Thursday 8 January 2004

The totality is – the Prime Minister lied

Phony Tony's days are numbered. The only problem is that Howard is even more fookin' scary than Blair in a lot of ways...

Right. OK then! Now I get it (slap forehead). How could I have been so slow on the uptake? I understood until yesterday that the Prime Minister had been caught out in a great big fat steaming smoking-pants lie. I thought it was clear to the meanest intelligence that Tony Blair had authorised the naming of poor Dr David Kelly to the media, and then pretended otherwise.

But it turns out that we haven't been paying enough attention to the "totality" of what he said. No, no, he kept saying yesterday, as he wriggled before Michael Howard like a kebabbed witchetty grub. Only the "totality" is operative, said Blair, irresistibly recalling the performance of Nixon's spokesman during Watergate. Well, let us indeed examine the totality of the Prime Minister's words and deeds, and discover how we came by this misunderstanding. They total up to quite a lot.

You remember the miserable business last summer. A distinguished MoD scientist, Dr David Kelly CMG, was under intolerable mental strain. After 30 years of work in the field of weapons inspections, his name had been released by the Government to the media, as the source of an important news story, without doing him the courtesy of letting him come forward on his own. His political masters wanted him to knock down that story. He was reported to have said that the September 2002 dossier, on "Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction", was "sexed up" by Downing Street.

That story was dynamite because the dossier was the Government's prospectus for war, in particular the claim, never denied, that Saddam could launch chemical or biological warheads within 45 minutes. Since the weapons of mass destruction had still not turned up, people were demanding ever more insistently how the Government came to make these claims. It was particularly damaging that intelligence sources appeared to be blaming the politicos for applying a meretricious gloss to raw data. The Labour Government was sensitive to charges of "spin".

The story must be denied, and only the source could do it properly. There were two problems. Not only did David Kelly indeed talk to the BBC journalists. What made it worse was that the BBC story was essentially accurate. David Kelly was concerned that an exaggerated emphasis was being placed by the Government on Saddam's WMD capabilities.

He supported the war, and believed that Saddam should be removed. But he knew that he might be one of those charged, after the war, with going out to Iraq to unearth these weapons. He didn't want the embarrassment of finding nothing. It dismayed him that so many changes had been made to the dossier by Alastair Campbell, Jonathan Powell, the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff, and others.

The changes also dismayed other intelligence wallahs, and, when Kelly briefed the BBC, he was indeed reflecting the views of several people intimately involved. How could Kelly deny a story that he knew to be essentially true, and of which he was indeed the source?

So tortured was he by the conflict in his position, his treatment by some showboating politicians, the discreet threats of the MoD, that he couldn't stand it. He took his own life; and, at that moment, it was as if all the lights had come on in a game of murder in the dark. All the sordid activities of government were suddenly revealed, with everyone springing apart, too late, from their attitudes of conspiracy.

The truth is that Mr Blair, and Alastair Campbell, wanted the name of David Kelly to be in the public domain because they believed that Dr Kelly would help them destroy the BBC story. He would deny that there was the slightest unease within intelligence circles about the dossier.

Full story...