The Sketch: A sexed-up intelligence dossier, the power of No 10 and a Tory who believes in honour

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The Independent Online

Considering the reputation Downing Street has for sexing up reports, assessments, statistics and dossiers, it is inconceivable that they didn't sex up the intelligence dossier that led to the Iraq war.

Just on their record, any mob would convict them on the spot and British mob justice is the finest mob justice in the world. Of course they are guilty, or "of course they are guilty", means something entirely different like "I did not have sex with that dossier".

It does have one shocking side-effect, the Government - a term we understand to mean Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell, Sally Morgan and a couple of unelected staffers - couldn't have sexed it up without the complicity of the highest intelligence figures in the country. Does the former political editor of the Daily Mirror have the pectorals, the profile, the dress sense, the sheer overpowering virility to bend the defence establishment over the back of a sofa and debauch it?

Sir John Stanley couldn't - wouldn't - believe it to be so. Andrew Gilligan, the BBC Radio 4 defence correspondent, had been called into the Defence Select Committee to give evidence of his claim that Mr Campbell had returned the dossier to the Joint Intelligence Committee for ever more lipstick, ever shorter skirts and the brusque removal of its underwear. Sir John, a Tory, refused to countenance the thought that the country's most senior intelligence officer would collaborate in such a filthy business. His regimental life must have been very limited.

Sir John brought the full weight of his incredulous rectitude to bear on Mr Gilligan. Do you have any idea, he seemed to ask, how serious these accusations are, and what a ghastly little squirt you are to make them? Do you realise that the Foreign Secretary himself has told us that the dossier was reflected in "almost identical terms" as the Joint Intelligence Committee report?

This is a wholly original line of argument. Sir John seemed to be saying with his emphatic seriousness that the Foreign Secretary was incapable of lying. But how then would he have gotten to be Foreign Secretary?

A previous witness had testified how much things had changed in the administration of government. Time was, and not that long ago, that advisers at Ms Morgan and Mr Campbell's level would never have seen a JIC report let alone have commented on it, let alone have sent it back for more lipstick and no underwear.

This committee began its investigation by being pretty gung-ho. The ginger is in danger of going out of them. The Labour fellows have probably been nobbled. They usually are. The fact that Labour members left the room for the private session, leaving a Tory majority, may have allowed the vote to proceed, the one that will present a demand to the House of Commons for Mr Campbell's evidence to be given to the committee, in defiance of the Prime Minister's wishes. It's going to be a big week next week.