Two days that shook the nation
SEVEN-THIRTY on Wednesday evening, Westminster. Lord Hutton has reported, the gathering storm has shifted from above Downing Street and erupted instead over the BBC on the other side of London.
As MPs dissect the findings at their leisure in the bars of the House of Commons, one of the unsung figures in the drama is alone outside. Lord Falconer, long-term friend of Tony Blair and the constitutional affairs secretary who oversaw Hutton’s selection and the conduct of his inquiries, is huffing and puffing his way up the steps of Westminster tube station.
His demeanour betrays little sign of satisfaction at a job well done. Buttoned up against the cold in a shapeless blue overcoat and beanie hat, one of the richest men in parliament looks thoroughly miserable. But the portly Charlie Falconer is going to a party.
Five minutes later, he is out of his coat and smiling, in Downing Street with a glass of champagne in his hand, alongside the Prime Minister, Cherie Booth, and most of the senior government figures released from their purdah by Hutton only seven hours earlier. Blair believes he has successfully passed the toughest hurdles of the most treacherous week of his political career. But already the reaction to Lord Hutton’s report is not taking the turn the Prime Minister expected. Across Britain there is one word on the lips of his critics and neutrals alike: whitewash.
IT WAS to be the week that Blair confronted all his fears, his demons and his tormentors head-on: the legacy of David Kelly, the judgment of Hutton, the ever-present spectres of Saddam Hussein and Gordon Brown. But when he awoke on Sunday morning, the only person on his mind was plain old George Mudie.
It is a long time since the Dundee-born Labour MP has been in such elevated company, since his government career shrivelled at the junior minister stage five years ago. A solid, reliable backbencher, the 58-year-old Mudie has previously been notable only as one of the few people to have fought to keep his name out of the "top people’s directory", Who’s Who, rather than get it in. The prized invitations to the Prime Minister’s country retreat was a privilege denied to him. But tuition fees changed that.
Mudie, unofficial chief whip of the Labour MPs ready to oppose Blair’s flagship proposal to impose tuition fees, was suddenly a hot property for the ruling elite.
Five days before the vote, after the official chief whip, Hilary Armstrong, had warned the Cabinet that the Higher Education Bill would fall if emergency action was not taken, the Prime Minister was convinced that he had to tackle the rebel leaders personally.
A Prime Minister facing the most threatening week of his political career was taking time off from his Sunday to entertain a humble backbencher in his own home. The spectacle demonstrated both the scale of government concerns about the mortal threat posed by the rebels, and the willingness of key ministers finally to co-operate in a desperate bid to defuse it. Blair issued the emergency invitation to Mudie under pressure from Brown, John Prescott and Armstrong. On Friday afternoon, as Mudie was preparing to head north to his Leeds constituency for the weekend, he got the summons to Chequers.
The weather was adjudged too cold to risk a full tour of the estate’s 1,250 acres for Mudie’s benefit, although he was taken on a cursory walk around the most impressive rooms. But, regardless of the lack of ceremonials, the proto-rebel knew he was there to do business. "George wasn’t starry-eyed about this - don’t get carried away with that idea," a close ally of Mudie explained. "He knew that they wanted him there to change his mind. He welcomed the invitation, but he wasn’t there to cave in and he wasn’t there just to look at the paintings."
It was an overdue first encounter with the depth of feeling on his own back benches, but it was not the last time Blair would confront the friendly enemies who represented half of the threat to his future last week. One hundred and eighty-five Labour MPs had originally signed the early day motion calling for a rethink on the plan to allow universities to levy fees of up to 3,000 a year on their students, and still more than half of them had refused to recant and commit themselves to voting for Blair.
His political staff, Sally Morgan and Pat McFadden, concentrated solely on tuition fees and winning over rebels. Throughout Monday and Tuesday, Blair scuttled back and forth from Downing Street on special expeditions to the House of Commons to win over the obstinate potential enemies within.
In his desperation, the evangelical, reforming Tony Blair gave way to the humble Labour leader as he met the rebels one by one in his office along with his parliamentary private secretary, David Hanson, and Morgan. "There was ‘real Blair’, staring deeply into our eyes," one revealed of the meetings with Blair amid the panelled walls and comfortable sofas of his Commons study. Blair himself eschewed the formal position behind his desk and instead perched on one of the ample sofas to deliver his series of individual appeals. "It was a personal plea, rather than an attempt to chat about the rights and wrongs of the policy. ‘I really need your support’.
"I think some MPs just ended up feeling sorry for him."
Whether won over by the force of the leader’s argument, his hypnotic personality or simply his uncommonly vulnerable state, those scurrying back to the fold in the final days before the vote could not overbalance a revolt that was expected to erase the 160-plus majority that had thus far insulated Blair from the bitter experience of defeat.
Enter Gordon Brown. The Chancellor, the second-most important figure in the government, the inconstant ally, was long recognised as the only man who could save Blair from his first monumental challenge last week. A nod or a wink to his supporters among the would-be rebels would have been enough to swing the rebellion, but for several weeks he remained impassive.
When Brown finally applied the thumbscrews to his recalcitrant colleagues last week, he summed up his 11th-hour warning with the words favoured by Blair and Prescott: "It’s make your mind up time". The Chancellor’s final calculation, more brutal even than the simple arithmetic of the whips scrabbling to avoid a catastrophic Commons loss, was that defeat on this issue would tarnish him and his chances of succeeding to a lengthy premiership of his own, as surely as it would Blair himself. He had made up his mind: to save Blair, to preserve a worthwhile legacy - and his own chances of inheriting it.
"Last week, over a week before this all played out, a well-informed minister assured me it would look like we were going to lose, right up until Monday night, then, on Tuesday, Gordon would save the day," a Downing Street insider said last night.
Brown stepped up his lobbying efforts dramatically as the vote came closer. One signatory of the motion was in the sanctuary of the Commons committee corridor when he was passed a note, advising: "Ring Gordon". The Chancellor was calling in all favours.
The lavish attention heaped on Mudie over the weekend did not finish with his day out at Chequers. Prescott, who had taken Mudie to Chequers in his Jaguar, whisked him back to his grace-and-favour flat in Admiralty Arch, overlooking Downing Street, on Sunday evening, where both Gordon Brown and Nick Brown - a fellow leading rebel and probably the Chancellor’s closest and most devoted acolyte - were waiting impatiently to begin serious negotiations. Their talks, fittingly for four Labour men of the old school, were held over beer and sandwiches and lasted for several hours. On Monday afternoon, Nick Brown and Mudie slipped into Downing Street to finalise their deal, guaranteeing a built-in review of the policy, with Prescott and Blair. But when Blair said he expected his support, Mudie demanded a five-year suspension of variability. When the Prime Minister refused, he looked his leader in the eye and said: "I am not going to support you." As the desperate attempt to broker a compromise collapsed around him, and after a furious Prescott walked out on the talks, Blair was finally, surely, staring into the abyss.
Commons business managers were discreetly put on alert to keep a slot free on Wednesday afternoon. The Prime Minister with the safest mandate in living memory was preparing to defend himself and his government in a debate on a motion of no confidence.
With the Prime Minister having reached the limit of his appetite for bargaining, it was Brown who attempted to break the impasse. Less than 24 hours before the fees vote, he called his close friend and namesake to his flat in Great Peter Street.
The following morning, Gordon Brown telephoned his former Cabinet colleague at his flat in nearby Victoria Street demanding a final answer. Nick Brown told him he would be voting with the government in the fees division 11 hours later.
It was an astonishing piece of gymnastics for the rotund ex-agriculture minister, as his former colleagues in the rebel camp were going to extraordinary lengths to carry through their long-held threat to oppose the fees legislation to the end.
As Brown was announcing his last-minute decision, and Blair was preparing for his final tour of wavering MPs, Paul Flynn was waiting in a departure lounge in Strasbourg airport. One of a knot of rebels on the UK delegation to the Council of Europe, the veteran Labour maverick had been forced to pay out of his own pocket to return from a week of meetings in France to defy the government, after party whips warned they would not sanction a refund.
The elements were not kind to Tony Blair on Tuesday: 24 hours later, and the rebels flying home to vote against him would have been stranded in France by the snowfalls. Instead, as Flynn explained, "everything was perfect". "We left on time, we arrived on time and we saw a beautiful view of Strasbourg under a covering of snow on the way back."
Once they arrived back in London, however, they were greeted by news of Brown’s bombshell."I certainly didn’t think the game was up," said Flynn. "The game was up for Nick Brown. He won’t be seen now as a person of any stature after we’ve seen him doing the back-flip and taking like-minded and ambitious people with him."
Colin Pickthall, Clive Betts, Angela Eagle, Bob Blizzard: all were shifted from the "noes" to the "ayes" column in the whips’ office in the immediate aftermath of Nick Brown’s conversion. By lunchtime, Blair was told that he was inching towards victory.
But the landslide predicted after the volte-face of one of the rebel leaders slowed abruptly as it became clear that Brown had not achieved the concessions he had presented as justification for his momentous decision. Downing Street tersely insisted that the Prime Minister had not caved in to any demands, and the rebellion was firm again.
The lobbying campaign was not limited to Labour MPs. In an episode eerily reminiscent of John Major’s desperate attempts to maintain a majority during the dying days of his government, the higher education minister, Alan Johnson, met a delegation from Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party only four hours before the 7pm vote. Johnson brought along an official from the Northern Ireland Office, fearing that they would ask for concessions on the Good Friday agreement in return for rescuing Blair on this single occasion. They didn’t ask, and neither did they promise to vote for the government: Blair was informed that he was still 10 votes short.
As panic set in around Armstrong’s office, the whips were immediately sent out again to twist the arms of those marked down as "possibles", as well as some who had previously been written off as unmovable. Austin Mitchell, the veteran MP for Great Grimsby, subsequently revealed he had been bought off with the promise of extra help for his constituency. Mitchell voted "through gritted teeth and very miserably" for the government after his last-minute conversion after the whips promised "favours", which he refused to reveal.
"I told them that, if these could be agreed, it might help me to make up my mind," he added. "And clearly the government was running scared because they did agree."
After more than six hours of debate and 10 minutes of confused voting, Jim Murphy, Eastwood MP and junior whip, finally approached the government front bench. The government’s supporters filed through the voting lobbies believing they had lost, but before MPs had returned to the chamber, Murphy whispered to his superiors: "We’ve got it by five." Later that night, the whips celebrated their against-the-odds achievement over champagne in the Commons dining room. Armstrong’s victory tour of every table in the room took in all but the only one dominated by the rebels. "You don’t do that sort of thing," one said. "It pisses people off. She could have been a bit more gracious, magnanimous in victory. It was only five votes anyway."
IT WAS already an old battle. Those few Labour MPs not preoccupied with the frantic struggle to save the fees legislation would have noticed Blair withdrawing from the fight for three hours during the afternoon, after loyally sitting alongside Charles Clarke, the combative Education Secretary, as he opened the debate at 12.43. Advance copies of Lord Hutton’s report into the circumstances surrounding David Kelly’s death had just been delivered to Number 10, but Blair had no idea as yet what it contained. He was about to be pleasantly surprised.
When Blair finally escaped back to the Cabinet Office shortly after 1pm, he joined his chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, senior civil servants and lawyers, and key government figures affected by the report, notably Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon. No one else was allowed into the room. By the time the Prime Minister was allowed through the security cordon, the atmosphere was already electric: Hutton had delivered a verdict far beyond their most optimistic expectations.
"We were pleased that he was clear," one senior ministerial source declared, with a feel for understatement that would prove uncommon in the following days. "The people involved in this had hardly read through the summary, or the bit where they were referred to, before they had to go back and read it all again, just to make sure they weren’t dreaming."
Within minutes of opening the 740-page document it was clear that Blair could instantly abandon his most drastic contingency plans, to issue apologies, to pledge changes and ultimately to sack ministers. One Downing Street staffer bluntly summed up the jubilation: "We usually have a line to take, but the joke was that the line to take on Hutton was, ‘You’re not singing any more’.
"Everything we did was right, everything the BBC did was wrong. It was unbelievable."
Disbelief also dominated the atmosphere across London, at the headquarters of the BBC. "Everyone was shattered when the report landed," recalled the corporation’s now ex-director-general, Greg Dyke, of the scene in the secure conference room where those affected had been herded to view Hutton’s work. Dyke and the chairman of governors, Gavyn Davies, were together throughout the reading, as other respondents - accompanied by security guards - drifted away to digest their copies. Within an hour, in the face of the finding that the governors had failed to investigate Andrew Gilligan’s fateful allegation that the government had sexed up intelligence on Iraq’s weaponry, Davies had made it known that he would "have to go". He composed his resignation statement that night in the hotel where the BBC staff had been closeted to avoid leaking the report.
Back at Television Centre, staff at the Today Programme - where the row began with Gilligan’s now infamous 6.07 broadcast - were preparing the running order for the following day, with Blair’s narrow victory in the fees vote universally recognised as the top story. Shortly after 10pm, however, they began to get the first news of an even more dramatic triumph. Starved of leaks on Hutton from their own colleagues, the BBC’s journalists had been presented with the facts by the Sun’s own exclusive revelations about the report’s contents, and it contained several unpalatable rulings on their organisation and their professionalism. The Today team looked on glumly as it became clear that the leak was genuine, and the condemnation became their lead story.
As Today was going on air at 6 o’clock the following morning, Michael Howard, whose first few months as Tory leader had to this point been faultless, was filing into the shadow cabinet room, in the bowels of the Commons, to receive his own advance copy of the report that he hoped would fatally damage Blair’s credibility. For half an hour the Tory leader, up-and-coming MP David Cameron and two Central Office officials enthusiastically ploughed through the findings before coming up for air. The documents turned up as agreed at dawn, but Hutton himself had not delivered. "Stop for a moment," Howard commanded. "Is there anything?" No one was able to answer in the affirmative.
The Tories had aimed for the sky under Howard, brow-beating Blair repeatedly over the alleged "naming strategy" which critics claimed had been designed by Blair, Campbell et al to reveal weapons expert Kelly as the source of Gilligan’s story. Over the weekend, as news leaked that Blair at least was likely to escape censure, they had been forced to reassess their plans, returning their focus to Hoon, confidently cast as the most likely casualty of the fall-out from the affair. But Hutton even shot that last, limping fox.
"It was small beer," said one MP close to Howard. "Barely a few crumbs for us to go on." The paucity of accusations to throw at Blair was evident six hours later when Howard faced Blair at Prime Minister’s Question Time, although both were officially precluded from referring to the report for another hour. After winning a series of bruising encounters with a curiously stilted and shifty Blair in recent weeks, Howard was now thrust on the retreat for the first time in his brief reign as Tory leader. It may prove to be a pivotal moment for both men.
As Big Ben struck 12.30, marking the official end of the confrontation, Blair was still on his feet. It was another two minutes at least before he sat down. "The chairman of the Conservative party . . . said that he was limiting Tory opposition to the government’s present proposals," the Prime Minister declared, in an energetic assault on the Opposition’s policy on tuition fees, before Speaker Michael Martin intervened to tell him his time was up.
Blair, a man who dislikes the weekly joust of question time more than any of his predecessors, could have stayed on for more. But, despite the instinctive urge to drive home his advantage after weeks of discomfort and embarrassment at the hands of Howard in the same arena, this time he had a more pressing engagement.
Within seconds of Martin calling an end to the unequal contest and ushering in a relatively unimportant urgent statement on the outbreak of avian influenza in Thailand, the previously heaving chamber was almost deserted. The gaggle of junior ministers and aides around the rear exit, behind the Speaker’s chair, parted clumsily as the throng left the chamber to hear Lord Hutton’s long-awaited verdict.
The first person to leave was Powell, who was revealed as a central figure in the production of the dossier on Iraq’s WMD, trademark curly hair bobbing jauntily as he strode across the corridor and into the warren of offices beyond.
The Tory front bench - David Willetts, Howard, Michael Ancram and Theresa May - skulked out behind them on their way to witness what they already knew would be a dispiriting broadcast from Court 73. Then, briskly through the parting scrum, strode Tony Blair, for the first time in months a confident leader, looking rested and relaxed, brushing aside all before him.
Immediately behind him, Gordon Brown, distracted and evidently irritated by an enforced conversation with a fellow MP trudging along beside him, kept an eye on the senior partner disappearing into the distance.
Then, gruffly, as politely as the Chancellor could manage under the circumstances, he barked: "See you later." Brown accelerated away to catch up with Blair, once again clearly a man worth courting rather than bating.
Brown and Blair watched Lord Hutton’s statement on his findings together, in the Prime Minister’s office in the Commons. Hoon viewed the proceedings with some relief along with his closest aides in his own office nearby. Elsewhere in the House, those MPs who were still unaware of Hutton’s exhaustive rebuttal of slurs against Blair’s integrity remained glued to their televisions. The biggest huddle gathered in the tea room, where Blairite loyalist and BBC-basher Chris Bryant could not restrain his grin.
Hutton, clipped and precise, broke his findings down into five key areas, and each delivered an unambiguous verdict on the government’s conduct. It had been honest in insisting that the dossier on Saddam’s weapons had been prepared and drafted by intelligence staff, and Campbell had not interfered beyond entitlement. There had been no strategy to push Kelly’s name into the public domain. Where Gilligan claimed the government knew that the warning that Saddam could launch his WMD within 45 minutes had been unreliable, and that it had not been included in the first draft, Hutton simply countered that the information had not been received until late in the process. In sum, Hutton decreed that the central allegation that the dossier had been "sexed up" was "unfounded as it would have been understood by those who heard the broadcasts to mean that the dossier had been embellished with intelligence known or believed to be false or unreliable".
As the judge finally reached the end of his statement, a disorientated Conservative MP approached a Labour colleague and declared: "Bloody hell, by the end I was expecting (Hutton) to get up and add his ringing endorsement to tuition fees."
After repeated predictions that he was doomed, the MoD finally experienced life without Geoff Hoon on Tuesday, but it was to last only 24 hours. The Defence Secretary left his office on Tuesday lunchtime to view the advance of the Hutton Report and stayed away until the following day. Hoon, freed from criticism of his treatment of Kelly, was graciously bundled into a ministerial limousine for the short trip across Whitehall to the Cabinet Office, but he would have been grateful that at least he didn’t have to wear a hood over his head, as so many had expected.
But after returning to his post, did he, in line with his colleagues, crack open the champagne? "He cracked open the ministerial red box," an aide said. "This has all taken up a lot of his time recently and he needed to catch up with his work."
At one minute past two, Blair was back on his feet before a packed House. "The allegation that I or anyone else lied to this House or deliberately misled the country by falsifying intelligence on WMD is itself the real lie," he concluded. "I simply ask that those who have made it and repeated it over all these months now withdraw it fully, openly and clearly."
Immediately afterwards, Alastair Campbell’s replacement, David Hill, was waiting in the House of Commons to give the government’s first official response to the report. Pinned against a wall by the parliamentary journalists who had for months been predicting that the report would wreak havoc on Blair’s government, the careful Hill preferred to stick to the script ably prepared by the judge himself.
"Anything I could say would only f*** it up," he added. It was a deliciously restrained response that contrasted sharply with the sustained "triumphalist" diatribe unleashed by Campbell over the next few days in response to his own exoneration.
The BBC subsequently met the demands for an apology, and more "scalps for Campbell’s belt" when Dyke’s grudging offer to resign was accepted during a stormy meeting of the corporation’s board of governors the following day. Gilligan himself, the original target of Campbell’s ire, fell on his sword soon afterwards, heading back to the world of newspapers from whence he came. "The BBC don’t sack people," one source said. "But they make it clear whether it’s worth sticking around." But the manner of both men’s departures, their attacks on Hutton and Campbell and their defence of the BBC, suggest that they will not go quietly - and the organisation they leave behind will not remain cowed for long.
"If you look at how this story has been covered by the BBC this week, you’ll see there is a backlash," a corporation insider said last night. "It started off quite restrained, even penitent, but now I think the reporting is already becoming bolder and questioning of the role of Hutton and the government."
The "BBC bounce", albeit one aided by public sympathy, may not sustain the corporation through the crucial negotiations on the renewal of its charter in the coming months. The apologetic new regime shows little sign so far of stomach for a fight when so much in the long-term relies on good relations with the government today.
THE unlikely victories achieved by Blair at the end of his most challenging week in power may not in the end turn out to be the clear wins he was originally demanding, however. The tuition fees triumph was achieved only at the expense of intensifying Labour’s bitter internal warfare and, worse, a further acknowledgement of his lengthening debts to Brown.
Senior members of the government bridle at the suggestion that Brown won the day - pointing out that he can be credited for winning over only as many rebels as colleagues including Straw and Prescott - and far less than John Reid. More damaging is the lingering suspicion that Nick Brown’s conversion was agreed several days earlier and delayed for maximum effect.
"This idea that Gordon rode into town on his white horse and saved the day is stretching it a bit," one source said. "Thanks for the five votes, Gordon, but everyone else had people to speak to as well."
No matter. When Gordon Brown mouthed "five" to Blair after the vote, he was making it plain that they both know the value of his continued co-operation. Blair’s fate will, more than ever, depend as much on keeping his Chancellor happy as in convincing his suspicious party that his promise to give them a genuine role in drawing up critical policies following the fees debacle.
Then there is the Hutton problem. The BBC has taken its Hutton knocks on the chin. Andrew Gilligan’s decision to quit may have been inevitable, but the resignations of both the chairman and the director-general - plus the abject and unqualified apology to the government from the new pro-tem chairman - have been seen by many in the corporation and the country at large as overkill.
What has left the bitterest taste is the astonishingly one-sided nature of the Hutton Report, which even 10 Downing Street did not anticipate.
Lord Hutton paints a picture of a world in which the BBC did everything wrong and the government did nothing wrong. It is not washing with the public: the unpredicted consequence of Lord Hutton letting the government off scot free is that people are regarding the Blair government with even more suspicion and distrust. Even Cabinet ministers privately admit that Lord Hutton’s failure to rebuke the government for anything, except in one minor detail, has made the report incredible. "It would have been better for its credibility and ours," said one minister, "and stopped it being dismissed as a whitewash if his lordship had slapped us on the wrist a couple of times."
Blair faces a full debate on Hutton in the House of Commons this week, when MPs will be free to air any concerns.
And more menacing still is the prospect that, regardless of Hutton’s favourable conclusions, Iraq and its alleged arsenal will prove to be the gravest threat to Blair’s future. Even as he was welcoming the clean bill of health from Hutton, across the Atlantic the former chief weapons hunter, David Kay, was underlining his deep concerns about the basis for war in the first place.
"We were almost all wrong," Kay told a US Senate committee on Saddam’s alleged arsenal. "It is highly unlikely that there were large stockpiles of deployed militarised chemical and biological weapons there."
Downing Street airily dismisses complaints about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as a diversion from Hutton’s findings. But, as Blair himself accepted last week: "It is absolutely right that people can question whether the intelligence received was right, and why we have not yet found weapons of mass destruction. There is an entirely legitimate argument about the wisdom of the conflict."
With US officials gradually conceding their concerns over the existence of the weapons cited as the reason for war, the Hutton inquiry itself is set to become a diversion from the main event. Kay, Condoleeza Rice, even George Bush might do what Hutton, Gilligan, Howard and the BBC couldn’t, and establish a compelling case that Blair took Britain into war on a false prospectus.
The gaps in the report
THE political backlash against Lord Hutton began gradually, as the government’s opponents feared accusations that they were impugning the judge’s conduct. But a series of concerns have now emerged over the questions that Hutton failed to answer, and the evidence he did not address.
The dossier, the weapons and the real threat posed by Saddam:
Evidence to Hutton revealed the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) John Scarlett had changed the wording of the dossier alleging that Saddam posed a clear threat, with Downing Street’s requirements in mind. Hutton accepted "The question whether intelligence approved and provided to the government by the JIC was reliable is a very important question", but then ruled that "It is an issue which does not come within my terms of reference and on which I express no opinion."
There were also important omissions: when Scarlett refused to strengthen the claim in the original dossier that Iraq "might" have stocks of VX gas, Downing Street simply removed the whole sentence.
The intelligence and the 45-minute claim:
BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan alleged the claim that Saddam could launch an attack on Britain within 45 minutes was included in the dossier even though the government knew it was unreliable. This appears to be false.
However, it emerged during Lord Hutton’s inquiry that Scarlett, following a request from Alastair Campbell, had firmed up the original wording in the dossier from stating that Iraq "may be able to deploy WMD within 45 minutes" to "are able" - a crucial distinction which has infuriated critics of the war.
Evidence to Hutton proved some intelligence staff had reservations about the strength of the language used to portray the threat, which produced headlines warning "45 minutes from attack". Hutton said it was "unnecessary" for him to express an opinion on why the concerns were not passed to the JIC. He also side-stepped a judgment on why the government failed to correct the assumption that the 45-minute warning related to battlefield weapons, not missiles capable of hitting UK bases in Cyprus.
Gilligan, the BBC and the contentious reports:
In a live broadcast on May 29, Gilligan incorrectly claimed the government included the 45-minute warning in the dossier "probably knowing it was wrong".
Subsequent evidence proved he was right to say the "45-minute" point came from one source, was included in the dossier at a late stage and that there was disquiet in the intelligence community about it, but Hutton concentrated on the original live broadcast.
Hutton refused to criticise the government for relying on single source intelligence, which has proved so far to be false, while attacking Gilligan for relying on a single source - ie David Kelly.
The Naming Strategy:
A collection of evidence shows Blair, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and Alastair Campbell all wanted to see David Kelly revealed as the possible source of Gilligan’s claims. Campbell’s diary in particular revealed he and Hoon wanted the "source out", and that the spin doctor believed the revelation would "F*** Gilligan".
During the inquiry Campbell said the PM did not want Kelly’s name leaked, which appears to be the only reason it was not. Hoon said No 10 decided to issue a press statement stating a civil servant had come forward - but then a decision was taken to confirm Kelly’s name to journalists, who guessed correctly.
The first journalist to do so was from the Financial Times. However, one reporter, from the Times, was allowed to have 20 guesses before alighting on Kelly’s name.
Despite this Lord Hutton concluded: "It is not necessary for me to resolve some differences and areas of uncertainty arising in the evidence of Mr Campbell and Mr Hoon."
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