Friday 29 August 2003

No One Comes Out Of This With Honour

by Paul Routledge

Hand on heart, proclaimed the Prime Minister yesterday, he believed it was all gen stuff from the spooks about weapons in Iraq.

But Tony Blair's hand was nowhere near his heart when he made his historic appearance in the Royal Courts of Justice to answer for his actions in the Kelly affair.

Instead, he fiddled with his specs and put his hand over his mouth when the going got embarrassing - the classic behaviour of a politician with something to hide.

The body language told us more than the words, though he did not know it. Blair left the dock, satisfied that no blame can be attached to his role in the tragic death of Dr David Kelly. He is responsible for everything, but guilty of nothing.

And he is not alone. His ministers, his spies, his advisers, his Whitehall mandarins and his spin doctors have given evidence, all seeking to evade responsibility for the suicide of a decent man who dared to doubt the wisdom of war against Iraq. They think they have just about got away with it.

In the clinical surroundings of the Royal Courts of Justice, Lord Hutton's search for the truth about Dr Kelly's suicide goes on. We will hear from the weapons scientist's grieving widow next week.

But the big political players have had their say, and it is now possible to come to an interim judgment on this dismal train of events.

And what a sorry conclusion it must be. Never before has the British establishment been subject to such deep and all-exposing investigation. Literally tons of secret memos, emails, draft policy documents and private remarks - sometimes of the most objectionable kind - have come to light.

This is the first inquiry of its kind in the age of the Internet. Trial by website. The most intimate contacts between our rulers have been revealed, and it is not a pretty sight. No politician has been spared, and not one of them has come out unscathed.

Reputations have not been made in Courtroom 73. They have been tarnished.

This has not been a game of winners and losers, but of losers and losers.

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