Greg Dyke lashed out at Lord Hutton yesterday, accusing him of living in "cuckoo land" for clearing the Government in his "incredibly one-sided" report, and for getting the law wrong.
The unrepentant former director general of the BBC also criticised Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's former communications director, and Andrew Gilligan, whose radio report in May triggered the chain of events that has plunged the corporation into crisis.
His blunt comments - in which he, in effect, claimed the BBC's governors had betrayed him - dashed government hopes of an early end to the recriminations swirling in the wake of the Hutton inquiry. Cabinet ministers toured television and radio studios in an attempt to draw a line under the controversy which, despite a comprehensive vindication for the Government, appeared to have prompted a backlash from voters suspicious of a "whitewash".
Mr Gilligan also fired a fresh salvo yesterday at Lord Hutton for ignoring a "Matterhorn of documents about the Government's bad behaviour".
DYKE ON HUTTON
Interviewed on BBC1's Breakfast with Frost programme, Mr Dyke argued that Lord Hutton had incorrectly ruled that the law did not allow the BBC to broadcast a story revealing Dr Kelly's worries about the dossier that made the case for war in Iraq.
He said: "All the senior barristers I have talked to say Lord Hutton has got this wrong, which is a bit of a worry, given that he was the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland. One would expect him to understand the law. If he is doing a media case, he should go and read media law."
Mr Dyke said that, if Lord Hutton's interpretation was allowed to stand, that would have "incredibly serious implications for broadcasting and for print journalism" in dealing with whistleblowers.
He said: "What I thought about the report was it was incredibly one-sided. It criticised us - in some places, I think, slightly unfairly - but in the end we deserved to be criticised. But anybody who sat through that inquiry and listened to the evidence, who believed that no one in government, no one in the civil service, no one in the Ministry of Defence and certainly Alastair Campbell did not deserve some criticism was in cuckoo land."
DYKE ON THE GOVERNMENT
Mr Dyke said that, in hindsight, he wished he had set up an inquiry into Andrew Gilligan's initial report when Alastair Campbell first "went ballistic", rather than rushing to respond. He said the corporation had been bombarded with protests from Mr Campbell in the past and that this complaint was treated in the same way as the previous "10 or 15".
He said: "What Alastair Campbell was clearly trying to do was intimidate the BBC so that we reported what he wanted us to report as opposed to what we wanted to report." He added: "The moment the BBC starts kowtowing to government, you might as well close it down."
In separate comments to The Sunday Times, Mr Dyke accused the Government of "systematic bullying" and revealed that Mr Blair had written to him personally to complain about BBC coverage of the war. While he did not publish the Prime Minister's letter, Mr Dyke did reveal the reply in which he wrote: "For you to question the whole of the BBC's journalistic output ... because you are concerned about particular stories which don't favour your view is unfair."
He also criticised Mr Gilligan whom, he said, had told his bosses he could justify his story from his notes and other remarks by Dr Kelly. But "he changed his position a bit" when he appeared before the Hutton inquiry in September.
DYKE ON HIS RESIGNATION
Mr Dyke disclosed that the entire BBC board had considered quitting after the publication of the Hutton report. He said: "[The governors] discussed whether they should all go. I urged them not to all go; you can't have a BBC with nobody there." Confirming a report in The Independent last week that he had been sacked, he said he had told them he could not continue in his job without their confidence. He said: "At that stage, I left the room. An hour or so later ... they decided to suggest I leave. I had offered it; that was it."
HAIN ON RESIGNATIONS
Peter Hain, the Leader of the Commons, told the BBC when asked to react to Mr Dyke's comments: "It is perfectly proper, as Greg himself acknowledged, for the Government to put its view firmly, but for the BBC as an independent body to actually say, 'No, we think we should do it this way'."
Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, insisted that the Government had not demanded resignations from the BBC, as all it wanted was for the false allegations to be withdrawn. She said: "The decisions about resignations were matters for them; they were not matters for the Government."
GILLIGAN HITS BACK
Writing in The Sunday Times, Mr Gilligan, who left the BBC on Friday, was also caustic about the quality of Lord Hutton's conclusions.
He said: "The judge, I believed, would be judicious. He would criticise me, because I had made several mistakes. But I hoped he would give me some credit for owning up to them, and recognise that the vast majority of my story was true. He would not - surely could not? - overlook the Matterhorn of documents about the Government's bad behaviour, both in 'sexing up' the dossier and in outing David Kelly.
"As we learnt the full extent of Hutton's impartiality, a kind of stunned calm fell in the Broadcasting House room where I was reading the report. Padded out as it was with great tranches of testimony and appendices of documents, it didn't take long to get through -- but we searched in growing desperation for anything that we could take as remotely good news."
GILLIGAN UNDER FIRE
But Mr Gilligan was at the receiving end of vitriolic criticism from an unnamed senior BBC manager in The Sunday Telegraph yesterday. The executive echoed Mr Dyke's complaint that the reporter's failure to admit his mistakes at the earliest possible opportunity had set in motion the events that had rocked the corporation. The manager claimed the internal BBC inquiry announced by Mark Byford, the acting director general, into the affair would have resulted in disciplinary action. The source said: "Whatever people think about his story, there was no way they could turn a blind eye to his attempts to save his own skin."
KELLY FAMILY'S SORROW
As the BBC infighting intensified, Dr Kelly's family said they were "deeply disappointed" that Lord Hutton had not accepted a final submission to the inquiry, arguing that the scientist had suffered a hurtful campaign of briefing and leaking. A spokesman told The Mail on Sunday: "They are upset that Lord Hutton has not accepted the family's arguments that Dr Kelly should have been better treated and they will now reflect on their next move. Clearly, the family made strong points in their final written submission about how Dr Kelly was handled and Lord Hutton has not accepted their arguments. In those circumstances, it's an emotional aspect for them and they would be disappointed with the outcome."
The family is understood to be considering two courses of action: to sue the Ministry of Defence alleging it failed in its "duty of care" as an employer; to complain to the European Court of Human Rights, entitling people to their privacy.
CAMPBELL LIES LOW
Alastair Campbell, whose aggressive statement calling for BBC resignations immediately after Lord Hutton published his report has been blamed for deepening the turmoil in the corporation, was silent yesterday. Ministers have been careful to point out that he was commenting in his capacity as a private individual.
But a Downing Street source confirmed yesterday that he would be returning temporarily to the Prime Minister's side at the next general election, expected within the next 18 months. The source said: "I'm not sure in what guise, but he will be. When we get to the general election, his immense experience will be drawn on."
GOVERNMENT PEACE MOVES
Lord Falconer, the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, rejected suggestions that there had been a "war" between the Government and the BBC. He said: "Identifying a particular story and saying that it was wrong and asking for it to be corrected is perfectly legitimate. Both the Government and the BBC have the strongest possible interest in moving forward with an independent BBC and good relations between the two."
Praising Mr Dyke as a "great director general", he told Sunday with Adam Boulton on Sky News that it was "not at all unusual" for there to be constant communication with the broadcaster.
Lord Falconer also insisted that Lord Hutton's findings were "unimpeachable" and flatly denied there was any plot to produce a "whitewash". He said he had appointed Lord Hutton to head the inquiry into Dr Kelly's death because he was a judge of "unimpeachable standing who would look at the evidence".
He said: "Nobody could suggest for one minute that Lord Hutton would do anything else but that. He followed a very transparent process. If you read his report, what you see is a meticulous examination of the issues relevant to the tragic death of Dr Kelly. The individual findings he made are unimpeachable."
ROLE FOR MANDELSON?
The Sunday Mirror suggested yesterday that Peter Mandelson, the former Northern Ireland Secretary, could have played a part in the judge's selection. He told the paper he had never met the law lord during his time in Northern Ireland and, asked whether he could still have put his name forward, replied: "I am very busy."Reuse content