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Don’t you Hutton me- Ziauddin Sardar

Don’t you Hutton me- Ziauddin Sardar

Issue 4 Mar / Apr 2004

So there we have it. Tony Blair is a man of impeccable integrity. His former Director of Communication, Alastair Campbell, a beacon of honesty. The Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, a model of veracity. The government: a paradigm of reliability. I am overwhelmed with sentimentality. Tears are rolling down my cheeks at the sheer poetry of the Hutton Report.


As an honourable man, I will do the decent thing. First, I will come clean and admit my mistake. In my emel column in the November/December issue I wrote: ‘the Hutton Inquiry, in the best traditions of British Parliamentary inquiries, will not provide us with any clear answers’. Thanks to Lord Hutton’s detailed and forensic analysis, I must now acknowledge that I was wrong. That column was written at 6.59 in the morning in my attic. The pressure of work, the cut and thrust of journalism, and the fact that it takes me a very long time to wake up (with the invaluable aid of gallons of coffee, administered intravenously) all led me to use the wrong phraseology. I did not intend to slander the unimpeachable reputation of the good Lord. What I meant to say was that, in the well established tradition of British judicial inquiries, the Hutton report will be a complete whitewash.

The Hutton Report is simply following the well-trodden path of earlier, equally glorious, labours. The 1972 Widgery Report on ‘Bloody Sunday’ totally exonerated the army and the government from any involvement in the fatal shooting of 14 unarmed civil rights demonstrators in Northern Ireland. Lord Denning’s inquiry into the Profumo scandal cleared the government and placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of a man who had already committed suicide. Other inquiries by establishment figures with names like Lord Franks, Sir Richard Scott and Sir Anthony Hammond have routinely cleared the government. This is a Great British Tradition. And not a surprising one at that: the establishment investigating itself is not going to find anything wrong with itself!

 Second, following on the footsteps of the BBC top brass, I will resign. I will resign from using the word ‘whitewash’; and resign myself to using ‘Hutton’ instead.

A Hutton, as any good dictionary will tell you, is a serious attempt to cleanse and clear, with the aid of establishment detergent, something dripping with deceit and deception. In Blair’s Britain, there’s a lot of Hutton about.

Both of the government dossiers – the decade old PhD that was downloaded from the Internet and one that was ‘sexed’ up – presenting its case for war against Iraq were right Huttons, weren’t they? There’s a lot of Hutton in the claim that Iraq has been liberated for freedom and democracy. And in the claim that the ‘war on terror’ will actually rid us of this scourge – without paying attention to its underlying causes, like doing something about Palestine.

You have been certainly Huttoned if you think that Mr Blair believes in “the common heritage of our different faiths”, or that he is using the Eid celebrations to “reflect on the positive impact that Islam has had in Britain”. Blair is a born again free-market Christian puritan. He doesn’t only pray with born-again Christian fundamentalist President of the United States; he also shares his worldview. The Hutton soap is also being liberally applied to domestic policy. Thus, the top-up fee bill that will allow universities to charge variable fees is presented as a great egalitarian ‘reform’. It will, in fact, make it almost impossible for all those young Muslims, living in inner city poverty and eager for higher education, to go to university. Foundation Hospitals will leave ordinary NHS hospitals, used by vast majority of Muslims, in even more dilapidated state. Pledges in the Labour Manifesto have been vigorously and systematically Huttoned!

Just in case you feel a bit agitated and want to rush out and burn a copy of the Hutton Report, let me warn you. You can only do that if you are a bona fide liberal secularist. If Muslims are caught performing such a heinous act, in their eagerness to support anti-war demonstrators, they will immediately be compared to Nazis and the entire weight of British history of book burning and witch hunts will come into play. As we all know to our cost from the Rushdie affair.

Instead, brace yourself for more Huttons. The new inquiry into intelligence about Iraq’s weaponry will follow the tradition. It is chaired by the establishment figure of Lord Butler, former cabinet secretary to Blair, supporter of Alastair Campbell and advocate of top-up fees. It will look at something we already know – why intelligence failed. It will not look at the question to which we all want an answer: why Blair took us to war. That’s why the eminently sensible Liberal Democrats do not want to have anything to do with it. No doubt, it will be an impeccable affair, with hundreds of witnesses and reams and reams of evidence. But it will be a complete Hutton; and Blair would have no worries.

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