The Sketch: Government undergoes death by civil servants

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That was the day the establishment rallied round the Government; I hope they never do that to me, it's a very painful experience.

Some funny wee fellow came on first, then the man who used to run the Royal Air Force, and then by telephone from (by the sound of it) a sewer, the head of MI6.

Each in their way threw their cloak around the Government's exposed parts, but then under cover, each took out that special civil service knife and used it to sever a governmental limb.

But first: James Dingemans QC, counsel for the inquiry - a sort of Bulldog Drummond character - promised that the process of cross examination in the coming fortnight would maintain a standard of courtesy because "how we treat others is the way we define ourselves".

It's not easy to get away with a noble sentiment in these degraded times, and he deserves some sort of spiritual recognition, well beyond the gift of sketch writers. However, his observation does not bode well for Geoff Hoon, I fear, or the conspirators who released David Kelly's name.

The first wee fellow up yesterday was a sometime member of the Joint Intelligence Committee and was there to say that everything to do with the dossier was impeccably done. Then he made clear that he was happy to take instructions from Alastair Campbell as to the dossier's wording, but not from the intelligence officer Brian Jones (he's the weapons expert who wrote to express his unhappiness at some of the dossier's sexier phraseology).

The wee fellow didn't discuss Dr Jones' reservations with him. Why not? Because he went on leave instead! Very wise, frankly. Or sensible, at least, very sensible.

Then he made his surgical attack on No 10 by saying that, as the document was for public consumption, those pesky 45-minute weapons of mass destruction claims should have been put in context. "Putting it in context" is a bureaucratic euphemism for saying that they weren't weapons of mass destruction.

Joe French, the ex-Air Force fellow, then gave his robust defence of the dossier. But he finished by revealing that Mr Campbell's commentary on the dossier was very similar to that offered by his intelligence assessment staff. You think that there's no difference between intelligence assessment and intelligence presentation? The Government agrees with you. Where did the Joint Intelligence Committee stop and No 10 start? Who was doing what to whom?

I remember a man defending the fidelity of his wayward girlfriend by saying: "She's not having sex with them, they're having sex with her." I'm not sure why that comes to mind.

And finally the head of MI6. In the middle of a robust defence of the claims and warnings, Sir Richard Dearlove told us that the WMD claim had been misinterpreted.

He didn't go so far as to say it had been misrepresented - that is for us to say - but twice he told us that battlefield weapons were presented as weapons of a longer range, and that the qualifications and provisos his staff had put in to the dossier were taken out.

While denying that the dossier had been transformed at the behest of No 10, these comments more than anything seem to confirm that it had.