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Hutton report is one-sided, say poll results

Vijay Dutt London, January 30

The Hutton report that castigated BBC for "defective" editorial control and led to the resignations of its Chairman and the Director General has been dubbed as a "whitewash" by over 56 per cent of voters in a poll published in the Telegraph. Many felt it was a one-sided verdict.

Polls conducted by several other dailies have also been quite unflattering to Tony Blair. The Express headlined its coverage of the report "Saint Tony" which by no means was meant reverentially. Daily Mail said that nearly half voters believed that Blair lied when he denied authorising the leaking of Dr David Kelly's name to the Press.

The Times found in its survey that more than one in three people "feel less favourable to Tony Blair since the Hutton report". It said that Blair and the Government have been damaged as much as the BBC. More crucially only a third thought that Lord Hutton's inquiry would make a positive difference to the tone in which public life was conducted and to the way in which the Blair Government behaved.

Over 78 per cent also thought that the castigation of the corporation would have a positive effect on its news reporting. Simon Jenkins writing in his Times column said the fall of Gavyn Davies (Chairman of Governors) and Greg Dyke (Director General) was a savage revenge. "They had apologised for Gilligan's story. They had reformed their editorial process. They were pilloried by Lord Hutton. That was surely enough."

Sir Jenkins concluded: "The Hutton report reads like that of an elderly retainer summoned from his roses to perform a last deed for his lord and master."

Lord Rees-Mogg, a former BBC vice-chairman echoed the sentiment of those who said they had no confidence in Lord Hutton. It is evident from such comments that the backlash of the report has been as devastating for Blair and his Government as for BBC. It is expected that he would be able to ride over the turbulence caused by the backlash. His MPs want to concentrate more on next year's election rather than squabble with one who has been worsted.

BBC, on the other hand is now close to meltdown. Andrew Marr, BBC's political editor, says the BBC is rudderless and leaderless at the moment of its worst crisis. At the BBC Television Centre, fear pervades of what would happen when its charter comes up for renewal in 2006. Governors could be replaced by some other regulatory body.

Blair has, however, said that he would now draw a line under the whole episode. Reliable sources told Hindustan Times that he would be careful not to appear jeopardising BBC's independence, for that would cost him politically very heavy. Much would be depend on who are chosen in place of Davies and Dyke. After all they were considered sympathisers of New Labour.