The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, January 04, 2004

Does Gilligan know more than he told Hutton on BBC and WMD?

Less than a fortnight to go to the appearance of Lord Hutton's report, and Huttonmania in the British media is starting to bubble.

As with the suggestion in the Independent today that BBC hack Andrew Gilligan [1], whose shooting from the hip on Iraqi WMD started the whole David Kelly business, has the goods on the BBC, and is threatening to spill his guts if they don't restore him to front-line service:
The journalist...has told friends that managers at the corporation had asked him to contact David Chidgey, the Liberal Democrat MP for Eastleigh, and Richard Ottaway, the Conservative MP for Croydon South.

Chidgey was one of the members of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee who interviewed David Kelly: Chidgey, prompted by an email from Gilligan, asked Kelly (Q22) about his contacts with fellow BBC hack Susan Watts, much to Kelly's annoyance, or worse.

Now, there have been bleatings - from serial bleater Michael Meacher in the Observer today, for one - that the Hutton Inquiry has been too narrow and that there needs to be a general inquiry on the reasons for war.

In the real world, Hutton was the only inquiry we were ever going to get (and that only, needless to say, because of Kelly's decision to hasten his own demise). At this point, the gold standard would be for Lord Hutton to announce that he was considering re-opening his Inquiry on the grounds that either
  1. evidence has been withheld; or

  2. misleading evidence has been given.

Since the report is probably already at the printers, it's going to need something more than paper talk to get this to happen. I raised the point (October 5) in the context of the publication of extracts from ex-Foreign Secretary Robin Cook's diary.

I was not unduly hopeful then, and I can't say I'm much more hopeful now: what one needs is the proverbial smoking gun: an email from some BBC suit to Gilligan approving in some way of Gilligan's email to Chidgey.

Now, I've raised before the question of the very partial disclosure of documentation made to Hutton: and one of the main classes of documents omitted (because, I'm sure, Hutton did not ask for them) is emails on private accounts (or accounts other than those of the sender's employers.)

It's most likely that emails with material germane to the Inquiry passed between those who gave oral evidence before Lord Hutton; an email on the Chidgey tip-off might have been amongst them.

Trouble is, for Lord Hutton to make a fuss now would be to raise the question why he had not asked for disclosure of all germane private emails before the Inquiry began. And if he left the initiative to Gilligan, it would be too late: the Report would be out, and, failing an amendment to his terms of reference (how likely is that?!), he would be powerless to act.

Of course, if some public-spirited citizen chose to leak the relevant paperwork in the next day or two...
  1. Who may, it seems, make a few bob from selling his story in book form.

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