Reaction to the Hutton report

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Lord Hutton's only crime was to defy the media village

Sir: If Hutton had given Blair a kicking and exonerated the BBC would everyone say the report was unbalanced? I doubt it. But as Hutton hasn't submitted to the desires of the media village, the approval he got in the summer has turned to bitter cries of "establishment stooge".

The BBC's original problem was not any threat to their journalistic freedom but an arrogant refusal to undertake accountable management procedures. Now, despite Gavyn Davies's resignation, they are still unable to accept that journalists, just like everyone else, should be subject to proper accountability and management.

Shoddy journalists like Gilligan have turned the fine principles of investigative journalism into the cheap tactics of smear campaigns. The media (who are just as powerful an "establishment" as the Government) should be listening to the judge and show they are capable of directing a critical searchlight on themselves.

JANE GERSON
Winchester

Sir: You, and many others criticise Lord Hutton's report for being "unbalanced". But the task for which judges are trained is to make decisions, and if the evidence as he saw it pointed towards the BBC being at fault, no considerations of "balance" should lead him to feel he had to criticise the Government as well. If you think Lord Hutton misinterpreted the evidence and was wrong, then say so. But why should we believe your judgement of that evidence more than his?

J KAY
Faculty of Law,
University of the West of England,
Bristol

Sir: I am truly astonished at the attitude of some of the media, both broadcast and print, towards the Hutton report. Just because some journalist did not get the government scalp they expected and desperately wanted does not mean that the report was fixed or biased.

I find it amazing and arrogant that for all this time the death of David Kelly was assumed by the media to be the Prime Minister or Defence Secretary's fault and when it does not turn out to be so, they turn their grievances onto Lord Hutton instead of doing the honourable thing and apologising. Just because you are a journalist does not make your views the right ones on every issue all the time!

STEVE WALLIS
Eastbourne, East Sussex

Sir: What do you mean "whitewash" (front page, 29 January)! Hutton was not asked to investigate why we went to war. You appear to be continuing your policy of spreading doubt about everything involving this Government. I would suggest a spot of self-whitewash.

RONALD MILLER
Stone, Staffordshire

The limits of the public's patience

Sir: The Hutton report will surely go down among the most shameful episodes in British judicial history. Its sole redeeming feature is the sheer extent to which it obfuscates the issues and manages to undermine its own authority by "vindicating" those most gravely at fault and casting blame where none is deserved.

That it presents so grossly selective and distorted a picture of what went on in the lead-up to war may yet turn out to be the Government's undoing. For there is - one hopes - a limit to public patience with the guile and hypocrisy of those who are now parading their affronted dignity before us and seeking to ensure that the Hutton whitewash will be the last word on this matter.

It is a pity that the BBC management caved in so quickly, no doubt because even in their worst-case predictions they had not supposed that the report would exhibit such a closing of establishment ranks. Lord Hutton worked hard at promoting his own image as a Radamanthus-like character serenely indifferent to the hurly-burly of everyday politics. There can now be few people - government ministers and spin-doctors aside - who regard him in that light. The report is yet further evidence (if any were needed) of this country's slide toward US forms of judicial-political cosiness.

One is tempted to adapt Humbert Wolfe's poem: "One cannot hope to bribe or budge,/Thank God! The honest British judge/But, seeing what the man will do/Unbribed, there is no reason to." Rhyming "twist" with "journalist" (as in the original) seems altogether less appropriate now.

CHRISTOPHER NORRIS
Professor of Philosophy,
University of Cardiff
Cardiff

Sir: So it's conclusive then. With utmost wisdom and absolute independence Hutton has spoken: "The Emperor is not naked."

Defence correspondents and their bosses need reeducation if not flogging, and the victim caused his own problems as he was a "difficult man to help". I am so depressed.

MARIA DUGGAN
London N10

Sir: The medieval Popes are turning in their graves. If only Lord Hutton had been around when Copernicus, Galileo and Columbus challenged their establishment orthodoxy, we would still believe that the world was really flat.

Woe, Lord Hutton, for you have badly let down the people of this country. You had your chance to expose the cancer of deceit at the centre of the democratic process. You were presented with the facts that the Blair clique regard the security services merely as an extension of their propaganda machine. Yet all we get is a whitewash where the messenger and his employers exposing the deceit are to be metaphorically burnt at the stake.

So, post "Whitewash Wednesday" must we believe that Blair, Campbell, their associates and their propaganda machine are full of integrity and tell no lies? Is that a pig I see lurching into the air?

DAVID BURDON
Ashford, Kent

Sir: Donald Macintyre has said of the Hutton Report that, in the political bearpit that our masters inherit, "a win is a win" (29 January). Those on the "winning" side had better not take that assessment to heart - not for a moment. The Hutton report is so ludicrously one-sided - indeed,lop-sided - that it can't be taken seriously and may even rebound on the Government.

The people have more of a sense of fairness than his Lordship appears to possess. His decision to allow unprecedented access to evidence presented to the inquiry means that we, the people, have seen what was actually said. We can see that the noble Lord's conclusions are rubbish and may conclude that the whole thing is an establishment stitch-up.

RUARI McCALLION
Shaftesbury, Dorset

Sir: Listening to Lord Hutton, I am reminded of Lord Denning, who refused the first Birmingham Six appeal when sitting in the Appeal Court. In his judgement, he said that to have allowed it, would have required an acceptance that the Police had lied, and that could not be contemplated. It does not require a great leap of the imagination to substitute Blair and his inner circle for the Police.

KEITH BAGLEY
Twickenham, Middlesex

Sir: Never let it be said that our Prime Minister lacks judgement; He (and his government) must be relishing their exoneration by the man they chose to inquire into the "Kelly Affair".

PETER LEWIS
Cardiff

Blair's real trial

Sir: Is anyone really interested in the Hutton verdict when the real issue is the illusive Weapons of Mass Destruction that brought us into the Iraq war? Thousand of people have died for an illusion. What evidence convinced our Prime Minister that there was overwhelming proof that Sadam had (operative within 45 minutes) Weapons of Mass Destruction which threatened the UK?

Until a full independent enquiry is undertaken, the British public will consider themselves deceived. Blair's hollow victory cuts no ice with free spirits. The real trial has yet to take place. I suppose there is little hope of that unless the Tories promise an independent inquiry after the next election. Do they have the guts?

Count ANDREI TOLSTOY
London W2

Sir: If the Prime Minister was so confident about the accuracy and authenticity of British intelligence reports relating to Iraq, why did he not allow Hans Blix and his team of UN inspectors the extra time they needed to complete their inspections and why did he declare war on Iraq before he was satisfied that British intelligence data had been verified on the ground?

His actions speak louder than his words, and hence the need for an independent inquiry into why Britain went to war with Iraq, the question that Lord Hutton kept reminding us was outside his terms of reference.

CHRIS RYECART
Harwich, Essex

Sir: I have long maintained that those who accuse politicians of lying, whether on WMDs or any other issue, are simply seeking an easy and self-righteous alternative to engaging in constructive argument about the issue in question. Can we now hope that, after Hutton, those who have been accusing Blair of lying will come to understand that if (and it is still if) there are no WMD in Iraq, it is due to the fact that intelligence findings can never produce absolute certainty, only a high degree of probability, and that this can still justify going to war?

ALAN PAVELIN
Chislehurst, Kent

The BBC's virtues

Sir: The Hutton Report has made it clear that there were failings in one report made by one journalist on one day. It would be unwise for the Government or indeed anyone else to draw the conclusion that this means that all of the BBC's reporting can be invalidated.

The BBC has consistently shown itself to be a news organisation of the highest order; independent, impartial and by the standards of much newspaper reporting accurate. This has clearly been shown by the way that the BBC has dealt with the run up to the report, and also with the publication itself. It is a matter of great concern that this inquiry may lead to major changes in the way the BBC is governed or conducts its daily business. It is both a duty and in the best interests of the press in general to post a vigorous defence of the BBC and its role in our public life.

After all, if a single mistake is made by a Government minister that does not mean that we should reform the entire system of Government. If it did, we would be in a constant state of reform.

GRAHAM EVANS
Brixworth, Northamptonshire

Sir: After the 1995 campaign by Greenpeace to stop Shell dumping the Brent Spar oil installation at sea, the BBC, for several years, became frightened and paranoid, and as a result biased against Greenpeace, indeed "environmental campaigns" in general.

This was because the Major Government, furious at Shell's reversal of its plan to sink the Spar in the face of public pressure, blamed the BBC as the messenger. Greenpeace was right on the big picture but wrong on one specific claim about oil content in the Spar. The government seized on this as a hard fact with which to try and discredit and cow opponents - and the BBC was easier to frighten than Greenpeace.

The danger now is that the BBC will flee to safe ground, avoiding more dangerous topics. The public feels the big issues of WMD and the Bush-Blair commitment to war are not resolved - it's not time for the BBC to withdraw.

CHRIS ROSE
Deputy executive director of Greenpeace 1992-98
Wells, Norfolk

Sir: On the day that any member of the Blair government enjoys even a fraction of the BBC's deserved global reputation for integrity and reliability, democracy in this country will be in rude health. Right now, that day looks a long way off.

Dr BARRY LANGFORD
Royal Holloway, University of London
London

Sir: So you've finally succeeded where previous governments have failed; nobbling the BBC. A black day for democracy. I hope you're happy Mr Campbell.

JON TYE
Manchester

Sir: May I nominate Lord Hutton for the post of Chairman of the Board of BBC Governors. I am sure he would fulfil the requirement to be "more sympathetic towards the Government".

Professor COLIN STANLEY
University of Glasgow
Glasgow

Word on the street

Sir: Lord Hutton is to be congratulated. He has managed to introduce a new phrase to the English language. In a pub last light, when a man at an adjacent table could be heard making excuses for the shameless behaviour of his wife, my boyfriend quipped: "Don't knock the guy - he's doing her a Hutton!"

LUCY SKIPPING
Buckfastleigh, Devon

Funny looks

Sir: Perhaps the old Lord believes he can now only see clearly with "a special blair of rose-tinted spectacles"?

RICHARD W SYMONDS
Crawley, West Sussex

Close encounters

Sir: There is life on Mars. It's Lord Hutton, because he clearly lives on a different planet to me!

PETER EASTON
Bristol

Horse play

Sir: You have the feeling with the Hutton report of everyone watching Lady Godiva passing by on her horse and Lord Hutton stating that his remit is to examine the horse's teeth.

DAVID CLARK
Bahia, Brasil

Total recall

Sir: By examining the evidence, surely one could argue that the "totality" of what Gilligan was reporting was correct?

JAMES BOYES
Lewes, East Sussex

Feeling your pain

Sir: So this is what it felt like to be a Florida voter after the recount.

BEN STEWART
London SW4

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