Little comfort for Blair as polls view report as a 'whitewash'

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair must have hoped the Hutton report would help persuade the public to trust him once more. He looks set to be disappointed.

According to two polls, one undertaken by NOP, the other by YouGov, around half believe Lord Hutton's report a "whitewash" while only between a third and two-fifths take the opposite view. True, much of this is sour grapes from Conservative and Liberal Democrat supporters, but even among Labour supporters, one-fifth think the report a whitewash.

In particular, Lord Hutton seems to have failed to persuade the public that little or no blame should attach to the Government. Only 36 per cent are convinced it should be cleared of all charges in respect of the naming of Dr Kelly. Only 37 per cent believe the Prime Minister acted properly and just 24 per cent back Alastair Campbell.

But perhaps the most startling barometer of the public's continued distrust of Mr Blair is that two polls found 45 per cent believe the Prime Minister lied when he said he said he did not authorise the leaking of Dr Kelly's name.

On the other hand, Lord Hutton's criticisms of the BBC appear to be widely endorsed. Only 25 per cent think Greg Dyke acted properly over the affair, and faith in the BBC has fallen. In March last year 81 per cent said they trusted BBC journalists to mostly tell the truth. Now only 67 per cent do so.

What Mr Blair has to bear in mind is that the public will not necessarily think any more of him just because they believe the BBC made some mistakes. It seems the public has decided both sides were at fault - and Lord Hutton's judgment has not changed their minds.

John Curtice is professor of politics at Strathclyde University

JUSTICE OR WHITEWASH? AND WHERE DOES IT LEAVE US WITH THE CASE FOR WAR?

Sir Andrew Green, MigrationWatch UK, 62, Westminster, London

"The outcome was surprising. The report is unbalanced but it did at least incinerate the myth that the BBC is unbiased. Also the report leaves open the most important question: why did we go to war?"

Amy Jenkins, writer, 37, south-west London

"For me, it's not about the report, it's about the fact the Government should have been honest in the first place and said they wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein, rather than hiding behind the cowardly excuse of WMD."

Stephen Feber, 52, former CEO of the Magna Science Adventure Centre, Rotherham

"The dossier was changed... but Hutton, a conservative law lord, felt he could not say it was an illegitimate thing to do. As far as the BBC is concerned, I think they have been scapegoated."

Gordon McHarg, 39, artist, west London

"I was expecting the Government to get more than a slap on the wrist. I couldn't believe the name games they were allowed to get away with when journalists tried to identify David Kelly. The report came across as an inside job."

Shruti Mohan, aged 28, doctor, from south-west London

"I'm not satisfied at all. The main problem with the inquiry is that it tried to separate the personal issue surrounding David Kelly with the wider issues of why we went to war which is a very difficult thing to do. I think it achieved very little."

Blanca Duindam, 44, administrator from north London

"I'm concerned about the BBC's role and I think Andrew Gilligan was out of order. But I also think that Tony Blair should not have been totally exonerated. What we should really be asking is whether this war was justified."

Sami Lill, freelance copywriter, 27, east London

"The Prime Minister has got away with it again ... Dr Kelly was thrown to the media hounds to save the skin of Downing Street. The Hutton inquiry was ... in no way objective or impartial. They even picked the judge."

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