We, the public, are guilty of taking the Hutton report too seriously

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The Independent Online

It has provoked contempt, anger, indignation, distrust, and, inevitably in our turgid times, suspicions of crooked establishment conspiracy. It has claimed the careers of two eminent broadcasters, routed a much-valued British institution, and wounded yet further the family of Dr David Kelly.

It hasn't, however, provoked the reaction from the public that it ought to have. How should we have greeted the Hutton report this week? Not with disbelief and fury but instead with our own sense of vindication. That and a promise that come what may, Mr Blair will never lead his party into a third term.

This is not because the report was a whitewash, hiding the government's machinations. It is not Lord Hutton who has allowed the real issues to become obscured. We, the public, are guilty of taking the report too seriously, of accepting its narrow terms too readily, and of falling again for the kind of sleight of hand this government said it will no longer resort to.

At face value, the report appears to vindicate the Government, to declare that everybody else was wrong, and Blair, Campbell, Hoon et all were right. No wonder we distrust such assertions, and recognise them, instinctively, as hogwash. They are, of course. The government has spent months leaving no stone unturned in its quest to prove not that it was right, but that it was entirely and completely wrong.

Not just a little bit wrong, but utterly, naively, incredulously, hysterically, willfully, ineptly, wrong. So triumphant is it to have proven this contemptible truth, so cock-a-hoop with glory, that the central irony of this affair has barely been noticed.

What did David Kelly, Andrew Gilligan, the BBC, and much of the public have in common, that made them vulnerable to the scurrilous suggestion that the government had been underhand in its presentation of the case for war? An awareness that its case had turned out to be entirely, monstrously fictitious.

Once few of us could believe that the people running the country could be so credulous, so dumb, so arrogant and so wrong when so many lives were at stake, and so unapologetic in their belief that they need give no explanation for that. Therefore we worried our leaders were crooked, but clever and arrogant, when in fact the real problem was that they were straight, but stupid and arrogant.

That is why the Government has been exonerated by the report. It's corrupt to deliberately mislead the public. But it's not corrupt to do it out of idiocy. Which is why the Hutton report is right, in its narrow, judicial way, to have attached no culpability to the Government for the mistakes that it has made.

But it is not the stupidity of Mr Blair, of Mr Campbell, of Mr Hoon, that is so repulsive (although it's a good reason to make it clear that Mr Blair is no longer an acceptable Labour leader). It is their vanity.

Mr Campbell, earlier this week, spoke of the stain on his character that the excoriation of the BBC had removed. Mr Blair, on the same day, pretty much admitted that the most important thing of all was that he should be seen to get an apology. Mr Hoon remains as detached as ever, unmoved by the part he and his colleagues played in the deaths of thousands of loved ones who have not even been counted, let alone named.

The wrong decision that these men made was awesome in its magnitude. Yet they are the ones who got the apology. Even in the most serious matters humankind can undertake, they reserve the right to be wrong, and to give no explanation why. This is the kind of arrogant governance that Lord Hutton has sanctioned. But there's no need for Britain's voters to follow suit.

A grisly attempt to regain centre stage

Oh dear, oh dear. All the 10 million people watching Alex Best on I'm A Celebrity have noticed she has an orange face and no conversation. But this, it seems, is enough to have prompted her ghastly husband into a fit of jealous rage.

In front of an audience of 1,100, he said: "Any women who want to come backstage afterwards, I'll beat the shit out of them - fucking load of shit that is. I've a new liver but the wife must think I've a new dick, all the women I'm supposed to have been shagging."

Despite the amazing fact that the tirade was greeted with laughter, Mr Best's grisly attempt to regain centre stage was not quite enough to assuage his need to be indulged, however appalling his behaviour. Clambering into his car, he attempted to see if the law would look as indulgently as it should on his drink-driving.

Alas, too busy reading the news only when it featured him, Mr Best clearly remained ignorant of the war on motorists. He was arrested after failing a breath test, no doubt by jobsworth coppers who should have been off chasing proper criminals.

It is this kind of malicious pursuit of otherwise blameless drivers, I'm sure you'll agree, that has resulted in the appalling state of affairs whereby more drivers than burglars are in prison. More than 12,000 drivers languish in the cells - only 10,000 burglars do. Is this not outrageous? Only, of course, if there happen to be 18 million burglars in Britain, all of them as shameless in their flouting of the law as George Best himself.

Why people eat at McDonalds (and other mysteries)

Junk food, a new report has uncovered, makes you forgetful. That explains an awful lot. Like why it is that people still think it's a good idea to have a meal at McDonald's, even though they've tasted the food in McDonald's before.

Or why people don't appear to know that five helpings of fruit and vegetables are essential to their diets, even though they see the posters every time they visit the doctor to enquire about the inexorable progress of their obesity-related illnesses.

Or why people don't know that they'll die at a tragically early age if they never started dieting, even though there has been a weight-loss plan in every magazine and popular newspaper that has ever been printed since 1987.

Or why they don't know they ought to have an exercise routine, even though a video from every two-bit celebrity who has ever sashayed through the EastEnders studio for five minutes, encourages them to get off the couch and on to the rug in front of it.

Still, all of those who suspected that it might not be the Government's business to start telling people to exercise have been vindicated, after a fashion. It's not that the nanny state shouldn't interfere in these private matters. It's just that it's a total waste of money because the people who need to be targeted won't be able to remember what the nanny told them. And even if they can, the strain of the effort will probably prompt them to forget completely that they're fat. Science has seldom been so useful.

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