After Hutton: a new face of political discussion

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Full Hutton details here.

So, the BBC is in trouble, standing accused of poor journalism and worse management. The Sun faces serious repercussions from its decision to publish the leak of the report this morning.

We have some mild criticism of the Ministry of Defence for its handling of the release of Dr Kelly‘s name to the public, so we may yet see Hoon falling on his sword. I suspect we’ll see a whole raft of people throwing themselves on their sabres in the BBC.

I think there are two really significant things to come out of this. The first is the way our national press behaves. British journalism has taken on an increasingly free-wheeling and risk-taking style of late, with quote of dubious veracity, stories of dubious provability and an increasing tendency to let political bias colour the reporting of news. A bout of self-examination may be a very good thing indeed.

Even more interesting is the finding that the 45 minutes intelligence only came in between the two drafts of the dossier, was from a “reliable” source and was approved by the heads of the security and intelligence services, who turned down some suggestions for changes from Number 10.

One thing that has depressed me for months is the way that elements of the media and of the public will shift their ground and make assuming to win their point in the debate over the war. Now debate over an issue as serious as war is a good thing; a vital thing in a functioning democracy. It is not a game, though, a debate to be won or lost, it’s an exercise in testing that what we do collectively, as nations, is right and the best thing we could have done. The more we ignore the facts to make our case, the more we jeopardise that conclusion.

There are lives at stake here. Lives of Iraqis. Lives of British servicemen, and those from the US and from other contries who have now commited troops into Iraq. Live of Government scientists, like the respected scientist driven to kill himself in Oxfordshire woods. Let’s bring the level of the debate up to the level of consequence, shall we?

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.