The chain of events that led to Dr Kelly's last walk may begin with his encounter with the BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan, but that conversation turned on whether the case for war was scientifically sound. How can Lord Hutton be expected to assess the significance of that meeting and be prevented from expressing any view on its content?
Then there is Dr Kelly's appearance before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. How can Lord Hutton assess its impact on the frame of mind of Dr Kelly without reflecting on the wide divergence between the notorious claim that Saddam could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes and the disbelief that Dr Kelly expressed to the committee that this was technically possible? It is even more difficult for Lord Hutton to ignore this aspect in view of the disclosure yesterday by his friend Tom Mangold that Dr Kelly and he had laughed together over the 45-minute claim.
No judge, however eminent, could come up with a complete and balanced study of the pressures that resulted in Dr Kelly's death while remaining agnostic on whether his reservations as a scientist were closer to the truth than the more strident assertions of the politicians.
The Government has not quite crossed the Rubicon, but it is wading about in midstream. It has conceded at long last that a judicial inquiry should be held, but still clings to the hope that it can keep it within narrow bounds of its own devising. It should recognise the inevitable and accept now the case for a wider inquiry.
The pity is that it did not do so a couple of months ago when it first became evident that it could not find any real weapons of mass destruction. If the Government had announced a judicial inquiry at the end of May it could deservedly have claimed credit for its own openness and its willingness to get to the bottom of why Britain went to war on an intelligence assessment that turned out to be false. It might also have avoided the gratuitous outing of Dr Kelly and the fateful pressures on him which that move produced.
The worst political scandals do not stem from the original mistake but from the attempt to deny and conceal that any mistake took place. In this case the Government chose to launch a heated war with the BBC as a diversion from explaining why it had launched war on Iraq. It threw itself into denouncing the allegation that its claims had been fabricated as a way to avoid answering the real question - whether its claims had been right. Its war on the BBC has now ended in the loss of life of a dignified scientist who over the past decade had done more to achieve real disarmament of Saddam than any member of the Government. As a result, the Government this week finds itself much worse off in public opinion than if it had opted for a judicial inquiry in the first place.
Rather than ordering that full, independent inquiry, Tony Blair has spent the past two months asserting with every impression of sincerity that each single line in the September dossier is accurate. The US President might admit that the claim on the uranium from Niger was wrong, but Tony Blair still insists it was right. There is a paradox here. The only hope the Government has of restoring its credibility is to emerge from its present state of denial and accept that some of the claims made before the war have turned out to be mistakes since the war. It is the repeated assertions by ministers that this government has not made a single mistake that infuriates the public and jars with the reality on the ground in Iraq.
Tony Blair inched closer to admitting error in the safe and adoring environment of Congress, but could still only bring himself to use the conditional: "If we are wrong''. He shrinks from owning up to the British people that there may have been a mistake, for fear of the hysterical reaction from his political opponents to such an admission of human error.
Here we come to the fundamental problem of our political culture, which provided the malign environment into which the tragedy of Dr Kelly was played out. Politics has lost the capacity for dispassionate, rational discussion of issues. In its place, we have a destructive preoccupation with personalities and a rhetoric of debate which seeks to sensationalise, and therefore exaggerates conflict rather than seeks consensus.
I, and I am sure many other MPs, winced at the weekend watching the repeated clips of Dr Kelly's grilling before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. To his credit, Andrew Mackinlay has expressed his regrets, and indeed is the only person in this whole sorry saga who has yet apologised. But the real problem is that ordinary people do not infect their everyday conversations with the aggressive tone and challenging mood that is commonplace in modern politics. It has become a barrier between Parliament and the public because decent people simply do not talk to each other in the way that MPs address each other in Parliament.
And the mass media is part of that destructive, sensationalising culture. Had Andrew Gilligan reported in measured terms that some experts had sober and scientific reservations about the September dossier, the history of the past two months would have been very different. He might even have made a helpful contribution to the search for what went wrong, rather than a monumental distraction from it. Instead he produced an allegation of a conspiracy to deceive, the unmasking of Alastair Campbell as the villain, and deliberately spiced his story with the language of "sexed up'', which he knew would grab the headline writers.
Nor can the BBC wipe its hands of responsibility, because it recruited and encouraged Mr Gilligan to make the news agenda rather than report it. A judicial inquiry is needed into both the justification for war and the cause of Dr Kelly's death. But Britain also deserves a more respectful political culture and a more mature standard of political reporting.
I am conscious we have been here before in moments of intense tragedy. After John Smith's premature death, John Major mused about the need to turn down the volume of personalised attacks. In the wake of Diana, the Princess of Wales's death, Tony Blair led demands for more empathy and understanding in public life. So I am not so na´ve as to believe that the prospects for change are any better this time.
Yet a decent, honourable man wandered into the cockpit where politics and press struggle for advantage, and was destroyed by it. The best tribute we owe Dr Kelly is to reflect long and hard on why our trade is so destructive.
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