Glenda Jackson: The capacity of No 10's staff to disgust seems to be boundless

The Backbench View - The Prime Minister has not authorised an inquiry into why we went to war but that must be answered
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The Independent Online

The remit of Lord Hutton's inquiry has been narrowly conceived. It is not to discover whether the Prime Minister, in his determination to wage war on Iraq, deliberately misled the country by his use or misuse of intelligence information regarding weapons of mass destruction and their deployment in 45 minutes. But that possibility hangs over courtroom 73 at the Royal Courts of Justice as it continues to hang over No 10 Downing Street.

It was an allegation that such information had been deliberately exaggerated in a government dossier - not the "dodgy dossier", lifted, in the main, from an academic thesis, for which government has apologised - but the September dossier. Foreword by the PM, four references to Iraqi WMD. This it was that triggered the "phoney" war between No 10 and the BBC.

That "war" was, in my opinion, a quite deliberate strategy to deflect attention from the fact that ministers were finding it increasingly difficult to give answers to questions on those self-same WMD. Not least, where are they? Ministerial answers to parliamentary questions have begun referring, not to weapons, but programmes, or, in the case of a question to Tony Blair regarding his claim that Iraq had attempted to buy uranium from Niger, I was advised to await the report of the Intelligence Select Committee. The members of that committee are appointed by the Prime Minister, hold their meetings in private, report in the first place to the PM and their conclusions may be censored.

One such "programme", evidence for which was found under a rose bush in an Iraqi scientist's garden, was cited by the Foreign Secretary as proof that Iraq presented a "real and present danger", warranting attack. That the evidence was, literally, unearthed 12 years ago, was irrelevant.

But there is no sweet smell surrounding the necessity for the Hutton inquiry, nor what has occasioned its remit. Insult was added to injury when, only two days before Dr David Kelly's funeral, the Prime Minister's official spokesman attempted to define a world-renowned scientist, an expert on chemical and biological weapons (that expertise a major part of the UN's weapons inspections in Iraq) - who was preparing to return to that country to continue investigations on behalf of the Government - as a man with a "Walter Mitty personality".

It was insensitive, gratuitous, possibly slanderous and more likely an opening salvo in an attempt by No 10's staff to translate the victim into villain. Their capacity to disgust seems boundless, as is their arrogant assumption that we would believe them.

This is part and parcel of the inquiry in courtroom 73. Not only the use or misuse of intelligence, but the use or misuse of our trust. Tony Blair, who on taking office in 1997 defined his government as the "servant of the people", did not authorise Lord Hutton to inquire into why we went to war against Iraq, but that question remains to be answered and, for all concerned, the sooner the better.

Glenda Jackson is Labour MP for Hampstead and Highgate. This is a version of an article that appeared in the 'Camden New Journal'