Campbell admits he wanted Kelly's name in the open

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Alastair Campbell wanted Dr David Kelly's name to be made public because he was in favour of "a clear win not a messy draw" in the Government's battle with the BBC.

Tony Blair's outgoing director of communications became the first member of the Government to admit to the Hutton inquiry yesterday that Downing Street wanted the scientist's identity revealed.

Geoff Hoon and other witnesses have repeatedly insisted that the Ministry of Defence's question-and-answer material was not part of a strategy to put Dr Kelly's name into the public domain. But the inquiry was shown an entry in Mr Campbell's diaries on 9 July, which stated his view that "the biggest thing needed was the source out". When asked if this meant identifying Dr Kelly, he replied: "That was my view."

Mr Campbell also revealed he had been "aware" of the MoD's tactic of confirming the scientist's name to journalists through the Q&A approach.

Either Pam Teare, the ministry's director of news, or Kate Wilson, her chief press officer, had told Mr Campbell of the plan at a daily No 10 meeting of press chiefs. "I was aware that that was the policy they had agreed," Mr Campbell said.

As Mr Campbell chairs the daily meeting, his comments suggested for the first time that the confirmation strategy did have Downing Street's approval and blessing. When asked why he was so keen to get Dr Kelly's name into the open, he said: "I think the mood around No 10 and much of the rest of the Government by now is that ... the whole thing is taking up a huge amount of energy.

"The BBC were not going to accept they were wrong. It was frankly just going nowhere. Through this whole episode, through every stage of this, we felt to be the injured party."

Mr Campbell's important diary entries, which were finally published yesterday, highlighted the details of his involvement in the Government's handling of Dr Kelly and the depth of his personal feelings at the time.

One crucial entry said that Dr Kelly's claim that he never said No 10 had inserted the 45- minute allegation "would fuck Gilligan if that was his source".

Mr Campbell explained that he had been "extremely angry" at the BBC's refusal to say it had made any mistakes in the original broadcast by Andrew Gilligan on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"It is important to understand the sense of anger and frustration building when you have been accused of something very, very serious which you know you have not done, when your efforts to seek to resolve it properly are met with a mixture of disdain and indifference," he said.

Mr Campbell told the inquiry he did not make any effort to disguise that "I was extremely angry, I was very frustrated, and increasingly dispirited about the whole thing for all sorts of reasons".

The reasons included professional ones, because of the implication he was not doing his job properly, as well as political and personal reasons.

Mr Campbell admitted that he had briefed journalists off the record in the days before Dr Kelly was outed. But he stressed that his own idea of leaking the story of an MoD official meeting Mr Gilligan "was a thought that was born and died within minutes" of him suggesting it on Monday 7 July.

Crucially, however, Mr Campbell did contradict evidence from Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, that he had not used the phrase "plea bargain" in relation to Dr Kelly.

Mr Hoon told the inquiry that he did not use the words and they were Mr Campbell's "journalistic shorthand" for a discussion about Dr Kelly avoiding disciplinary proceedings in return for coming clean about his contacts with the BBC.

But Mr Campbell told Lord Hutton that "plea bargain is not a term I would normally use. It may be that the Secretary of State used that. It is certainly my sense of what he said."

Earlier, Mr Campbell stuck by his insistence in earlier evidence that his role in the drafting of the September dossier on Iraq was purely "presentational". Under cross-examination by Andrew Caldecott QC, counsel for the BBC, he said his e-mail requests to make the dossier "stronger" simply referred to the need to make it consistent.

When asked about his suggested changes in e-mails to John Scarlett, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Mr Campbell replied: "I was keen to make sure the dossier as presented to Parliament was a strong, clear, consistent document. If you are saying strong equals sexed up. I don't accept that at all. If you are saying that strong equals a good, solid piece of work, that does the job the Prime Minister wants it to do, then I agree.

"It could be only as strong as a public document as the underlying intelligence assessments allowed it to be."

Mr Campbell appeared unsettled when asked why he sent a personal memo to Mr Blair before Prime Minister's Questions on 4 June.

During PMQs Mr Blair declared that it was "totally untrue" that there was any disquiet within the intelligence services about the dossier.

Mr Campbell's memo stated: "I would recommend you say that in the light of the controversy you asked the JIC to set out a detailed analysis of the process of the dossier from inception to publication." He appeared to admit yesterday that no such analysis had been requested by Mr Blair. Mr Scarlett had simply told Mr Campbell that he was "thinking of writing a note".

Comments