August 25, 2003

BBC CORRESPONDENT ANDREW GILLIGAN has been relieved of his reporting duties:

Andrew Gilligan, the BBC correspondent at the centre of the storm over allegations that the Government ‘sexed up’ intelligence to make a stronger case for war against Iraq, has been removed from reporting duties. . . .

BBC executives denied that Gilligan’s departure from day-to-day reporting on the Radio 4 Today programme was linked to revelations last week that he sent emails to two MPs on the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee suggesting questions they could ask Kelly that would be ‘devastating’ for the Government.

Then there’s this:

Far from unequivocally backing his reporter, Richard Sambrook, the head of news, told Mr Hoon that Gilligan was “a particular sort of journalist” and said the BBC was “thinking about an appropriate use of him”.

His admission – which is in stark contrast to the BBC’s robust public defence of the reporter – came after Mr Hoon summoned him to the Commons, told him the defence correspondent shouldn’t work on the programme, and complained: “Andrew Gilligan is essentially a tabloid journalist”.

Interesting. And this:

In a Guardian/ICM poll, 52% of respondents questioned the integrity of the corporation. The BBC needs to show that it is committed to telling the story in as straight and thorough a manner as it would any other, says Bennett. Radio 4, as the broadcaster of Today, is particularly worried that its image will be hit. . . .

Alastair Campbell gave a tantalising insight when he told Hutton how he turned to Birt for advice in brokering a deal. Birt, according to Campbell, said: “Everyone knows the Today story is wrong.”

This could be the problem:

But the BBC news hierarchy is enclosed and makes few external appointments. It is axiomatic that mistakes do not lead to sackings: the false report last year by the 10 O’Clock News that the owner of the Oryx company was helping to fund al-Qaida has not damaged careers.

Read it all. The BBC seems to have boxed itself in here. I should also note that all of these stories are from The Guardian, which is doing an excellent job of covering the BBC story despite what I have to assume is general ideological sympathy with the BBC’s slant.

UPDATE: Read this, from Blog-Irish, too:

Now lets see. Clare Short claimed that Iraq had “no doubt Iraq has rebuilt much of its military power since the 1991 Gulf War”. At her insistence, she had direct access to Intelligence information. Prior to the war, she did not oppose it on a claim that there was no WMD threat. She was concerned only about UN sanction, as Toynbee says most were.

She told the House of Commons “that there was a serious risk that the UN Food-for-Oil programme would collapse in the event of war. Oil fields could be set alight, chemical weapons released and the country split asunder” all of which we know, of course, has not occurred.

But despite these misgivings, Short thought that she was too important, the reconstruction of Iraq couldn’t get on without her. She struggled with her conscience and won and, humiliated by a chorus of condemnation from both left and right, resigned.

But people as important as Short don’t stay down. After exposing herself as an utter fool and fraud, she lept on the BBC bandwagon to demand an independent inquiry. Dr Kelly, a decent man with a lower tolerance for “embarassment” took his own life, cannon fodder in Clare’s war.

But now that the Hutton inquiry seems to be exposing BBC claims to be, as Toynbee so delicately puts it, “not true”, the Hutton inquiry does not matter. We should not allow it to distract us from “the real politics of this war.”

Whose politics would those be, Polly?

Indeed.