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Home > War On Terror

Andrew Mackinlay is a (war) hero

27 August 2003

Much of yesterday's Hutton transcripts are a bit useless, unless you trust the testimony, under no oath, of John Scarlett, MI6's man-with-the-hat. He tells us that Campbell's input to the dossier was to "finalise the arrangements for the format, the structure, and sort of taking forward the presentation". So he is a whizz with Microsoft Word after all.

You recall how Blair's apologist explained that there's "more to honesty than not telling lies"; well, it seems that there's also more to honesty than not taking a piece of hearsay and making it the centrepiece of the case for war, valuing its rhetorical strength over its truth. Making it "as strong as possible", so that intelligence follows policy and not the other way round is - evidently - no bad thing.

Angry Andrew Mackinlay is a less frustrating read. He doesn't deserve "an awful lot of hate mail" for his "chaff" comment. He's pleasingly righteous and we need more MPs like him: "I consider it a monumental cheek of the Secretary of State to try and tell us what we should and could inquire into and the duration. I was prepared to live with it because I was prepared to do battle, if and when it was necessary."

If anyone with the chops of a Shakespeare ever fancies dramatising how a prime minister ignored his people, went to war, and then found that the system remained bigger than him, Mackinlay will be one of the most fascinating characters, like As you like it's Oliver, but without anything to feel remorse for. Imagine the following exchange condensed into a speech. Everyone in the audience would be in tears - until they got angry.

MR DINGEMANS: Is there anything else you want to say?
A. There is, my Lord. When Dr Kelly died, I did issue a statement and it was difficult for us all, as you will understand. I said --
LORD HUTTON: You just take your time if you want to look at the wording in your statement. Is it towards the end of your statement?
A. I know it is ingrained on my mind, my Lord. I sort of said: I deeply regret the death of Dr Kelly. If there is any way that my questions contributed to his distress or stress, I deeply regret that, and I expressed my condolences to his wife and family. After that, my Lord, I have not had any dealings with any journalists. We have turned down hundreds of requests, avoided them and so on. Why I share this with you is important. The repeated showing of that narrow clip has resulted in an awful lot of hate mail and so on. I am not complaining about that. I think also that clip does not educate or inform, it misleads, because it does not give the backdrop of this, but it created a very bad climate and I have had lots of things. I have not been able to hit back or defend myself.
Why have I not? Three very important reasons:
One, to talk to the press in those circumstances seemed to me highly inappropriate. The Doctor had not had his funeral. Believe it or not, I do respect and have a high regard for the enormous stress for his family at their loss.
Secondly, I did listen to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister basically said: let us all cool down and shut up, or words to that effect.
Third, probably the most important thing, was the Hutton Inquiry. So I have gone to enormous lengths to talk to the press.
Just to complete the picture, my local newspaper had daubed on its walls, "Kelly's blood on Mackinlay's hands". I have shown the utmost restraint and I want to continue to do so. It is difficult. Even yesterday afternoon the Today Programme phoned up my house wanting me to go on this morning, presumably to save you the trouble of listening to me because you would have heard it on your way in, or, my Lord, they could have put to me this: Mr Mackinlay, do you not think it is bad that you are talking to the press before the Hutton Inquiry?
I am not asking for your guidance or protection, but I want to say this: I will do everything I can reasonably to avoid -- I have never spun on this -- until you report, but I hope you will also understand I do not have tenure. My whole basis as an MP is based upon reputation and I have not been able to hit back or to respond. But you see I am like a sprung coil this morning, my Lord. I am very, very angry because I think not only Mackinlay is at stake but the future of Parliament because, my Lord, this could go either way.
Your report could either very welcomely open up a whole new vista of openness in Government or it could be used as the Hutton rules whereby it buttresses Osmotherly and all this sort of thing in the future. I think we are at a crossroads as regards Parliament. I am desperately anxious that nobody has spoken up for Parliament. The final thing, sir --

LORD HUTTON: I think Mr Mackinlay I should just say, as I am sure you appreciate, the Bill of Rights itself provides that the affairs of Parliament should not be commented on other than in Parliament. Therefore you will appreciate it will not be appropriate for me to express views on the affairs of Parliament. That is a matter for Parliament itself.
A. In a way that makes it more difficult for me to be restrained, but I will continue to be restrained.
Lord Hutton, there is one final point you might want to consider. The Government refused us access to documents and to people who we all now see. The irony was if they had given us the JIC assessments, by way of example, or access to documents, we certainly would have agreed, we would have compromised, we would have seen them in private.
The irony is that all these people and documents are given to you and I am very much pleased you have them, but you also can put them on a website. If it was so critical that they should not be out in the public domain. They will not let Parliament have them; now the balloon has gone up, they are available. You are rightly putting them on the website. It just shows how the Government do everything they can -- this Government is not the only one, there have been previous Governments -- to obstruct scrutiny. They do not like scrutiny. They see scrutiny as automatically going to be criticism, whereas it can be investigatory. Thank you, my Lord.

LORD HUTTON: Thank you very much indeed.

So let's not see Hoon alone as the new chaff.

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