No kudos in knowing the man of the moment, Colonel Gaddafi, or his family. So imagine what a difficult week this has been for Professor David Held, the Graham Wallas professor of political science at the London School of Economics and co-director of its Centre for the Study of Global Governance. The centre took lots of money – £300,000 – from the international charity of Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam. That won't happen again, said the LSE. And Prof Held himself was critical of Saif's defence of his father's regime on state TV. But still we had some questions. Is it right, professor, that you were a trustee of Saif's charity, we asked him. No, he said. "I am not on the board." But there must have been some further association, we told him. They list your name as a board member on the website. And we sent him a link. Ah, he said finally. I was indeed on the board for a short while, but I stepped down when the LSE received its grant from Saif al-Islam Gaddafi's charity. And it was good to finally get that clarification, though it took three emails and two hours to jog his memory. Must be hard to remember the details with so much going on.
Watching events unfold with a measure of deja vu and perhaps some trepidation are the retired volunteers of the IRA and their allies in Sinn Féin. From the early 1970s and, in particular, the 80s Colonel Gaddafi provided money, arms, surface-to-air missiles and the explosive Semtex to keep the IRA's campaign rolling. Numerous dignitaries, both publicly and secretly, travelled to Tripoli for "solidarity trips". What kind of records were kept of these meetings in Tripoli, is the question being asked in Belfast and Dublin. If Gaddafi goes, will he take his secrets with him?
And never mind the IRA, what would the files tell about the arrival in Libya of a younger – but no less comical – Nick Griffin? The Griff led a deputation to see Gaddafi in the 80s in the hope that the colonel might use his petro dollars to help ignite the flame of British nationalism. "We needed to attract serious money," explained the BNP leader. "Had we been offered it, we would have been very happy to take it." Alas, the colonel sent them away empty-handed. So, as a legacy, we have a nice picture of Nick and his long-time lieutenant Patrick Harrington posing beneath a regal poster of the colonel. And we know, thanks to the Lancaster Unity website, that until recently Harrington was selling Gaddafi's revolutionary Green Book on eBay. But would the Gaddafi files tell us anything else?
If the files are there, who will find them? The world's media are on their way and eager to impress. Our money is on the BBC's John Simpson, for he is on the border now, we are told, having pitched up – "to the utter confusion of the foreign desk" – and claiming he "owns" the story. Sources say he is "dressing up as one of Gaddaffi's women bodyguards as we speak".