The Sketch: The audible gasp woke even those who had dozed off for 45 minutes

Share
Related Topics

What is it with 45 minutes and Iraq? First, the Government gets into trouble for claiming Saddam could launch WMD in three quarters of an hour.

Then we find out that Andrew Gilligan, the Beeb's defence correspondent, met Dr David Kelly for 45 minutes in their Coke-and-Appletise conflab in the Charing Cross Hotel.

Yesterday, it turned out that Geoff Hoon, the soon-to-be-ex-Defence Secretary, had insisted that Dr Kelly should be interviewed by MPs for no longer than... yup, 45 minutes. Spooky.

Mr Hoon's gentle instruction to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee emerged when its chairman, Donald Anderson, gave evidence to the Hutton inquiry for the first time.

As he ran through his CV, Mr Anderson had the air of somebody who is - how shall we put it? - absent-minded. When he said that he had "lost a constituency in 1970", it sounded as though he had simply misplaced it down the back of the sofa.

Mr Anderson was rather proud of the fact that "the executive" (a grand term he used frequently to describe the Government) had tried to depose him as chairman of the committee.

But it became clear yesterday that the whips had been wasting their time. The MP for Swansea East was much more useful in post precisely because he had no idea what was going on half the time.

"I'm not a general leading an army," he said, referring to his fractious charges on the committee. "I'm at best first among equals. I can't impose my will... I'm sometimes no more than a secretary."

With is bald pate and hunched frame, Mr Anderson may look like Mr Burns, the slimy boss in The Simpsons. But has all the cunning and guile of a three-toed sloth.

When Mr Hoon told the committee not to ask Dr Kelly any tricky questions about government claims on WMD, the legislature's defiant response to the executive was... it was a "reasonable" request.

Surveying the rank ineptitude of the Select Committee, Lord Hutton couldn't resist asking whether MPs had ever considered instructing lawyers to put questions on their behalf.

"Has consideration ever been given to that procedure? I thought I would just raise it with you," he asked nonchalantly.

Mr Anderson replied that MPs would be "very jealous if their ability to put questions were taken by a professional unit... My own view is that... it would be irrelevant." As Sir Kevin Tebbit would say, Your word, Mr Anderson.

By the time an anonymous looking official from the FCO took to the witness box late in the afternoon, many in court were nodding off, the bank holiday weekend beckoning temptingly.

At first the man's name was flashed up on screen as "Ben Bradshaw". Obviously, the stenographers have never seen the extravagantly coiffured junior minister. The man was in fact David Broucher, formerly Our Man in Prague and an expert on disarmament. His presence at the inquiry, as a last-minute witness, was something of a mystery.

But his importance became all too clear as he explained how Dr Kelly had "popped in" to his office in Geneva on 27 February.

At the end of their chat, Dr Kelly said he "would probably be found dead in the woods" if there was war on Iraq.

Court 73 heard its first audible gasp of the whole inquiry. Was Dr Kelly implying he would be bumped off? Do spooks "hit" in the woods? Surely not.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

Government hails latest GDP figures, but there is still room for scepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little