6 SEPTEMBER 2003, Page 29

The real resigning matter

From Frederick Forsyth Sir: The Hutton inquiry is predictably bogged down in a futile quagmire of who said what, to whom, on whose authority, who knew about it and, frankly, who cares. But Hutton diverts attention from the question that ought to be answered.

Forget dossiers, forget the departed Campbell. The key lies in that crucial debate when a phalanx of Labour MPs deserted their party leader and voted against war. But, along with the Conservatives, enough stayed with him to save the motion and his premiership from ending there and then. Why? Because about 100 who had entered the chamber dead-set against military intervention with the Americans changed their minds. Why? Because the PM made a towering, bravura speech of impressive passion and persuasive facts. Or were they facts?

He made clear he had seen covert intelligence that he could not divulge but which shook him to the core. He averred we had no choice but to invade, for we all stood in immediate danger. The man he targeted had terrible weapons capable of destroying us all, right here in our homes. And he was ready to use them.

We now know it was all tripe. Saddam had neither the wherewithal nor the mood to throw anything at anybody. He could not have disturbed Kuwait, let alone Kettering.

It is now clear that all he could have deployed in 45 minutes were company mortars. Well, lawksamussy. Thence the question. As I said, forget Campbell's dossiers; reprint that speech from Hansard.

Which intelligence agency, and which officer within it, authorised the Prime Minister to say all that? If there was no such agency, he must have made it all up. Now that is a resigning matter.

Frederick Forsyth