Seven years after the suicide of Dr David Kelly, former BBC Director General Greg Dyke suggests it might have been better if the BBC had held its own inquiry into Andrew Gilligan’s false report which triggered the events that led to that tragic death. The fact it has taken him so long to come to such a view merely underlines what an unsuitable choice he was for a senior position in the first place.
When the row between the government and the BBC was at its most intense, we in Downing Street assumed – as any moderately serious person was entitled to – that the BBC would be doing what we were doing; investigating the situation fully.
One of the most extraordinary revelations to emerge at the Hutton Inquiry was the failure of the BBC senior management to ask the right – or indeed, it would seem, any – questions, or ensure they were being asked by others. Once we made a complaint, then so far as they were concerend, it was a question of defending the Beeb right or wrong. So when Lord Hutton reached the only possible conclusion based upon the evidence, all they could do was bleat about whitewashing, a bleat that has been heard in disappointed media circles ever since.
Unlike his wife, (who thought Dr Kelly was murdered by the security services,) the more demented elements of Associated Newspapers, and a few self-styled ‘experts’, Dyke seemingly accepts that it was suicide. But in that cheeky chappy manner for which he became so popular with his adoring BBC acolytes, he throws in that ‘I met some Australian spies once who were pretty convinced that MI6 had killed him.’ … I had that John Birt in the back of the cab once.
In the same interview Dyke renews his claim that I am a thug. I accept I conducted myself with a certain agression, which they failed to read as a seriousness of intent to ensure the report was withdrawn. And in that regard, I was doing my job rather better than he did his.
Still, I must not be churlish, and therefore welcome the fact that seven years later, he thinks that maybe it might have been a bit more sensible to have made a few checks into their claim that we had published false information, knowing it to be false, against the wishes of the intelligence agencies.
It is clear from the interview that Dyke continues to reframe the allegations made at the time so he can pretend that somehow because no weapons were found, it means their story was accurate. It wasn’t, and if it had never been broadcast, David Kelly – whose only mistake was to imagine he was dealing with an honest journalist – would still be alive. That is an inconvenient truth which gets very little airing when Dyke and the other BBC people involved give their version of events about that period. It is a truth nonetheless.
I think it is to your credit that apart from at the inquiries you have had to attend you tend to avoid going over the old ground from 2003 on here. But I think it entirely right that time to time you make sure people do noassume from that that you have changed your position on this. I am not alone in feeling that the BBC conduct at the time was dreadful, and I am afraid, not confined to that one situation. They had an agenda to pursue and in some ways they still pursue it. I don’t doubt those who will never see different will cone out with their usual criticisms for you daring to say what you think. The reason I come here regularly is because you do
Where is Dick Emery when you need him? He would do a great Dyke! Love the blog, and sorry about Burnley yesterday (well I;m not but you know what I mean)
Get back in there and sort them out – media and party!
If you read Dyke in the Observer, you must have seen re Wikileaks. Views??
A breathtaking rewriting of history. Brilliant hypocrisy. You should be ashamed of yourself.
Alastair Campbell´s life would be much easier if everyone understood the following.
When people talk about the Iraq war etc., they usually use private morality to evaluate things. This is a mistake. The result is often emotional outbursts which contribute little to understanding of complex issues.
Only when people start evaluating things in real politics terms, will meaningful and pertinent conversation be possible.
The defining characteristic of realism is that international politics is governed by different moral principles than domestic policies.
Private morality is not a criterion for judging states. This does not mean that there are not, as Kant said, universal principles.
But we live in complex, imperfect world.
As Machiavelli has stated, good men intent on doing good must know how to bad. A policy is defined not by its exellence but by its outcome. If it is not effective, it cannot be virtuous.
So it is important to make a difference between private and public morality. It is important to separate private ethics from international politics.
It was, for example, morally wrong for Finland to form an alliance with the Nazis. But in real politics terms we could not have defended us alone against the Soviet Union.
I beg your pardon??? “… because no weapons were found, it means their story was accurate. It wasn’t, …”. What kind of logic is this please?
I’m so glad to hear your comment about Mr Gilligan whom for years I have thought to be the prime mover in the events which happened to Dr Kelly. I became interested in the evidence to Lord Hutton’s Inquiry and followed it reasonably closely. In particular the evidence of Dr Kelly’s colleague Dr Olivia Bosch with regard to Mr Gilligan remained in my mind. She mentions how Dr Kelly himself was suspicious of the interview, and, together with the evidence from Dr Kelly’s sister describing his attitude to the war (she says he thought the war was inevitable and could be entirely justifiied ) one wonders how the impression was given that he didn’t approve of the September dossier. Especially when he told Dr Brian Jones that ‘it was good’
What a pity Greg Dyke had not had a change of heart when it would have meant something , ie before the message was broadcast
More power to your elbow
Penelope, the story was that the government knowingly provided false information. That was what was wrong about the story. The government did not knowingly provide false information, and that is why the BBC is still at fault despite the fact that no weapons were found. These distinctions are vitally important, and if you are not capable of seeing them, you are going to have a hard time following detailed debates like this.
Interesting. Can you please go through AC’s blog point by point and explain exactly what you mean – exactly where he’s rewriting history? The blog seems to me entirely accurate and if it’s not I would be genuinely interested to learn why. Bear in mind that what the BBC got wrong was saying that the Government knowingly gave out false information. That’s the point they had to prove to stand up the story, and of course they couldn’t.
So come on – explain your comment, point by point. We’re waiting.
Ah, so here you with us once again again, Chris. Absolutely no evidence to back up your assertions. There’s a surprise. And so, your posting is worthless. Did they not teach you at university that you always need evidence to support a thesis?
Read the first sentence and hope and pray that Dr Kelly’s widow doesn’t visit this site.
Again, read the first sentence – Gilligan was not the cause of Dr Kelly’s suicide. Fairly obvious who and what had a direct causal relationship to that tragedy.
ronnie – tribal politics are OK up to a point, this is well past that point.
Dyke’s behaviour at the time was absolutely absurd. The whole BBC strategy of simply closing ranks, assuming that the BBC man was right and his accusers were not, and not even doing a bit of checking to ensure that this was actually the case, was like some extraordinary Old Boys’ Club from the Suez era. I found it incredible and very unedifying at the time, and it seemed to me a serious problem with the BBC – this quite apart from the rightness or wrongness of Gilligan’s behaviour, of course.
I don’t see much to redeem Dyke in the linked-to article. It seems that his admission now that perhaps it would have been a good idea to have some kind of internal inquiry is motivated purely by the realisation that if they’d done that they could have delayed the whole thing until it became a non-issue. In other words, just filibustering, not any notion that the BBC’s management had any kind of duty to establish the facts of the case before getting into the ring with Campbell and the government.
I think people have a settled view on this, and like those who still doggedly support the discredited Andrew Wakefield and his alleged MMR ‘research’ there are still those today who despite evidence to the contrary ie. – that when Gilligan was eventually put before the foreign affairs committee, sources from that group claim he altered his evidence, and the chairman said that “Mr. Gilligan appeared to change his mind on the very grave allegation (he’d made against AC) in quite a fundamental way.” – they are not about to change their minds.
I’d also like to mention that AC says he behaved with a ‘certain aggression’ I think I’d say he behaved with (as I saw in the interview with Snow on ch.4) a ‘certain determination’. When fighting for your life and reputation, I think it’s reasonable to make your points very strongly, and pointing or tapping the table in front of you is hardly violent or threatening; and I didn’t actually notice anyone leaping across the table with fists flying.
Are we really so wet that we can’t distinguish between an insistence on the truth incorporating a determined verbal defense – and thuggery Mr. Dyke? or could it possibly be that there’s some ‘poor little me’ hypocrisy going on here
1. Once again – you’ve no evidence to support your assertion. As a historian, I can tell you that as AC was extremely close to the event in question, he’s doing a more convincing job than you. You offer, in evidence, um, nothing.
2. Yeah, reading Alastair’s post is sure to give her a nervous breakdown.
You a doctor, or something? Or perhaps a vicar? Bishop of the Church of England?
I’ve always thought that broadcasting Gilligan’s report, then ensuring it was the top story for the rest of the day was the BBC’s way of undermining Tony Blair’s first visit to Iraq.
I’m also waiting for an update on your initial post. It’s “fairly obvious” who and what had a “direct causal relationship to that tragedy,” is it? Do tell us then. And why it’s only “fairly” obvious and not just “obvious.”
‘…Andrew Gilligan’s false report which triggered the events that led to that tragic death.’
This seems to me to be a statement of fact, supported by the findings of the Hutton report.
I think there should be an enquiry into the way that Dr David Kelly’s name was leaked to the media. Campbell, Blair and Hoon need to face further questioning about that.
Why? The Hutton report dealt with this.
You must be busy at your job…
Oh come on! It’s blindingly obvious that the government did everything they could to hype the case for invading Iraq including scratching around on the Internet to find material to make their case – and then publishing a report plagiarised from a student’s thesis!
In reply to Janete.
The Hutton enquiry was a whitewash.
Don’t know what you mean by tribal politics. I’m only talking about facts. Are you really denying that if Gilligan and the BBC hadn’t chosen to broadcast that item, the whole Kelly thing wouldn’t have been set in motion?
Seems very clear that AC’s statement is absolutely correct.
The BBC said the Government knowingly made false claims. This accusation has been disproved by Hutton and Butler and denied by the JIC who supplied the intelligence and wrote the dossier. Do you seriously think that if there was any real evidence that the Government had made false claims that we’d still be discussing it?
The Government did indeed publish evidence about the threat they believed came from Saddam Hussein. There is nothing wrong with this – all the facts show that they did so in good faith.
The BBC needed evidence to accuse the Government of knowingly making false claims. They had none because there was none
I’ve always believed Dr. Kelly, sadly for his family, took his own life. The recently released pathologists report seems to be the final nail in that particular coffin. I don’t believe he was removed by the security services, because he’d already said what he had to say anyway. So what would have been the point in closing the stable door after the horse had already bolted.
Dr. Kelly had no business talking to a journalist in the first place and to choose someone like Andrew Gilligan, calls into question not only Kelly’s integrity but also his judgement and intelligence.
There’s no so blind ….
I agree with your comments regarding people who make judgments using private morality to evaluate things. Private morality, as you put it, simply cannot be applied when looking at the bigger picture and long-term ramifications of seemingly individual and unconnected events.
Of course it is unlikely ever be proven that the government KNEW the 45-minute claim was questionable. It has of course been proven that they were extremely gullible to put so much weight on this uncorroborated claim. It is clear they were determined to support the USA’s mission to depose Saddam, no matter what. I would also add that it was widely reported when George W Bush began his run for President that, if he got in he would go to war in Iraq [to finish off what his father failed to finish] and so it was proven.
You’re now broadening it out to a discussion of the whole thing, which I suspect we have both had many times before with different people. You happen to think it was wrong, I happen to think it was right. I would suggest you consider the possibility that just because you think it was wrong, it doesn’t mean there had to be skulduggery and lying.
To get back to the reason I replied to you: you were suggesting that because no weapons were found, it meant that the BBC’s story was accurate. That was an illogical and wrong suggestion on your part. That’s really all I wanted to pick you up on.
Coming back to this interchange after a couple of days away is interesting. Obviously most people are pro AC (it’s AC’s site after all). But the pattern is( generally) this: what you get from the pros is reasoned argument, what you get from the antis is unsupported bluster and rhetoric. Your comment, john, is unsupported bluster and rhetoric. It’s unacceptable to come into a conversation like this and simply say what you said. You need to support it with specific evidence. I have read the report and I don’t believe that evidence exists, but I’d be interested in hearing what you think it is, point by point.
The BBC’s story WAS accurate. They reported that their source (Dr Kelly) was saying that the 45-minute scenario was not reliable and that the September dossier had given it too much weight. Time and many, many, many deaths proved that the 45-minute claim WAS pie-in-the-sky. The story was accurate: it reported what their source said. It does not even matter – in terms of whether the story was accurate or not – whether their source’s opinion was to be proved correct or otherwise. Oh dear I have just had a big glass of red grape juice – I hope I am not rambling!
Hi PR – looks like we’re the last ones standing on this page!
If all the BBC had said was that the 45-min scenario was not accurate there would have been no major problem. What was devastating was that they said that the Government had knowingly given false information. Knowingly. That is the point I’m trying to stick to here!
The Government had no choice but to defend itself because (a) it wasn’t true and (b) if it had been true they wouldn’t have been able to continue in office.
Gilligan and the BBC went ahead and broadcast this accusation without evidence.
That is why they were wrong.
Yes Ronnie – we will never agree. I’ll just have the last word though …