Gilligan unlikely to return to 'Today'

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Andrew Gilligan was last night considering his future after Lord Hutton's scathing attack and the resignation of Gavyn Davies as the chairman of the BBC board of governors.

It is highly improbable that Mr Gilligan will return to his former post of defence and diplomatic correspondent of Radio 4's Today programme, and very likely he will leave the BBC.

Following the report, Mr Gilligan was said to have been inundated with messages of support from journalists, politicians, and public figures from across the political spectrum.

It is believed that he is likely to leave the BBC to write a book about his experience before taking up a lucrative job offer. Yesterday, the late submission Mr Gilligan made to Lord Hutton, along with other witnesses, was published. In it he maintained that he had "accurately reported the burden of what Dr Kelly had told him", and journalists should be given "a margin of error" when dealing with matters of public interest, particularly on political issues.

Mr Gilligan stated that "unwarranted" emphasis had been given during the inquiry to three words said in his unscripted broadcast at 6.07am on May 29 - the "Government probably knew" that the claim that Saddam Hussein could launch his supposed weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes was wrong.

The Government, he pointed out, had made no strenuous complaints about this particular allegation for weeks after it was broadcast, after which it focused attention on it in a "disproportionate" way.

Mr Gilligan pointed out that much of Dr Kelly's evidence to parliamentary committees, and comments made to other journalists, stood up the main claims in his report. He stressed that other media reports had questioned the claims made by the Government about Iraq's supposed WMD.

Journalists had a duty of acting as the "eyes and ears" of the general public to keep a vigil on the Government. "In the context of political reporting, it can be right to report matters, even it later turns out that they are untrue," Mr Gilligan said.