Journalism Politics

What I'm faxing to my MP…

What follows is a letter that I’m sending through to my MP via If you feel strongly about this issue too, then I would ask you to consider expressing your sentiments accordingly. The views expressed – of course – are exclusively my own and have nothing to do with my employer.

Dear Ms Karen Buck,

I wanted to write to you to express my horror at the way the government that I voted for in the last two elections is handling the current debacle with the BBC.

I’ve been awaiting the Hutton report with considerable interest, and while I was surprised by the results of the enquiry I was much more surprised – appalled even – by the effect it has had upon the BBC. I didn’t realise how strongly I felt until I watched Greg Dyke resign and saw statements by Tessa Jowell and Tony Blair on the news.

It seems to me that the two major issues in this country at the moment are (1) whether or not the BBC’s accusation that the government’s dossier was ‘sexed up’ was true or not and (2) whether we were dragged into a war that many felt strongly was not justified given the evidence available. Of the two, the first is an extremely serious issue, but surely it can’t compare in size to the scale of the latter.

When the Hutton report came out, it stated that the BBC needed to accept culpability and that there was a clear need for change. The changes started immediately and have just kept coming – Gavin Davies, Greg Dyke, Andrew Gilligan – all of them have now left the organisation. Alongside these resignations, the editorial processes that led to this mistake being made are now being thoroughly investigated and reviewed.

With regards to Greg Dyke’s departure, I personally believe that this was a step too far. His resignation was a profoundly honourable gesture, but it was unnecessary and I believe a direct result of the extraordinary pressure that the government placed upon the organisation. I don’t know to what extent people understand the extraordinary damage his departure will cause to the organisation as it prepares for Charter-renewal, but I think much of the country will come to consider the government responsible for much of this damage.

Which is ironic really, considering the other major issue in the country at this time. After all, the government took our country to war, and the rationale it gave for that war turned out not to be true. And don’t take my word for that – listen to the ex-head of the investigatory body! The war itself might have had positive consequences and it may have had negative consequences. It might or might not have been an honourable venture. But even if we accept that there was no untoward pressure from the United States and that the government was not in any way duplicitous, surely to go to war on the basis of such astonishingly incorrect information must still constitute the very largest of screw-ups!

So let’s examine this again for a moment. A mistake was made somewhere down the line, a mistake that was not picked up by the various chains of command and resulted in some bad decisions all the way up to the top of the organisation. Does this sound in any way familiar? Gavin Davies and Greg Dyke found themselves in a similar situation and they resigned. And what has the government done? Nothing. More to the point, the BBC has nearly been broken by the attempts of government to force them to make an abject apology for their mistake. But is there any sign that the Prime Minister feels the slightest responsibility to apologise to the nation for making the decision to go to war on such faulty information? No! He has not!

Given this situation – and having watched Tony Blair and Tessa Jowell on television over the last 48 hours – isn’t it a thoroughly dishonourable act to praise another for having the strength of character to fall upon their own sword? Doesn’t it smack of the most hideous hypocrisy and moral weakness? The idea that they can even say those words without burning up at the shame of their own dishonour and double standards staggers me.

Ms Buck, I can’t even tell you how much and how quickly my opinion of Tony Blair and the current Labour administration has changed. Two days ago – and for the ten years before that – I was a strong supporter (advocate, even) of the Labour party and Tony Blair. Today I find myself questioning if I could even bear to vote for your party again. The way the government has handled this has been hideous, self-serving and vile and has damaged one of our most-loved and well-respected institutions far beyond the extent that was actually necessary. I can only hope that you are ashamed of yourselves. When I voted for you I never thought I’d be forced to question whether or not the good you had done would be outweighed by the damage. I find myself now looking for a new party to support.


Tom Coates