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THE HUTTON INQUIRY: No one comes out of this with honour.

Byline: PAUL ROUTLEDGE

HAND on heart, proclaimed the Prime Minister yesterday, he believed it was all gen stuff from the spooks about weapons in Iraq.

But Tony Blair's hand was nowhere near his heart when he made his historic appearance in the Royal Courts of Justice to answer for his actions in the Kelly affair.

Instead, he fiddled with his specs and put his hand over his mouth when the going got embarrassing - the classic behaviour of a politician with something to hide.

The body language told us more than the words, though he did not know it. Blair left the dock, satisfied that no blame can be attached to his role in the tragic death of Dr David Kelly. He is responsible for everything, but guilty of nothing.

And he is not alone. His ministers, his spies, his advisers, his Whitehall mandarins and his spin doctors have given evidence, all seeking to evade responsibility for the suicide of a decent man who dared to doubt the wisdom of war against Iraq. They think they have just about got away with it.

In the clinical surroundings of the Royal Courts of Justice, Lord Hutton's search for the truth about Dr Kelly's suicide goes on. We will hear from the weapons scientist's grieving widow next week.

But the big political players have had their say, and it is now possible to come to an interim judgment on this dismal train of events.

And what a sorry conclusion it must be. Never before has the British establishment been subject to such deep and all-exposing investigation. Literally tons of secret memos, emails, draft policy documents and private remarks - sometimes of the most objectionable kind - have come to light.

This is the first inquiry of its kind in the age of the Internet. Trial by website. The most intimate contacts between our rulers have been revealed, and it is not a pretty sight. No politician has been spared, and not one of them has come out unscathed.

Reputations have not been made in Courtroom 73. They have been tarnished.

This has not been a game of winners and losers, but of losers and losers.

Alastair Campbell, the wizard of Number Ten, is now clearly identified as Main Manipulator, the man who demanded changes to the Iraq arms dossier to bolster the case for war.

He is about to quit, for the lucrative world of memoirs, lobbying and after-dinner speeches. The sooner the better.

GEOFF "Buff" Hoon has emerged as the great Hands-Off Secretary of State for Defence. He didn't know what was happening, or he wasn't asked, or he was just carrying out orders from Downing Street, or he was out of town.

His credibility is shot to pieces. He cannot continue in such an important role in government.

Hoon has the mark of the fall-guy on his forehead. And apart from Blair himself, he is almost the last Blairite in the Cabinet. Accordingly, much of Blairism and what was so confidently touted in the 1990's as "the Blair Project" will go with him.

Jonathan Powell, Blair's Chief of Staff, has come out as a Machiavellian prince at the court of King Tony - much more influential than his civil service title would suggest.

He had the nerve to challenge Blair's insistence that Saddam Hussein was an "imminent threat" to Britain. Yet he, too, went along with the over-sexing of the dossier. He is tainted with whiff of corruption seeping out of Number 10.

Lower down the food chain, Tom Kelly, the PM's spokesman who boasted about "a game of chicken" with the BBC and dismissed weapons expert Dr Kelly as a "Walter Mitty fantasist" has dug his own professional grave. He should be encouraged to get into it.

THE spooks do not come out of it well, either. From the evidence of John Scarlett, head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, it is clear that the spooks relish their new role as political players, able to influence governments and twist the Prime Minister round their finger.

These people operate in the night, on the fringes of legality (and often beyond the limits).

They are answerable to nobody but Tony Blair and his hand-picked, catspaw Intelligence Services Committee. They can retreat at any time behind the smokescreen, pleading "national security."

Yet their assessments are often ludicrously wide off the mark. Iraq did not have biological or chemical weapons available to fire at 45-minutes notice. There are no nuclear weapons. The WMDs have yet to be found, more than 100 days after hostilities officially ended.

John Scarlett, the MI6 guru proud of his withering, clipped style of operation, is a friend of New Labour. He wants to be the next head of Britain's spy machine.

His is the grim, hard face of the future. Consider it well, because the spooks will never again allow such an open inquiry into their methods.

The civil service mandarins do not come particularly well out of this saga, either. They are exposed as only too ready to throw one of their own to the wolves for the sake of expediency.

They may have knighthoods and fancy titles, but they exhibit few signs of human decency.

And finally, what of Tony Blair, the breast-beating premier who told Lord Hutton that he would have resigned if allegations that his government "sexed up" its Iraqi weapons dossier were true?

Well, they are true. The smoking emails tell us so.

This is not the first time that he has spoken of resignation. He was ready to quit - he claims - if the House of Commons had not approved his invasion of Iraq.

Methinks he talks of resignation too much to believe he means it.

Tony Blair should not resign because he exaggerated the case for war against Iraq. That was simply realpolitik. He had to embellish the dossier, to persuade an unconvinced British people of a fake "clear and present danger" to their lives.

His crime is not exaggeration, but getting caught in the act - a folly that has destroyed the credibility of a Labour government upon which so many of us set such store.

A government that has improved the lives of millions, and is now seriously at risk

For that, he should resign.
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 29, 2003
Words:1039
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