Ed’s Weblog

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Hutton verdict

Posted by Ed on January 28, 2004

Today the Hutton inquiry into the death of David Kelly, the government weapons expert who committed suicide, was published. The inquiry examined the events leading up to the scientist’s death, whether the government had acted improperly in its treatment of him, and whether the BBC, and in particular Andrew Gilligan, had acted improperly.

It was fairly obvious that the government and prime minister, TB, would come up smelling fairly sweet (you don’t order an inquiry if you’re not reasonably confident of this), but I for one did not expect them to come up smelling of an entire rose garden. In short, Hutton has completely absolved the government, and given the BBC a right drubbing. I think Channel 4 news stalwart Jon Snow summed it up best:

“Whatever, the likelihood is that the BBC and its fate will now come to dominate the debate rather than the issues surrounding the war. As regards the BBC, whatever mistakes were made, government clashes with the state broadcaster are dangerous, there are implications for every journalist. This is very dicey territory. We could find that the death of David Kelly ends up robbing Britain of the best public service broadcaster in the world. To the great joy of several newspaper magnates and their empires.

“This is one of the most worrying and difficult days of my broadcasting career. I hope we rise to the occasion. We shall be trying at seven.

So the result today was Tony Blair demanding apologies from the BBC, Her Majesty’s Opposition and everyone who questioned his integrity in the run-up to the war, and the chairman of the BBC resigning his post. but before we get carried away and slink off home thinking, “Oh well, I suppose old TB was right all along…”, let’s not forget that Hutton’s remit was very narrow, focussing really only on Kelly’s death, and not answering the far wider questions about the whereabouts of the WMDs, or the quality of the intelligence which led TB (he seems to be the only one left that still believes in them – even GWB now talks of Hussein wanting to develop programmes to develop WMD) to believe in the existence of WMD.

There will be many people who find this completely unsatisfactory, and will still demand a proper inquiry into the reasons given to us for going to war with Iraq. Its not over yet.

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