Melanie Phillips

Honest Tony

Melanie Phillips says that The Spectator has got it wrong: the Hutton inquiry does vindicate the government

Tony Blair told us the truth. There, said it. Shocking, isn’t it? Something you would never dream of reading in a family publication. Especially The Spectator – the paper that supports Andrew Gilligan. Everyone knows, after all, that Mr Blair is a liar. We wouldn’t believe him, would we, if he told us the time. Everyone knows he made up the threat from Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction because none have been found, and if something isn’t found then it proves that it never existed. Everyone knows that this is, well, just obvious. And apparently, everyone knows that the evidence to the Hutton inquiry has proved Mr Blair misled the country over the case for war against Iraq. A bit of a consensus has developed, pushed along notably in these pages, that Andrew Gilligan’s infamous story was ‘basically’ correct. Despite the fact that he and the BBC grovelled to the inquiry over numerous, ahem, errors in his incendiary accusation, we are told that London taxi drivers and restaurateurs are bestowing upon him laps of honour and free banquets, weeping in gratitude at the service he has performed for the nation in exposing the Prime Minister for the liar we all know he is. Before we disembowel Mr Blair and stick his head on a pole on Tower Bridge, a small pause may be in order to consider the actual evidence submitted to Hutton. Leave to one side the way Dr Kelly was treated by both the government and the BBC, each of whom tried to use him as a weapon against the other. Leave aside also Alastair Campbell’s frantic obsession with punching the BBC to the ground. The Hutton evidence shows quite clearly that the central BBC charge, that the government gave the country a false prospectus for war by exaggerating the threat from Saddam against opposition from the intelligence service, has been blown out of the water.

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