Independent – 23 August 2003
Having attended the Hutton Inquiry on 20 August, I am surprised that not more has been made of the comment near the end of the session by the Prime Minister's official spokesman, Tom Kelly (report, 21 August).
As the official transcript confirms, when questioned on his description of the late Dr Kelly as a "Walter Mitty character", the Prime Minister's official spokesman told the inquiry: "It was a mistake as I admit in the [press] statement, even to have been sucked into that conversation or to be drawn into that conversation". (Italics added).
Let us remind ourselves of the facts:
1. After Tom Kelly's smearing of Dr Kelly was exposed just before the funeral, a Downing Street press spokesman falsely denied that anyone in Downing Street "would say such a thing with the approval of the Prime Minister - or indeed anyone else in Downing Street". (Number 10 Morning Briefing, 4 August 2003).
2. Tom Kelly's admission of doing precisely that came only after broad hints were dropped that a tape-recording of the relevant conversation might exist.
3. Most damning of all, as the Independent on Sunday reported on 10 August, the Prime Minister's official spokesman "is understood to have given similar briefings to at least three journalists on the same day". (Italics added).
It can thus be seen that even while Tom Kelly was purporting to apologise once again to Dr Kelly's family at the Hutton Inquiry, he was still spinning frantically. There is no way that smearing a dead man as a Walter Mitty character three times, in three separate conversations to three different journalists, can truthfully be described as being "sucked into" or "drawn into" a conversation. It was nothing less that a systematic slur.
These people at the heart of Blair's government are incorrigible.
Dr JULIAN LEWIS MP
Opposition Spokesman for Defence
House of Commons
[NOTE: A slightly shortened version of this letter was also published in the Guardian on 22 August 2003.]