The Campbell Diaries: my private war with the BBC

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Indy Politics

The private diaries of Alastair Campbell revealed yesterday how the he and Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, were desperate to expose Dr David Kelly in its conflict with the BBC, and to try to shore up the crumbling credibility of the Iraq arms dossier.

The bitterness of the confrontation was highlighted in one entry in which Mr Campbell spoke of how identifying Dr Kelly as the BBC source would "fuck" Andrew Gilligan, the journalist who made the claim that the dossier was "sexed up" by Downing Street.

Selected extracts from the diary were read out by Mr Campbell, the Prime Minister's director of communications and strategy, when he gave evidence last month to the first session of the Hutton inquiry to support his version of events.

The extended versions produced yesterday at the request of Lord Hutton gave the fullest insight yet into the thinking of the Government's communications director in the crucial days leading up to Dr Kelly's apparent suicide but also cast fresh and serious doubts on the official version of the affair.

The new evidence reveals Mr Campbell and Mr Hoon believed that the "biggest thing needed" was for Dr Kelly's name to come out, contradicting claims made in the inquiry that all efforts had been made to protect his identity. Mr Campbell also disclosed that Dr Kelly had been "well schooled" for his appearance before the Foreign Affairs Committee by Ministry of Defence officials, while the inquiry had been told by, among others, the Prime Minister, that the scientist had received only a "routine" briefing. Mr Campbell said, however, that the testimony was a "disaster" because the MPs had decided he was not Mr Gilligan's main source.

The diary entries covered five days between 4 July and 15 July. In his first entry, Mr Campbell writes "Spoke to H [Hoon], who said that a man had come forward who felt he was probably G's [Gilligan's] source. He had come forward and was being interviewed today. GH said his immediate instinct was to throw the book at him but in fact there was a case for trying to get some kind of plea bargaining.

"Says that he had come forward and he was saying Yes to speaking to AG [Gilligan], yes he said intel [intelligence] went in late but he never said the other stuff. It was double-edged but GH and I agreed it would fuck Gilligan if that was his source

On 6 July, Mr Campbell wrote "GH, like me, wanted to get it out that the source had broken cover to claim AG had misrepresented him."

Mr Blair wanted either Mr Hoon or Mr Campbell to tell the Foreign Affairs Committee - nearing the end of its lengthy investigation into the Iraq invasion - that an unofficial had come forward. But the Prime Minister appeared to be apprehensive about the consequences. The entry continues "His (Mr Blair's) worry was that it could lead to them reopening the inquiry. He wanted, and GH did, to get it to the BBC Governors that we may know who the source was. That he was not a spy, not involved in the WMD dossier and was a WMD expert who advised departments.

"TB [Tony Blair] was fine about that, but backed off speaking to Omand [Sir David Omand, the Cabinet Office security co-ordinator] ... He felt the guy had to be treated properly and interviewed again. I suggested to GH to speak to TB to try to persuade him we should do this".

On 7 July, Mr Campbell's entry reports a conversation with Sir Kevin Tebbit, the Permanent Under Secretary at the MoD. He wrote " Kevin said the guy claimed he never mentioned me, he was a bit of a show-off though.

"Felt that maybe Gilligan just lied about the stuff about me ... Again we should be saying the source was misrepresented by [Gilligan]. TB was keen for the officials (Kevin Tebbit and David Omand) to be in the control of the process",

On the same day, Mr Campbell wrote "several chats with MoD, Pam Teare and Geoff H re: the source. Felt we should get it out through the papers, then we have a line to respond...

"TB felt we had to leave it to Omand/Tebbit judgement and they didn't want to do it. Had to go for natural justice. GH said it was a problem that he (Dr Kelly) once gave evidence alongside Jack Straw ..."

On 9 July, Mr Campbell then wrote "There was a big conspiracy at work ... We kept pressing on as best as we could at the briefings but the biggest thing needed was the source out ... We agreed that we should not do it ourselves, so we didn't but later the Financial Times, Guardian, and Evans [Times defence correspondent] got the name."