This case is being considered in accordance with procedures laid down in Diplomatic Service Regulations."[10] On 21 March 1989, following a disciplinary proceeding, he was asked to resign or be dismissed.[2]

He appealed against this decision to the Foreign Secretary (Lord Howe), who rejected the appeal. He was dismissed on 3 August 1989.[citation needed]

In a subsequent interview with The Independent, Haseldine stated that he believed the real reason for his suspension was his asking a question on the Question Time show in February 1998.[11] The Foreign Office responded saying that "Patrick Haseldine was dismissed in line with normal discipinary procedures for writing a letter to The Guardian. The disciplinary board considered that in light of the letter he had committed a serious discipinary offence and inevitably had lost the confidence of ministers and colleagues."[11]

Haseldine submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights in 1991, claiming that his dismissal for writing the letter to The Guardian contravened his right to freedom of expression, but the ECHR declared his application inadmissible the following year.[2]

Later activity[edit]

Haseldine wrote a series of letters to The Guardian, promoting the conspiracy theory that South Africa was behind the Lockerbie bombing[12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19] and later submitted two unsuccessful petitions to 10 Downing Street, citing the criticism of the Lockerbie investigation by UN observer Hans Köchler, and calling for a new UN inquiry into the bombing. Haseldine later ran a café in Ongar, Essex,[20] and stood as a Labour candidate for the Ongar Division in the 6 May 1993 Essex County Council elections.[21]

See also[edit]