Wednesday 9 July 2003

Rod Liddle on Gilligan's Island

'The war against Gilligan is 90% confected outrage, 10% personal animus by Alastair Campbell'

by Rob Liddle

There is not the slightest doubt in my mind - nor, I suspect, in the collective mind of the overwhelming majority of British people - that this government misled both parliament and the electorate about the nature and gravity of the threat posed by Iraq.

The ludicrous second dossier - most of which was plagiarised from a student's thesis written 12 years previously - seems to me conclusive proof of that, regardless of whether they have since apologised for it.

Simply put, the prime minister did not attempt to present to the rest of us disinterested evidence compiled by disparate, well-informed sources. He wished only to convince us, by hook or by crook, that we should bomb Baghdad as soon as possible.

Which is why I am sick of hearing about Andrew Gilligan, much as I like and respect him. Gilligan is not the point; he's a red herring. And nothing the Labour dominated select committee might decide will alter that conviction. The War Against Gilligan is 90% confected outrage and 10% personal animus on the part of Alastair Campbell.

Is there anybody in Britain who truly believes the BBC was wrong to report the comments of a very senior intelligence service source about such a crucial issue?

Can you imagine being told, on the record, by one of the country's top spooks that the security services were angry at Campbell's involvement and deciding not to report it? You know, "Nah, think I'll keep this one under my hat"? That's what the government claims it thinks the BBC should have done.

Recently the BBC has had to suffer being lectured about journalism by both Campbell - an unashamed propagandist now and in his own journalistic days - and the insufferable Ben Bradshaw.

Ben keeps reminding everybody that he knows what he's talking about because he used to work for the BBC. Well, so he did. But he wasn't very good. He was, he tells people, a radio presenter and is therefore justified in alleging that John Humphrys is a "biased" interviewer.

Well, Ben, I knew you and I know John Humphrys. And you're absolutely right that there is no comparison between the two of you. And I know who I - and the public - trust more.

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