UK press cries 'whitewash' over Blair escape
- UK press cries 'whitewash' over Blair escape
LONDON, Jan 29: The British press on Thursday accused Lord Hutton of a "whitewash" for clearing Prime Minister Tony Blair's government of wrongdoing while rebuking the BBC.
The rightwing Daily Mail said that judge Brian Hutton's long-awaited verdict, delivered Wednesday, had attracted "widespread incredulity." "Justice?" the paper asked in a front page headline. It said Hutton's report "does a great disservice to the British people. It fails to set its story in the context of the BBC's huge virtues and the government's sore vices."
"We're faced with the wretched spectacle of the BBC chairman resigning while Alastair Campbell crows from the summit of his dungill. Does this verdict, my lord, serve the real interest of truth?" asked columnist Max Hastings in the Daily Mail, which splashed his words across its front page.
Mr Campbell is Blair's former communications director and one of the principal figures in a bitter row between the government and the BBC during which Kelly took his own life last July.
In a comment piece for the leftwing Daily Mirror tabloid, journalist Paul Routledge accused Hutton of an "establishment whitewash" which "stinks to high heaven".
Hutton's judgment "makes me feel physically sick, like a victim of a crime who knows that justice will never be done", said Routledge. The Mirror said that the BBC had been left "shamed", but the narrowness of Hutton's remit during his inquiry "meant that the real issue - the existence of weapons of mass destruction - wasn't even touched on".
"Hutton's whitewash leaves questions unanswered," said the rightwing Daily Express, referring to issues such as whether the government was right to enter the war given that "there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, let alone anything to suggest Saddam Hussein could have launched a deadly attack in just 45 minutes, or even 45 days."
In a striking front-page article, with a white space left where normally a photograph would appear, the Indepenedent asked if the Hutton report was an "establishment whitewash".
The paper called Hutton's conclusions "curiously unbalanced", and said they had strengthened the case for an "independent inquiry into the intelligence failures that took this country to an unjustifiable war."
The leftwing Guardian said that Gilligan "got more right than he got wrong" in his reporting, adding that the BBC should now ensure "there is no collective failure of nerve in the corporation".
"BBC jouralists must go on probing, must go on asking awkward questions - and must go on causing trouble," the Guardian urged. It added that Lord Hutton's report had a "certain naivety of tone and approach".
REPUTATION: Judge Brian Hutton appeared to have damaged his own reputation as fellow members of the British establishment questioned his judgement.
The verdict on Hutton himself ranged from complaints that he interpreted his remit too narrowly, to the charge of double standards. Tongue-in-cheek, former cabinet minister Robin Cook, who resigned over the decision to go to war in Iraq, told the daily Independent: "If ever I am up in court on a serious charge, I want to book Lord Hutton now as a trial judge."
The "fastidious" Hutton had used such "impeccable standards of proof" that it was inevitable he would clear the prime minister of blame, said Cook, a former foreign secretary under Blair. Davies's predecessor at the BBC, Christopher Bland, the current chairman of British Telecom, questioned the judge's impartiality.