| Tony Blair
London, Aug. 24: More than two thirds of voters believe, from what they have heard so far in the Hutton inquiry into the death of David Kelly, that they were deceived by the government about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.
The findings of an ICM poll for The Daily Telegraph are a severe blow to Tony Blair four days before he is due to appear before the inquiry. The poll also shows 56 per cent of voters blame the government for Kelly’s believed suicide, although 40 per cent believe the weapons scientist bore responsibility for his own death. The poll shows 58 per cent of all voters have less trust in the Prime Minister as a direct consequence of the Kelly inquiry: 52 per cent of Labour voters said they have now lost trust in Blair.
More than half of those polled said that Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary, should resign as a result of Kelly’s death, and 50 per cent said Alastair Campbell, Blair’s director of communications and strategy, should go.
Documents released last night by the inquiry reveal that Kelly faced arrest earlier this year. One series of e-mails show ministry of defence officials discussing a request from the Metropolitan Police to interview Kelly about a leaked document to Andrew Gilligan, a BBC defence correspondent, in March about the lack of known al Qaida links to Iraq.
MoD officials ask for a “damage assessment/impact statement if Kelly was to be arrested”. The police investigation was separate to the MoD’s later inquiry into the source of Gilligan’s report about the intelligence being exaggerated.
The new documents increased the pressure on Blair and Hoon as it emerged that another senior civil servant — in addition to Sir Kevin Tebbit, the permanent secretary at the MoD — expressed reservations about forcing Kelly to give evidence to two Commons committees. Sir Michael Jay, the foreign office permanent secretary, agreed with his opposite number at the MoD that the request was “pushing it”. “He (Sir Michael) could see why there was concern about two appearances in one day,” according to an internal memo.
The public would be able to compare and contrast Kelly’s evidence before the two Commons committees. Sir Michael also cited the “MoD’s duty of care to their staff”, the day before Hoon overruled official advice to force Kelly to appear before the foreign affairs and intelligence committees.
Blair can take some comfort from the poll. In spite of their clear conviction that they were misled about the existence of weapons of mass destruction, 54 per cent still believe it was right to go to war to remove Saddam.