Monday, August 18, 2003

Covering the Story - Hutton Inquiry Today

As promised, I went off to the Inquiry today. And what a day it was.

First of all there was the MoD News Director, Pam Teare, who tried to tell us all that she had only decided to name Dr Kelly for the sake of other civil servants. Yes! It was all just to keep the poor dears out of "the media spotlight". This remarkable humanitarianism was hardly surprising though, seeing as she had apparently done nothing all the time. Despite being Director, everything seemed to be someone else's problem. It was Sir Kevin Tebbit. It was chief press officer Kate Wilson. It was Tebbit's secretary Dominic Wilson. Anyone but her. One of the day's most telling questions was the one inquiry QCs Dingemans and Knox asked everyone: "Was it not your understanding, therefore, that he did not want to be named in the statements? No-one said anything to you about that?" No. "And you did not ask?" No - she didn't. Neither did No. 10 Chief of Staff, Jonathan Powell, apparently think about the "strain and burden that might be imposed on Dr Kelly giving evidence to both the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Intelligence and Security Committee" as Dingemans put it. "It was not something that came to us." was his reply. And the story sounded menacing that way.

In a No.10 meeting held at 0900 on the 7th of July concerning the Foreign Affairs Committee report, a group including all the key men - Omand, Scarlett, Tebbit, Powell, Jack Straw and Tony Blair - discussed Kelly. Sir Kevin Tebbit, it appears, said to Blair that Kelly might "say some uncomfortable things" about Iraq to the FAC. He went to say that he "undertook to find out more about his publicly expressed views". And Tony Blair "made it clear" that the MoD should be in the lead at all times and that Kelly should be called back from a training course at RAF Honington to face a second departmental grilling. This apparently was the subject of a sinister email sent by Tebbit to Powell that day. One line only: "The interview is at 1600. I am told you will know what that means!" And at some point in the discussion, Jack Straw had cause to mention Kelly's employment rights. Mr. Powell said nothing to clarify what Straw meant by this. He says he forgot. You can believe that if you wish. Mr. Powell had some other things to explain as well. For example, if No.10 had nothing to do with it - then how did he come to write an email to Alastair Campbell (who naturally had nothing to do with dossiers either!) saying "Firstly, the document does nothing to demonstrate an imminent his neighbours let alone to the West"!

Another well-known denizen of Downing St who got caught was one Tony Blair - who at "that meeting" asked for a "more forensic" analysis of Kelly, and another interview....

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