"Lord Hutton’s report is a curiously unbalanced document. He opens by saying
that no one could have contemplated that David Kelly would take his own life as
a result of the pressures he felt, at which point he could have stopped. Several
hundred pages later, blame has, by implication, been apportioned. What is
extraordinary about the report is that it has all been allocated to one
institution, the British Broadcasting Corporation. Even if it is accepted that
the BBC’s reporting and its failure to clarify it contributed to the atmosphere
that made Dr Kelly feel the pressures on him were intolerable, this
one-sidedness seems perverse."
(The Independent, 29 January 2004)
"These lies are like their father that begets them: gross as a mountain,
open, palpable." (Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part One, ii, iv, 260.)
Imagine a game of football where the manager of one team made up the rules to
benefit his own side, where the goalposts were moved and where the referee was
on his side. The outcome of such a match would, of course be known in advance by
the winning side, who would then run around the stadium in a state of ecstasy,
yelling "Victory!" That is precisely what happened with the now infamous Hutton
report that came out on Wednesday. Contrary to what had been expected, Tony
Blair, his former director of communications Alastair Campbell and the Defence
Secretary Geoff Hoon were all cleared of any improper behaviour leading up to
the suicide of the weapons expert David Kelly.
The majority of people had expected an even-handed report that would admonish
the BBC for its mistakes, but also apportion at least part of the blame to the
government, the Ministry of Defence and the Security Services. Nothing of the
kind emerged. There is not a single word of criticism – even of the mildest
sort – for Blair, Hoon or Campbell. Lord Hutton, who acted like a veritable
bloodhound when investigating the BBC, seeking out and exaggerating every little
detail, suddenly became blind, deaf and dumb when examining the conduct of
Number Ten Downing Street, the Civil Service and the Joint Intelligence
To the general amazement, Lord Hutton found that the Government did "not
behave in a dishonourable, underhand or duplicitous way" in confirming Dr
Kelly’s name to reporters who suggested it to the MoD press office after the
Government announced that a civil servant had come forward who might be Mr
Gilligan’s source. Amazingly, even the chief victim of these events was not
spared from the critical eye of His Lordship. On Dr Kelly himself, Lord Hutton
said the government scientist broke civil service rules by his unauthorised
meeting with Mr Gilligan and said he was "not an easy man to help or to
whom to give advice".
Lord Hutton did venture a mild criticism of the Ministry of Defence for not
warning Dr Kelly that his name would become public. But the rebuke was so feeble
that it did nothing to threaten the position of Mr Hoon, who had been widely
seen as the most likely casualty of the inquiry. Hoon has been attacked by the
families of British soldiers killed in the war as a result of the bungling of
the ministry that left troops without body armour, boots and other necessary
supplies. This was also the result of political pressure: the haste to go to war
was dictated by Blair’s policy of dancing to Bush’s tune. On grounds of
inefficiency and bungling alone, Hoon should have been sacked. But as one of
Blair’s chief cronies, that could never be allowed.
The real role of Commissions of Inquiry
There can be little doubt that Mr. Blair was aware of the result of the
Hutton inquiry well in advance. For weeks, when pressed to answer embarrassing
questions about the Kelly affair in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister
replied with an enigmatic smile and the words: "Just wait for the result of the
Hutton inquiry." Michael Portillo, the Tory former defence secretary, said:
"Certainly I don’t think No 10 could be more satisfied if Alastair Campbell
had written it – it’s very satisfactory from No 10’s point of view."
If it was not actually written by Blair and Campbell, it might just have well
been. The government knew what it was doing when it set up this commission. A
dangerous controversy was taken out of the public’s eye and hidden behind locked
doors long enough for the issues at stake to be at least half-forgotten. In the
corridors of power and the clubrooms where such matters are decided,
politicians, bureaucrats and judges decide between themselves the fate of trials
and public inquiries. Hence, no commission in history has ever come out against
an existing government. The whole set-up of commissions is just one more fraud
in the whole gigantic fraud of bourgeois formal democracy, where the people are
given the illusion of power, while all the important decisions are taken by the
rich and powerful.
A smirking Mr Blair told the House of Commons: "The allegation that I or
anyone else lied to this House or deliberately misled the country by falsifying
intelligence on weapons of mass destruction is itself the real lie. And I simply
ask that those who made it and those who have repeated it over all these months
now withdraw it, fully, openly and clearly."
This was a veiled signal to commence a witch-hunt against the BBC, to
humiliate and terrorise the government’s critics in the media. However, the
Downing Street clique have seen the polls and understood that public opinion
remains suspicious. It was not good policy to gloat in public, and so they have
left it to their pit-bull terrier, Campbell, to go onto the attack. He crowed:
"What the report shows very clearly is this: the Prime Minister told the
truth, the Government told the truth, I told the truth. The BBC, from the
chairman and director general down, did not. Today the stain on the integrity of
the Prime Minister and the Government has been removed."
Shock and consternation
But not everyone is so easily convinced. The contents of the report caused
shock and consternation. Austin Mitchell, the Labour MP for Great Grimsby –
hardly a left winger – said: ‘It is a whitewash, basically. The danger is
that it is so one-sided a report that it is going to lose credibility. People
just aren’t going to believe it.’ (The Independent)
That is obvious. We are clearly in the presence of a gigantic and blatant
whitewash. In fact, it is not even cleverly done. A good liar always takes
care to make his lies as plausible as possible – that is, they must bear some
resemblance to the truth. If they are too implausible, then nobody is going to
believe them, which is the case with the Hutton report. This wretched document
is so blatantly, one might say insolently, one-sided, that very few people will
believe what it says. Indeed, the first opinion polls published this morning
already show this. 56 percent of people think the Hutton report is a
whitewash. On the question of "trust", 31 percent trust the BBC, but only 10
percent trust the government.
The universal scepticism is shared even by such redoubtable figures of the
Establishment as Lord Rees-Mogg, who has openly questioned the results of the
inquiry and the competence of Lord Hutton on The World at One yesterday ("Nice
chap, bad lawyer, very conservative-minded"). Rees-Mogg pointed out what is
obvious: the results of the inquiry do not flow from the evidence submitted.
Whether Lord Hutton is a "nice chap" we do not know. That really depends on
who you are. To Tony Blair and his cronies, Hutton must seem a very nice chap
indeed – or better still, a very obliging chap. As this hatchet-faced
Ulsterman sat and droned on and on in his flat, monotone voice, the champagne
corks must have been popping inside Number Ten. Lord Hutton, of course, comes
from a very special tradition, the Ulster tradition of democratic politics, as
developed by his worthy predecessor Lord Carson and best summed up in the
celebrated phrase about elections in the North of Ireland: "Vote early, and vote
The inconsistencies, irregularities and contradictions in Hutton’s report are
legion. For example, it is known that Alastair Campbell did in fact beef up the
reports submitted by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) in order to make out
a stronger case for Britain’s participation in George Bush’s war. To do this,
the notorious (and completely lying) statement was submitted to the effect that
Saddam Hussein could mobilise his "weapons of mass destruction" in 45 minutes
– a lie that was repeated by Tony Blair in the House of Commons. Yet Hutton
finds no fault with an unelected and irresponsible official actively interfering
in the elaboration of sensitive papers by the Security Services for political
In a final submission to Lord Hutton, the Kelly family said: "The
Government made a conscious decision to cause Dr Kelly’s identity to be revealed
and it did so in order to assist it in the battle with the BBC." The family
quoted Mr Campbell’s diaries as evidence of the Government’s
"improper" intent. In one extract disclosed to the inquiry, Mr
Campbell wrote: "The biggest thing needed was the source out."
It is known that Campbell actively pushed for Kelly to be "outed" as part of
his attacks on the BBC, and that he wanted his name to be kept out of it. All
this is clear from his diaries, which were in the possession of the inquiry.
This piece of dirty intrigue ought to have been sufficient for Hutton to have
made some critical reference to this Rasputin of the Blair clique. But no, yet
again, for some mysterious reason, His Lordship’s critical faculties bean to
vanish, the closer he approached the workings of the Blair government and
its minions. He finds "nothing underhand in all this." This is quite natural,
since if you do not intend to look for something, you will certainly never find
Even more incredible is the comment that the head of the JIC might have been "unconsciously
influenced" by his knowledge that Mr. Blair was desperate to receive hard
evidence about the existence of WMDs in Iraq, in order to silence the anti-war
protesters and win over the sceptical majority of his own Party. And what is a
good civil servant for but to serve his political masters? The JIC fell over
themselves to give Blair and Campbell what they wanted.
Such blatant political interference in what is supposed to be a non-political
civil service should surely merit some critical comment from His Lordship. And
he does indeed mention it – not as a fact (and it was a fact) but only as a
hypothetical possibility – and even then it is relegated to the realm of the subconscious.
Freud must be spinning in his grave at this gross misuse of psychoanalysis. But
it was expressed in the most serious tones by Lord Hutton. It is fortunate that
His Lordship appears to possess no sense of humour at all, or he would have
burst out laughing at himself.
Where did the Intelligence come from?
In order to confuse the issue, Hutton resorts to sophistry, asking the
question whether the JIC and Blair knew that the intelligence was false. We are
firmly convinced that they did, and that they deliberately sought to manipulate
whatever information came their way in order to exaggerate the "threat" to
Britain posed by Iraq. We have no doubt that, one way or another, the government
and its hired agents like Campbell, leaned on the Security forces to obtain "evidence"
which, if it was not downright lies, was at least partial, shaky and unreliable.
This was then presented to Parliament and the British people as absolutely
reliable and incontrovertible evidence backed up by the most reliable sources
– our own British Intelligence – "the finest in the world" (just like our
public transport, health service and education). In fact the conduct of the JIC
over Iraq presents a lamentable spectacle. Either the JIC knew that the whole
thing about WMDs was rubbish, in which case they are rogues, or they did not
know, in which case they are fools. Most probably they are both.
There is absolutely no doubt that all this "intelligence" was a pack of lies
from start to finish. There was absolutely no reliable intelligence to
back it up. This was confirmed recently by the declarations of the man who
President Bush sent to Iraq to look for "weapons of mass destruction", the
chairman of the Iraq Survey Group, David Kay. The whole rotten edifice of lies
and distortions with which Bush and Blair stampeded their countries into war on
false pretences has been blown sky high. In order to hide their bare backsides,
these scoundrels now resort to all kinds of trickery and manoeuvres to confuse
and disorient public opinion. The Hutton farce is only part of these manoeuvres.
Where did the intelligence come from? We know where it came from. It was
mostly invented by Iraqi exiles in the USA who were desperate to push America
into invading Iraq. They falsified the issue of "weapons of mass destruction"
and then passed it on to the Republican Right – the lunatic elements that
surround the President and constantly egg him on to his madder adventures. These
then passed them off as good coin to the President, who, not being very bright,
immediately accepted them as genuine and incontrovertible. Finally, George W.
whispered in Tony’s ear, and the latter, as usual, became more Papist than the
Pope on WMDs.
The "intelligence" reports had nothing to do with the decision to invade
Iraq. Bush and Blair had made up their mind to invade Iraq a long time ago. The
quibbles of the UN were merely an irritating irrelevance to them – a hindrance
to their "grand Plan". In Alice in Wonderland the Queen shouts: "Verdict first,
trial afterwards!" A similar logic was pursued by B and B to drag the American
and British people into a criminal war. We know there were people in the
intelligence services of both Britain and the USA who were worried about this.
David Kelly was one of them. But the central point is that the decision to go to
war had already been made long ago, and Bush and Blair were only concerned with
softening up public opinion to prepare for it.
These facts are of primary importance to answer the questions posed by the
Hutton inquiry, yet not one of them feature in the report. Why? Because, like
the football manager we mentioned at the beginning, Blair deliberately gave the
Hutton inquiry extremely narrow terms of reference, limiting it to dealing with
the causes of the death of Dr. Kelly, and excluding the central question of "weapons
of mass destruction" and whether the invasion of Iraq was justified.
If you ask the right question you usually come up with the right answer. If
you ask the wrong question you will inevitably come up with the wrong answer.
Moreover, the way a question is posed can itself determine the answer. Not
satisfied with the extremely narrow terms of reference imposed by the
government, Lord Hutton then chose an even narrower interpretation.
Lord Hutton simply ignored the crucial question of whether Mr Blair took
Britain to war in Iraq on a false prospectus. He ruled that the intelligence
on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was beyond his terms of reference. After
that the whole inquiry was a case of Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. By so
narrowly defining his remit (which he did not have to do), Hutton took a
decisive step in the direction desired by the government. Even so, the one-sided
nature of his final report shocked many observers. Blair is now dancing for joy,
but his euphoria is misplaced. The Independent commented: "Blair’s triumphalism
is mistaken: this unbalanced report does not vindicate his decision to go to
war." The execrable Hutton report will not make the issue of his criminal Iraq
policy go away. The stage will be set for new explosions and crises.
The onslaught on the BBC
While treating the government, the civil service and the intelligence
community with kid gloves, Hutton lambasted the BBC mercilessly. In his 740-page
report he said that the BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan’s allegation that the
Government had "sexed up" its dossier on Iraqi weapons and included
intelligence it knew to be probably wrong or questionable was
"unfounded". He criticised as "defective" the BBC management
system which allowed the reporter to make his claims on Radio 4’s Today
programme and said the BBC governors should have investigated the Government’s
complaint about his story more fully.
The announcement of the Hutton report immediately led to a vicious campaign
against the BBC. The Blairites were baying for blood. These creatures are not
only greedy for power and fat salaries. They wish to enjoy their power and
privileges undisturbed by public inspection and control. This is particularly
true of the notorious "spin doctors" – that pack of unelected careerists who
have fastened their teeth on the Labour Movement as a vehicle for personal
advancement and a road to lucrative jobs in government.
Under the regime of Tony Blair, parliamentary democracy has been steadily
emptied of any content it may have once possessed. Power has passed from
parliament to the cabinet and from the cabinet to a tiny clique of unelected
officials – the notorious "spin doctors" whose sole concern is to manipulate
public opinion and silence press criticism of the government, thereby protecting
their own substantial interests.
Chief among this army of greedy carpetbaggers is Alastair Campbell, a man
characterised in equal measure by thrusting ambition, over-confidence, political
illiteracy and a bullying temperament. The great "crime" of Andrew Gilligan was
to partially expose the role of Campbell in these manipulations. Seething with
resentment against the BBC for daring to question his role in government (which,
by the way is absolutely unconstitutional), he has done his best to whip up an
atmosphere of Macarthyite witch-hunting against the BBC which threatens to
further erode what is left of the freedom of speech and the press in Blair’s
Under the remorseless pressure of this pack of Blairite bloodhounds, the BBC
has been left reeling. Visibly shocked at the viciousness of the attack, the BBC
bosses beat a hasty retreat. Greg Dyke, the corporation’s director general,
said: "The BBC does accept that certain key allegations reported by Andrew
Gilligan on the Today programme on 29 May last year were wrong and we apologise
for them." But apologies are not what Blair and his bully-boy Campbell are
after. They are motivated by petty spite and vindictiveness and they want to
terrorise and cow the BBC so that never again will it attempt to shed light on
the obscure operations of the government spin machine. There was a deafening
chorus of ministers, ex-ministers, MPs and Alastair Campbell, for BBC heads to
roll. Heads did roll.
Gavyn Davies (a multi-millionaire thanks to his career with the investment
bank Goldman Sachs, and therefore a typical Blairite) was appointed chairman of
the BBC in 2001. This was itself a blatant attempt to secure political control
of the BBC, since Davies was a supporter of New Labour and a personal friend of
several Party leaders. But unfortunately, Davies did not act as they expected.
Probably he was stung by Tory accusations that he was too close to New Labour,
and therefore he made no attempt to muzzle investigative journalists like Andrew
Gilligan, who made it their business to ask awkward questions and shed light on
the dark corners of government. This became particularly irksome to Blair during
the Iraq war, when Campbell accused the BBC (falsely) of an anti-government
For these reasons, Gavyn Davies had to go. The Blair-Campbell cabal could
never forgive him for his "betrayal". He duly fell upon his sword immediately
after the inquiry. However, he did not go altogether quietly. The attack on
Gilligan’s report about the Iraq dossier was, he said, merely the latest episode
of an anti-BBC campaign co-ordinated by the Prime Minister’s then director of
communications, Alastair Campbell.
Mr Davies said: "The board reiterates that the BBC’s overall coverage of
the war and the political issues surrounding it, has been entirely impartial and
it emphatically rejects Mr Campbell’s claim that large parts of the BBC had an
agenda against the war."
He made it quite clear that he questioned the results of the inquiry. He
asked: "Is it clearly possible to reconcile Lord Hutton’s bald
conclusions on the production of the September 2002 dossier with the balance of
evidence that was presented to him during his own inquiry?"
He also asked: "Are his conclusions on restricting the use of
unverifiable sources in British journalism based on sound law and, if applied,
would they constitute a threat to the freedom of the press in this
At least Mr Davies, whose fortune is an estimated £150m, will not miss the
£80,000 salary his four-day-a-week BBC job paid. His resignation was soon
followed by that of the director general Greg Dyke, who is also the BBC’s
editor-in-chief. Mr Dyke accepted responsibility for the report, but that did
not mean that he "could or should" have known before transmission that
it contained errors.
The remorseless pressure on the BBC has already borne fruit. The BBC
governors, instead of defending the corporation, immediately capitulated,
issuing a grovelling apology to the government. The corporation has announced
that any reporter with a controversial story – preferably transcribed in full in
his or her notebook – will have to ensure it does not clash with complaints and
compliance procedures being drawn up under the aegis of the newly appointed
deputy director general Mark Byford.
This is already a measure that will inhibit the work of investigative
journalists. Anecdotal evidence suggests that producers are no longer happy to
use unscripted two-way interviews on the most controversial stories. If this
kind of thing continues, the last pretence of an independent BBC will have gone
up in smoke. The reactionaries will feel more secure to pursue their
anti-working class policies, free from the last elements of democratic scrutiny
For a Labour Movement Inquiry!
Is any of this of interest to the Labour Movement? Some will ask this
question. And of course, the so-called "independence" of the BBC was always very
relative, partial and conditional. In the last analysis, the television and the
newspapers will always defend the existing order. Yes, all this is perfectly
true. But the working class – above all in Britain – has always been in the
first line of the struggle for democratic rights. It is in the interests of the
working class to achieve the maximum amount of democracy because this will give
us the broadest scope to fight for socialism.
We will therefore fight against any attempt to restrict democratic rights.
Yes, the freedom of expression is always partial, conditional and restricted –
like all other rights under capitalism. But it is not in our interests as a
class to see it still further restricted.
Among rank and file journalists at the BBC and beyond there is growing anger
at Lord Hutton’s blatant one-sidedness and the assault on press freedom. All
honest journalists are indignant at this new attempt to muzzle and tame
investigative journalism and bring the BBC under government control. There were
spontaneous walkouts by journalists at the BBC in protest at Hutton. That is the
way to do it! If the TUC was worth its salt, there should have been a national
wave of strikes and demonstrations against this monstrous whitewash and scarcely
veiled threat to the rights of journalists.
On this question, the Labour Movement should not be neutral. We know that
under the capitalist system there can be no such thing as a genuinely free
press. We know that the vast majority of the newspapers and television channels
are owned and controlled by a handful of super-rich moguls. We also know that
the much-vaunted "independence" of the BBC is a very relative affair, and that
in the last analysis the TV, radio and press will come down against the working
class and in favour of the status quo.
Hutton’s hatchet job on the BBC could have far-reaching implications, not
only for democracy but for culture. Already Tessa Jowell the Culture Secretary
is warning that the Hutton report will be "taken into account" when the BBC’s
charter comes up for renewal. Since it is already underway, this is nothing more
than crude and undisguised blackmail.
The Blair clique – doubtless in cahoots with their wealthy big business
pals who are anxious to get their paws on British television – are clearly
toying with the idea of a "radical reform" of the BBC. There are people who
would love to break up the state-owned BBC and open up British television to the
kind of "free-market" jungle we see in the USA. Until recently the BBC, for all
its faults, maintained quite high standards of broadcasting.
Tony Blair makes no secret of his admiration for the "free market" and all
things American. We are now threatened with the Americanisation of British
television, with the attendant collapse of cultural standards and an invasion of
commercial interests of the kind so familiar in Italy, where the gangster
Berlusconi controls the media and uses his control to defend his right wing
government. This would be a blow against both democratic and cultural standards.
It must be decisively rebuffed.
The working class is the class that is most interested in defending democracy
and culture. In the period of its senile decay, monopoly capitalism threatens
both. Bourgeois democracy is increasingly being emptied of any content it once
possessed. Democratic rights are being whittled away one by one. The Labour
Movement will ignore this threat at its peril.
The Labour Movement must vigorously oppose the witch hunting of journalists
and defend the freedom of expression. It must conduct its own inquiry into the
Iraq war and the conduct of Blair and Bush. It must expose the machinations of
the clique of careerists who have hijacked the Labour Party and led it down a
disastrous path. And it must purge the Labour Movement of corrupt, dishonest and
alien elements and return to the socialist road.
London, January 30, 2004.