The volcanic eruption is wonderful to behold. The sheer apoplexy of the
conspiracy theorists who infest our so-called quality newspapers. The
utter chagrin of Opposition parties who had assembled for a Ministerial
hanging. And not least the grim frustration of Labour’s Robin Cook, the
self-appointed executioner who found neither scaffold nor convicts.
As one who has ridiculed from the outset the whole silly Scott
investigation into our trade with Iraq, I would be beside myself with
mirth if I could overlook the almost complete disaster it represents for
First, take the Government. Scott is an example of its failure to face
up to issues as they arise. It temporised with an inquiry. The result is
that for 39 months Ministers, officials and the system have had to
endure a public witch hunt in which truth was the first casualty.
The media labelled it the arms-for-Iraq inquiry, even though they knew
the Government had not licensed lethal arms or munitions exports to Iraq
or Iran since 1980. They also perpetuated the lie that Ministers had
deprived innocent men of the evidence to clear themselves by signing
‘gagging orders’ which did not order or gag. At least Scott dismissed
Then there is High Court judge Sir Richard Rashleigh Folliott Scott.
Because of his combative and prosecutorial approach, he failed to carry
the confidence of those investigated. Moreover the leaks (by others) of
his drafts built up expectations in a bloodthirsty media which were not
realised. All together I believe he has done the judiciary no good at
His report is also a travesty of PR. He was clearly seduced by detail,
producing a mindbendingly boring and lengthy 2,000-page report without
any summary of his conclusions. He then proceeded to break every other
rule in the PR lexicon at a press conference which said more for his
vanity than his judgement since he had next to nothing to offer other
than an outline of the structure of his report.
The Opposition, and not least the extremely nasty Mr Cook, have been
made to look as foolish and as blood-lustful as the media. Why? Because
we have got it into our heads that Ministers, officials and governments
are up to no good. In fact, they are daily trying to reconcile a mass of
conflicting concerns including the national interest, international
obligations, and competitive trade.
Which brings me to the ultimate public relations failure: Scott’s
fuelling of conspiracy theory rather than the rehabilitation of
Government and politics in the eyes of the people. After 23 years in
Whitehall, I despair.