Discover more from Conquest of the Useless
Bullied Broadcasting Corporation
Twenty years ago it was battered over Iraq, now it's bruised over the Lineker 'affair' and leaked emails show the BBC has been bullied again.
This year — in July — it will be the 20th anniversary of David Kelly’s death; the biological weapons expert and UN weapons inspector was found dead on Harrowdown Hill on 18 July 2003; his body was discovered by a volunteer search team after his family reported him missing. He was 59 years old.
In February 2003 — just over a month before the Iraq War began — the US Secretary of State, Colin ‘Colin’ Powell, addressed the UN Security Council making claims about the status of Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons programme. He said that the country had mobile weapons laboratories which “could produce a quality of biological poison equal to the entire amount that Iraq claimed to have produced in the years prior to the Gulf War.”
They are not mobile germ warfare laboratories. You could not use them for making biological weapons. They do not even look like them. They are exactly what the Iraqis said they were – facilities for the production of hydrogen gas to fill balloons.
Peter Beaumont, one of the journalists bylined on the story, confirmed to the Hutton Inquiry — the judge-led investigation into the circumstances around Kelly’s death — that the scientist was the source of the quote.
War may now be inevitable. The proportionality and intensity of the conflict will depend on whether regime change or disarmament is the true objective. The US, and whoever willingly assists it, should ensure that the force, strength and strategy used is appropriate to the modest threat that Iraq now poses.
British and American forces entered Iraq on 20 March 2003; President Bush declared, “mission accomplished” on 1 May 2003, standing on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, which had been in the Persian Gulf but was now in the marginally less scary waters off San Diego.
The following Wednesday — 7 May 2003 — Kelly was phoned by Newsnight’s science editor, Susan Watts, who wanted to know about various Iraq War topics, including the UK government and security service claim that Saddam Hussein could have deployed WMD against Britain "within 45 minutes”.
Watts’s shorthand notes, which were provided as evidence to the Hutton Inquiry, showed Kelly had said the claim was “a mistake to put it. Alastair Campbell seeing something in there, single source but not corroborated, sounded good.”
On 22 May 2003, Kelly met up with Andrew Gilligan at the Charing Cross Hotel in London. Gilligan, who went on to become a big supporter of and advisor to Boris Johnson as well as working at The Sunday Times, was at that point the Defence and Diplomatic Correspondent for BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. He had met Kelly twice before but this was a much more serious conversation.
Gilligan asked Kelly why WMDs had not been discovered in Iraq; he claimed that after 30 minutes the conversation turned to the “45-minute” dossier and how it had been edited to make a greater impact. Gilligan took notes not in a shorthand pad but on an unsuitable electronic organiser.
On 29 May, Gilligan appeared on the Today programme at 6.07 am, interviewed by John Humphrys, to trail a report later in the show. He said:
… we've been told by one of the senior officials in charge of drawing up that dossier was that, actually the government probably… erm… knew that that forty-five minute figure was wrong, even before it decided to put it in. What this person says is that a week before the publication date of the dossier, it was actually rather… erm… a bland production. It didn't, the, the draft prepared for Mr Blair by the Intelligence Agencies actually didn't say very much more than was public knowledge already and… erm… Downing Street, our source says, ordered a week before publication, ordered it to be 'sexed up', to be made more exciting and ordered more facts to be… er… to be discovered.
Gilligan had a single source: Kelly. Today’s producer, Kevin Marsh, wrotethat Gilligan deviated from his pre-planned script, breaking a rule that anonymous single-sourced stories “[had] to be reported word perfectly”. Marsh said:
Gilligan had lost control of that precision.
It’s a kind way of phrasing a more ugly reality: Gilligan was sloppy, slapdash, and interested in sensation more than facts. Downing Street had not been contacted for comment and, at 7.32 am, the government press office — home to a raging Alastair Campbell, issued a statement:
Not one word of the dossier was not entirely the work of the intelligence agencies.
Gilligan doubled down in a report for BBC Radio 5 Live’s Breakfast programme. Kelly didn’t initially recognise himself as Gilligan’s source; he hadn’t been “in charge of drawing up the document” and had only been asked to offer comment on the contents once they were established.
The day after Gilligan’s reports, Susan Watts called Kelly at home. She recorded the call, which again later featured as evidence in the Hutton Inquiry. Kelly told her that he didn’t think he would be suspected as the source. They discussed the 45-minute claim again:
Watts: OK just back momentarily on the 45-minute issue I'm feeling like I ought to just explore that a little bit more with you the …um… err… So would it be accurate then, as you did in that earlier conversation, to say that it was Alastair Campbell himself who... Kelly: No, I can't. All I can say is the Number Ten press office... I've never met Alastair Campbell so I can't ... But I think Alastair Campbell is synonymous with that press office because he's responsible for it.
Gilligan doubled down again with a Mail On Sunday article; he named Campbell as the catalyst for the 45-minute claim:
I asked my intelligence source why Blair misled us all over Saddam’s weapons. His reply? One word… CAMPBELL.
It was the involvement of the Mail titles that sent the government into meltdown. Kelly told his line manager at the Ministry of Defence, Bryan Wells, that he had met with Gilligan and that the 45-minute claim was discussed. Kelly told his bosses that Campbell was raised by Gilligan and only in passing. He wrote:
I did not even consider that I was the ‘source’ of Gilligan’s information.
He only realised, he said, that he might be the source after Gilligan appeared at the Foreign Affairs select committee for a peacocking performance. Kelly wrote:
[Gilligan’s] description of that meeting in small part matches my interaction with him especially my personal evaluation of Iraq’s capability but the overall character is quite different.
He concluded that he “deeply [regretted] talking to Andrew Gilligan” but was sure he was “not [Gilligan’s] primary source of information”. After two interviews, the MoD concluded that Kelly might be Gilligan’s source but that the journalist appeared to have exaggerated things. No official action was taken against Kelly but he was warned he might be named in the press.
Tom Baldwin of The Times — who revealed the Bernie Ecclestone scandal and later went on to be Ed Miliband’s comms advisor — wrote stories on 5 and 8 July that hinted heavily about the source’s identity. Tony Blair decided that Kelly was not to be named unless a journalist correctly guessed; it was less like a strategy and more like a grim parlour game.
On 8 July, the government issued a statement that said a staff member at the MoD had come forward to admit meeting with Gilligan. The following evening, Chris Adams, a journalist from The Financial Times, won the guessing game and a hack from The Times got lucky next, after nineteen failed guesses. Earlier that day, the veteran BBC journalist, Tom Mangold, an old friend of the scientist, had emailed Kelly privately to offer a “dry shoulder to cry on”.
Another old friend, Nick Rufford, a Sunday Times journalist, visited Kelly at home to warn him that his name would be published the next day. He told Kelly to get out of his house to avoid the media and offered to get him a hotel, but also tried to get him to write exclusively for his paper. This cheap trick failed; the MoD told Kelly to find somewhere else to stay. He and his wife headed for Cornwall.
On 11 July, Kelly’s boss, Bryan Wells, called to tell him he would have to appear in front of the Intelligence & Security and Foreign Affairs select committees. The latter would be televised, something his wife said distressed him greatly. He called Wells a further nine times that day.
Kelly was subjected to hostile questioning by the select committees and it later emerged that Gilligan had supplied the Lib Dems with questions; they were put to Kelly by David Chidgey, an MP who was later ‘elevated’ to the House of Lords as a life peer. Gilligan deliberately revealed his source by emailing the Lib Dems; in doing so he also revealed Kelly's conversations with Susan Watts.
It was an extraordinary betrayal. To make matters worse, the email Gilligan sent gave him the impression of being a background note prepared by the BBC. The note also implied that Kelly might also be Gilligan’s own source. The wink was good as the nod. The result was catastrophic.
He believes “[the] most likely explanation [for David Kelly’s death] is that he learned from a well-meaning friend at the Ministry of Defence that the BBC had tape-recorded evidence which, when published, would show that he had indeed said the things to Susan Watts that he had formally denied saying”.
Earlier on the day that Kelly took his last walk to Harrowdown, he replied to an email from New York Times journalist Judith Miller that he would “wait until the end of the week before judging – many dark actors playing games.”
Hutton concluded that Kelly took his own life. The former Tory leader Michael Howard and former Liberal Democrat minister Norman Baker — who wrote a book about the case — have raised doubts about the verdict. In 2013, a group of doctors argued that Hutton’s findings should be discarded in favour of a fresh inquest. However, Baker’s book provoked anger from members of Kelly’s family:
"It is just raking over old bones," said Mr Pape, who is married to Dr Kelly's sister, Sarah, a plastic surgeon. "I can't speak for the whole family, but I've read it all [Baker's theories], every word, and I don't believe it." "All that stuff about there only being a small amount of blood found on the ground, it doesn't make sense – blood seeps through soil. Even if there was only a bloodstain the size of a 2p piece on the ground, the rest will have sunk down into the soil. If he'd been found on tarmac, it would have spread all around him."
The Hutton Report led to the resignation of the BBC chairman, Gavyn Davies — whose appointment was as controversial in 2001 as Richard Sharp’s is now; he was a major Labour donor and is married to Sue Nye, who was Gordon Brown’s most senior aide — and the Director General, Greg Dyke, who lost the support of the corporation’s board.
Gilligan also resigned; raging in his resignation statement that Hutton had “cast a chill over all journalism”. Subsequent reports — the Butler review (2004) and the Chilcot inquiry (2016) — concluded that the 45-minute claim was “included because of its eye-catching character” and the product of “a deliberate policy of exaggeration and omission in the intelligence”. None of this vindicated the way Gilligan reported the story or his betrayal of Kelly to parliament.
In Shock and War: Iraq 20 Years On, BBC Security Correspondent Gordon Corera’s new podcast series, interviews with Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of the Secret Intelligence Service (aka MI6), reveal him to be so relaxed about spinning the case for war that he’s almost horizontal.
Corera says journalists — including him — did not ask tough enough questions. Dearlove says:
There are precedents; look at what happened recently over in Ukraine. The intelligence services have always been used [to sell policies] in certain crises.
The BBC and Gilligan, the security services, the British government and Alastair Campbell — despite his many attempts — cannot scrub the blood from the Kelly case and the Iraq War from their hands. Research by Cardiff University into the news coverage during the first three weeks of the conflict found that the BBC was the least likely to quote official Iraqi sources, less likely than Sky News, ITV or Channel 4 News to talk to independent and sceptical sources like the Red Cross and placed the least emphasis on Iraqi casualties.
Twenty days after the invasion of Iraq began — on 9 April 2003 — Huw Edwards threw to Andrew Marr outside Number 10. This is what he said:
… all the usual caveats apply, there could be some ghastly scenes in the future; there could be terrorist attacks; all sorts of things could go wrong. But frankly, Huw, the main mood is unbridled relief. I’ve been watching ministers wander around with smiles like split watermelons… I think this does one thing: It draws a line under what had been, before this war, a period when a faint heir of pointlessness was hanging over Downing Street. There were all these slightly tawdry arguments and scandals; that is now history. Mr Blair is well aware that all his critics out there in the party and beyond aren’t going to thank him — because they’re only human — for being right when they’ve been wrong, and he knows there might be trouble ahead as I’ve said. But I think this is a very, very important moment for him: It gives him a new freedom and a new self-confidence. He confronted many critics. I don’t think anybody after this is going to be able to say of Tony Blair that he is someone that is driven by the drift of public opinion or focus groups or opinion polls. He took all of those on. He said that they would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath and that, in the end, the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both of those points, he has been proved conclusively right. And it would be entirely ungracious for his critics not to acknowledge that tonight he stands as a larger man and a stronger prime minister as a result.
Marr’s coverage doesn’t represent the entirety of the BBC’s output; he was a political hack standing comfortably in Downing Street. Hugh Sykes — the former BBC foreign correspondent — is serialising a book on his time in Iraq, War Crime, on Substack. His reporting then and now presents a very different picture to the one provided by Marr. Sykes writes:
Al Manar hotel bar. Two men drinking ice-cold beer - an anaesthetist and an orthopaedic surgeon. They attended medical schools in London. They’re watching Al Jazeera on the TV. Images of war. "This is not humanity, it is criminal. This is a bad thing." "Is Saddam a good thing?" I ask. "It should be the people who decide to remove their leader, not someone from thousands of miles away. This will only breed more fanatics." - March 22nd 2003
Recalling events once he’d crossed the border into Iraq, he makes a scalpel-sharp point about what was and still is considered fine for radio listening:
My recording was partly eclipsed by one of my colleagues exclaiming "Fucking Hell!" This required deft editing before I could include the sound of the explosion in a radio report without annoying listeners who would more likely complain about bad language than about bombs.
Marr spoke of the Iraqis celebrating; Sykes saw:
… frequent angry anti-occupation demonstrations in Baghdad in April 2003, by people furious that the heavily armed Americans appeared to be doing nothing to stop the looting and the destruction of public buildings & institutions that was taking place in the capital. Banners demanded safety and security, the restoration of civil society and the formation of a democratically elected government. One banner complained: "They are protecting the oil and leaving the stores, universities and hospitals."
I’ve dragged you through the wreckage of history because of three things:
Hearing part one of Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart’s The Rest Is Politics episodes on the Iraq War starting with their usual ad for online therapy; what comes next is a pro-wrestling style ‘work’ where former *cough* diplomat Stewart offers softball criticism of Campbell who gives his usual excuses and justifications.
Reading a viral tweet that says, "the BBC’s news agenda is set in a daily meeting by the editor-in-chief (aka Director General)…”
Looking at The Guardian’s exclusive on leaked BBC emails and WhatsApp messages that suggest the broadcaster repeatedly bent to government pressure at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the latter story, Rowena Mason and Jessica Elgot write:
BBC editors asked their journalists to avoid using the word “lockdown” in reporting at the start of the pandemic and to be more critical of Labour after pressure from Downing Street, leaked email and WhatsApp messages show. Emails and messages were shown to the Guardian amid concern among some BBC insiders that the corporation has been too cowed by the government in recent years. The messages seen by the Guardian date from 2020 to 2022, and show the BBC coming under pressure from No 10 over the corporation’s political reporting.
Now, if you were an idiot — and you’re clearly not because you’re reading this newsletter — you might say, ‘Well, isn’t this just about public health information in an unprecedented crisis?” The problem with that is: Other UK broadcasters did not bow to the government request that “lockdown” not be used and the stories that execs celebrated being ignored were not limited to health issues:
In an email, a senior editor congratulated correspondents for staying away from the subject of Jennifer Arcuri after the American tech entrepreneur gave an interview to a newspaper in October 2020 appearing to confirm an affair with Johnson, following allegations that he used his position as London mayor to secure favourable treatment for her. The message to political correspondents from 17 October 2020 said: “[XXX] did a wonderful job last night keeping us away from this story. I’d like to continue that distance. It’s not a story we should be doing at this stage. Please call me if you’re asked to.” The email went to the BBC journalists and producers based at the corporation’s Millbank HQ in Westminster – they interpret political news stories for tens of millions of Britons across more than 50 broadcast outlets in the UK, as well as online. One BBC insider said: “Particularly on the website, our headlines have been determined by calls from Downing Street on a very regular basis.”
And remember that off-hand comment from Richard Dearlove (“… look at what happened recently over in Ukraine.”)? The messages show how coverage of the government response to that war has been shaped and shifted:
A third leaked message from 2022 shows a senior editor circulated a message to BBC political journalists from the then No 10 director of communications the day after a speech by Johnson in which he compared Ukraine’s struggle against Russia to the British people’s vote for Brexit. The message from the No 10 aide included a tweet from the Ukrainian embassy and read: “Hi, worth sharing with any reporter misinterpreting the PM’s speech. I travelled home with the ambassador. He most definitely did NOT think the PM was equating Brexit with Ukraine. He heard him say v clearly nothing like this since the 1940s.” One insider said circulating the message had a chilling effect on how the BBC covered the story.
Unlike last week’s Gary Lineker story, the messages have not led the bulletins or been obsessively covered by the BBC. Even The Guardian itself only gave it a small space on the front page rather than the splash.
Several BBC insiders gave me the explanation that there has been a lot of turnover and change in the corporation’s political reporting structure since 2022, particularly with Chris Mason replacing Laura Kuenssberg as Political Editor. They also suggested that the messages have less value without context; The Guardian did not publish images of the communications or share the threads in which they appeared.
One story from the Telegraph’s newsbukkakeover Matt Hancock's WhatsApps that didn't get very much coverage was a message sent by Dominic Cummings on 15 March 2020, on disseminating a particular government line:
Send a form of words Chris [Witty, Chief Medical Officer] is happy with and we can get Laura / Peston to bang it out.
In a select committee appearance in May 2021, Cummings said Kuenssberg was his only regular media contact. She got the ‘scoop’ of his first post-government interview in July 2021. Discussing the Lineker affair on her Sunday show last week she said if she’d sent the same kind of tweet as him she “would have been out of the building within a couple of minutes.” On the same show, she read two critical viewer comments about Lineker and no supportive ones.
Kuenssberg didn’t experience any significant consequences when the BBC Trust ruled she had inaccurately represented Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on ‘shoot-to-kill’ policies; in September 2019, when she identified the father of a sick baby who confronted the prime minister as a political activist by quote tweeting him with the words, “This is him here”; or in December 2019 when she was one of several reporters who erroneously reported a Tory aide had been “punched” in scenes which occurred outside a hospital in Leeds (based on claims from Tory sources).
While Kuenssberg’s reporting has never been as blatant as Andrew Neil going on television wearing an Adam Smith Insitute tie or endlessly promoting explicitly partisan writing from The Spectator (where he is the chairman), a lot of people who have paid close attention to her work — including me — have documented plenty of evidence of partiality.
BBC News employs more than 2,000 journalists — though that number is being slashed through local radio cuts — and many of those reporters and editors work hard every day to produce fair and honest work of which they can be proud. They’re let down by a craven executive class that has bent to the whims of governments of all colours and combinations; and ‘top talent’ in newsrooms for whom the rules are frequently bent or waived entirely. For example: Why is it okay for Today presenter Justin Webb to write for UnHerd and The Daily Mail?
The Reithian lie of “impartiality” was a lie from the very beginning. Reflecting on Lord Reith’s manoeuvring during the General Strike of 1926, Hilda Matheson, the BBC’s first director of talks, said:
The government did not commandeer the BBC … It is no secret that it was owing to BBC insistence that the bulletins of the Trades Union Council, as well as the communiques of the government, were both broadcast. It is not suggested that the weight of the BBC was not thrown preponderatingly on the side of authority; the important point, for the social historian, is that a degree of independence and impartiality could be preserved at all.
Fourteen years later, in 1940, Peter Eckersley, the BBC’s first Chief Engineer, bluntly expressed a similar sentiment
Broadcasting is a powerful medium of propaganda. It is oracular and yet friendly. It is not what is said but the way in which it is said that influences its listeners. There is no need to say things directly over the air: the attitude of mind revealed in day-to-day behaviour is itself powerful propaganda. Political beliefs need not be imposed: they can be made to grow out of 65 men's minds by suggestion.
In 1971, then BBC Director General, Charles Curran, in a speech to the Edinburgh Broadcasting Conference, said:
[The BBC] is a creation of the Establishment and it depends on the assent of the Establishment for its continuance in being… [the BBC’s] activities are, by their very nature — which is to ask question questions — open to the accusation of being subversive.
The Johnson/Truss/Sunak Tories, like Tony Blair’s Labour before them, exploit that ease with which the BBC can be accused of subversion, just as they make sure their ‘guys’ are at the top of the organisation whilst still pretending that the ‘other side’ is in control.
Through the ongoing threat of offing the licence fee, hiving off parts of the corporation, or simply euthanising it, politicians and their advisors have perpetually bogwashed the BBC. Just as it thinks its corporate bonce has fully dried off, it’s submerged in the toilet water again.
But not only is it perpetually cry-bullied into backtracking, self-censorship, and submission to the right (both Tory and Labour variants), it’s gaslit by some of the worst offenders. On BBC News last week, Alastair Campbell — whose podcast is produced by Gary Lineker’s company — said the ‘scandal’ was…
… a lesson for the BBC, when you are subject to right-wing pressure, you should resist it, stand up to it and don’t pander it.
A wild-eyed earlier evolution of Campbell appeared, practically vibrating with rage, on Channel 4 News in 2003 to apply pressure on the BBC. The Guardian headline from that day summed it up well: Master of spin storms studio to become the story. John Snow had not been expecting to see Campbell in the studio, nor to experience his ranting that somehow managed to include a reference to a high-flying British team’s defeat by foreigners (“That answer was about as robust as Blackburn Rovers wore (sic) when they played Trelleborgs…”)
The behaviour of bullies outside the BBC is matched by bruisers within it. As I was finishing this newsletter, Martin Forde KC — the barrister who wrote a (long-delayed) report on allegations of bullying, racism and sexism within the Labour party that was published last year — said for the first time that BBC editors and journalists put pressure on him to change it.
Forde says he rejected a request to amend paragraphs in which he described the use of internal Labour Party emails by Panorama, the BBC’s investigative programme, and other media organisations as “entirely misleading”. Forde told Al-Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, which broadcast a series called The Labour Files late last year:
I was invited to amend the report, I guess to make it more in line with their [Panorama’s] conclusions, and that wasn’t something I was prepared to do.
In September 2022 — roughly two months after Forde’s report was published — Panorama editor Karen Wightman wrote to him to say she believed there had not been an adequate right to reply prior to publication. She said Panorama disputed that it had misled the public and wrote:
I would be grateful if you would consider amending your report in respect of your references to Panorama so that it more fairly reflects what the programme actually said, specifically excluding… any suggestion that Panorama was amongst those media outlets that you say ‘entirely misled’ the public over antisemitism complaints from mid-March to April 2018.
In The Labour Files, Al Jazeera said Panorama had removed context from a 2018 email sent by Seumas Milne, Jeremy Corbyn’s director of communications, to the Labour Party’s disciplinary unit. Panorama quoted Milne as saying the party was “muddling up political disputes with racism”. The first half of the sentence was missing; it actually read:
This member is a Jewish activist, the son of a Holocaust survivor. If we’re more than very occasionally using disciplinary action against Jewish members for anti-Semitism, something’s going wrong, and we’re muddling up political disputes with racism. Quite apart from this specific case, I think going forward we need to review where and how we’re drawing the line if we’re going to have clear and defensible processes.
Forde told Al-Jazeera that he feels the documentary “demonstrated graphically that [Milne’s email] had been filleted and I think the fileting meant the context was lost and a more sinister interpretation could be placed upon that email than was ever intended.”
After receiving the BBC letter, Forde told Middle East Eye that he looked back at the material he and his panel had used to compile their report; he decided that he had been given access to a more extensive set of information than Panorama but also stressed that his view, while “highly qualified”, is “an opinion”. He also noted that his criticism of Panorama related to “a limited number of emails [sent] in a limited period”.
Wightman told MEE that “the BBC stands by its reporting,” while the reporter on the programme, John Ware, said the letter “courteously invited” Forde to amend his report because he had got “muddled up”.
There’s also a dispute over an email sent to Forde by Ware in October last year, requesting a response to a series of questions by 4 pm the following day (11 October). Forde said it resembled a ‘notice before action’ letter — which is usually sent before the start of legal moves — and described it as “quite aggressive in tone.” Ware says he entirely rejects that characterisation and that his emails “were robust but always polite”.
Ware wrote to Forde that the “report had done significant damage to my reputation and to that of the corporation for journalistic integrity.” He concluded the email by noting that he had cc’d Jake Wallis Simmons, the editor of The Jewish Chronicle. On 13 October, Ware published a piece for the paper, headlined Al Jazeera’s central allegation against my BBC programme can be easily debunked, in which he wrote:
In my view, the Corbynites prefer the non-statutory Forde report to the statutory EHRC. For them, Forde further discredits Is Labour Antisemitic?, a show they’ve seemed determined to discredit since its transmission. Mr Forde’s two words — “entirely misleading” — are their “gotcha” moment.
Antisemitism in the Labour Party was extensively covered in the British media throughout Jeremy Corbyn’s five years as leader. But Forde says the press and wider media were not really interested in his report:
I think I was approached by one [media outlet] on the day of publication, but they candidly accepted that they hadn’t actually read the report and I suggested they might want to do that first and they didn't come back to me.
The BBC published one story on the Forde Report on July 19 2022 (Anti-Semitism used as factional weapon within Labour, says report’.)
On October 13 2022, The Jewish Chronicle published a piece revealing that the BBC was challenging Forde’s conclusions — presumably referring to the Wigtman and Ware emails — under the headline BBC challenges inquiry into antisemitism in Labour under Jeremy Corbyn. It quotes John Ware and a BBC spokesperson; there are no quotes from the Labour Party or Martin Forde, and no line to say that they had been contacted for comment.
Twenty years after Gilligan, the BBC’s reputation is being damaged not just by its enemies but by people working within the corporation. It is hammered by execs in cases like the Lineker affair; bruised by incidents like Fiona Bruce’s boilerplate balance about accusations of domestic violence against Stanley Johnson by his now-deceased ex-wife Charlotte Wahl Johnson; threatened by the kind of tactics used by Panorama; and chipped away at by the conduct of presenters on programmes like Today.
It is no longer about a ‘dodgy dossier’ and dodgy reporting on it, but a culture of dodginess that threatens to drag down those at the BBC who really are trying to find their way to a reasonable version of the truth.
Thanks for reading. Please consider sharing…
… and upgrading to a paid subscription:
In his 2012 book, Stumbling Over Truth: The Inside Story and the 'Sexed Up' Dossier, Hutton and the BBC
Shock and War: Iraq 20 Years On, Episode 3: The Spies, time code: 14.15
Do not Google.