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Many thanks to Cabinet Secretary and to David Cameron for response to my complaint re allegations in Commons

Posted on 28 July 2011 | 5:07pm

Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell today replied to my complaint of a week ago about the allegations made by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons that I falsified government documents. I am very grateful to him for the reply, and to the Prime Minister for the explanation offered; that this was ‘political knockabout which got a bit carried away,’; that contrary to some of the media reporting of his statement last week, he was not referring to the WMD dossier presented to Parliament by Tony Blair in 2002, and that he was ‘casting no aspersions.’

So far as I am concerned, that is a satisfactory conclusion to the matter.

Gus’s reply is immediately below, and my original email to him below that.

Dear Alastair,

Thank you for your email and apologies for the delayed response.

The Prime Minister is aware that the allegations made against you in relation to the WMD dossier presented to Parliament by his predecessor in September 2002 have been investigated by several inquiries.  Let me assure you that, contrary to some of the media reporting of his comments about you in the Commons, that was not what the Prime Minister had in mind.

In what was a very lively Commons debate, the PM was referring to the briefing paper you commissioned on Iraq’s infrastructure of concealment and deception which, because of the failure to attribute material taken from the work of an academic, became known as ‘the dodgy dossier’.

Whilst I know you were unaware of the mistake by a member of your team which led to this controversy, you did take responsibility for it at the time, when you appeared before the Foreign Affairs Committee.

You are well aware of how heated things can get in the Commons and I can assure you the Prime Minister’s statement about you was no more than political knockabout which got a bit carried away.

I hope you will accept my assurances. I understand that No10 have and are continuing to make it clear that the PM was casting no aspersions whatever in relation to this, and it is right that they do so.



My email of July 20

Dear Gus,

The Prime Minister said in the Commons today that whilst working in Downing Street I falsified government documents. He said this without qualification, and without providing any evidence to substantiate the claim.

As you know, I have appeared before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, the Intelligence and Security Committee, and the Hutton Inquiry. All three thoroughly probed allegations made against me  with regard to inserting false intelligence into government documents in the run-up to war in Iraq, and all three concluded that the allegations were unfounded. Similarly, no evidence has been presented to the Chilcot Inquiry, to which I testified for several hours, that I falsified government documents.

I am writing to ask on what basis the Prime Minister made the claim that he did, under parliamentary privilege, and what evidence he has to justify it.

If he concludes that no such evidence exists, I would hope that he could withdraw the allegation via a letter from you.

Yours, Alastair Campbell

  • Employlawone

    Political knockabout? Is that what it is called these days or simply falsehood? 

  • Anonymous

    So when are you going to call Gilligans bluff as well

  • John Hutchinson

    [@johnhutchuk] Fascinating response. And fascinating that your experience of the “process” is such that this is an end of the matter. I witnessed the comment being made (on the telly!) and know that the many people who do not follow you on twitter, or read your blog, who did the same will not have the benefit of seeing this “explanation”. Thanks for the education. I’ve always steered clear of memoirs and political diaries, in fact any kind of overtly autobiographical material, but am definitely getting closer and close to reading yours.

    Thanks for the education.

  • Janete

    It’s very gracious of you to accept this as an apology, I’m not so sure I would be so forgiving. I don’t think the knockabout got carried away, but Cameron certainly did. He has a habit of insulting people as a substitute for reasonable, informed debate, a trait which tells us quite a lot about his character.

    If he has to apologise over Coulson, will he do that in person or does Gus have to eat humble pie on his behalf again? 

  • MicheleB

    Well done for persisting; I doubt the losers that post anonymously (and in multi IDs) on t’net will follow suit but they’re simple swattable pests.

  • Doreenogden

    You are easily pleased . The allegation withdrawl should be where it was made. David Cameron is very fond of making allegations or misquoting other MPs in HoC and gets away with it. If he had to apologise for misleading remarks he would perhaps be more careful.

  • James

    I bet they sweated blood over that reply.

    It just shows how much of a force you still are in British politics. Well done, this might be the first and last time Cameron ever says sorry.

  • Chris

    Funny, they sounded like aspersions to me!

  • Dave Simons

    ‘no more than political knockabout which got a bit carried away.’

    That may be a satisfactory conclusion of the matter to AC but who knows about it? Yet the bit of ‘political knockabout’ is known to everyone who watches the Commons on TV and listens on radio and reads the newspapers. And is that what the Commons is about – political knockabout, point-scoring, glorified ping-pong? How gentlemanly clubbable! Sir Gus, both you and David Cameron are worthy of nothing more than absolute contempt. One day perhaps we’ll have a genuine democracy based on serious debate, but admittedly only when we, the grovelling electorate, demand it.

  • marymot

    I always think when someone refers to the September  dossier as the ‘dodgy dossier’ that here’s someone who takes his information from the lazy media ( press and BBC included] who can’t be bothered to correct this mistake when it is made. It thus becomes a fact as in ‘Oh! Everybody knows that’.
    Neither do they explain that the contents of The Dodgy dossier are not disputed but only the fact that the authorship was  not acknowledged.
    As I have said before we are deceived by what we are not told as much as by what we are.

    Well done you!  

  • Ehtch

    A wishy-washy slippery reply it seems, but you have got to be thankful for small mercies and crumbs. It is an apology of sorts, if read between the lines.

    To me, the pressure from the otherside of the Atlantic from Bush Jnr at that time for the then UK government must have been immense, and we don’t need the present government to try and reinvent history to back up their present party line, and wider clique, which some say(!!!) a large part of is outside Westminster, and unelected by the people

  • MicheleB

    Your being so busy on twitter tonight means blog posters might have missed the one with the link to this thread @-)        < the schnozzle 

  • Ehtch

    Alastair, re. twitter comment on Newsnight, the deep US south. Yes, quite ironic that the republican hardcore heartland is now suffering from the Reagan/Bushes load of nonsense in the last few decades. Clinton tried to reverse it, being a good ol’ southern lad, but it soon went backwards again when Bush Jnr., with his Florida alleged family in power there voting irregularieties with chaffs, or whatever they are called.

    Hope Obama can sort things out, but he desperately needs crossparty support, but with so many republican numbnuts in Washington, he obviously has his work cut out. Perhaps the US needs to hit rock bottom before the republicans accept rehab! Republicans are out of their minds, living in cuckoo land. How many trillions is it again?

  • MicheleB

    Ruminating about the twittersphere and past problems with registering a name as the ID, even on smaller domains. 
    How does one know the ID is of the expected user?  Should everyone register their own name to ensure nobody else uses it, no matter how legitmately?  What a mess.

    Message to Richard ……. the answer is three 🙂

  • Chris lancashire

    I can’t think why anyone would have thought you might have made anything up in the first place.

  • Rebecca Hanson

    I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this: from p299 of ‘The Audacity of Hope’ when Barak Obama met members of the Iraqi government as a Senator.
    (slightly abbreviated)
    “I recognised only the oil minister – Mr Ahmed Chalabi, the Western-educated Shi’ite who, as a leader of the exile group the Iraqi National Congress, had reportedly fed US intelligence agencies and Bush policy makers some of the prewar information for which his group had received millions of dollars, and had then turned out to be bogus.  Since then Chalabi had fallen out with his US patrons, there were reports that he had steered US classified information to the Iranians and that Jordan still had a warrant out for his arrest after he’d been convicted in absentia on thirty-one charges of embezzlement, theft, misuse of depositor funds and currency speculation.

    He seemed impressive, speaking knowledgeably about Iraq’s economy, its need to improve transparency and strengthen its legal framework to attract foreign investment.  At the end of the evening, I mentioned my favorable impression to one of the embassy staff. 

    “He’s smart, no doubt about it,” the staffer said. “Of course, he’s also one of the leaders of the SCIRI party.  They control the Ministry of the Interior, which controls the police.  And the police, well…. there have been problems with malitia infiltration.  Accusations that they’re grabbing Sunni leaders, bodies found the next morning, that kind of thing….”

    If find it reassuring that Obama wrestled with these issues in the years before he became president.  I find his relentless persecution by Republicans desperate to bring him down at any cost very worrying.  

    Those seeking to find a voice for a future labour government should learn from the many strengths he has shown both in ‘The Audacity of Hope’ and his conduct in power but should also carefully study the attacks on him.

  • MicheleB

    The timing is such that AC has to be ‘easily pleased’.

    Govt is in recess, we can live in hopes that come the next session CamSham might have learned some manners and realised his responsibility, he’s keen enough to tell others what theirs are.

    Sadly, I don’t think his background thus far has prepared him for real life and real people.

  • MicheleB

    Well it was 🙂

  • Ehtch

    Father Jack, with his behind, and Mrs Doyle swaring like a true trooper. Clegg and Cameron, and even Cable would loike this, to be true,

  • Anna

    MPs can make allegations in parliament under the protection of parliamentary privilege. With privilege, goes the responsibility to use it wisely and honourably. If a parliamentarian is shown to have uttered falsehoods, slanders or exaggerations, and thereby to have abused parliamentary privilege, shouldn’t he/she be obliged to apologise in parliament, where the  abuse was committed?

    There is much talk about legislation to force the press to publish corrections to their errors as prominently as the initial error and not tuck them away on page 94.

    Similarly, abuse of parliamentary privilege should be publicly admitted and not delegated to an underling who has to concoct a slippery private ‘apology’.  

  • Janete

    Because dim-witted people prefer to believe what they want to, instead of looking at evidence.

  • Ehtch

    Jesus, calm down all with this parliamentary priviledge!

    We know Cameron is a nonse, so what is the suprise?

    Song for Dave, from Italy, where he is going on his hols, on Ryan Air, it seems to be reported. Bella Rita, time to come out of your box again, Camberwick Green like, super person,

  • Johnycarrs

    This is not an appology…. he stands by what he said- just claims to have been thinking of something else. He still claims you lied. You should not accept this ali, is not good enough.

  • Dominic

    Ah, I understand. Ministers are not meant to mislead parliament; unless someone sayss it is ‘political knockabout’ in which case it is fine. Glad that’s cleared up then.

  • I think the trick in life is to know when to forgive & forget and when to expect more. Clearly, you have gone with the former here and that is good.

    To be so open with this has, in fact, added to the weight of the apology so, if it is sincere, DC will feel well-pleased to see this in print. On the other hand, if it is a ‘that will do’, he will know so and we can only leave him to himself.

    Have a good weekend everyone on this blog!

  • Ehtch

    Just a bit of info, David Cameron is the first Prime Minister in my life that is younger than me, Clegg too, and I will never miss a chance to give him a good telling off, like an older brother to a younger brother. If you get what I mean. I feel quite liberated to have a kiddie as a PM, yes I do.

  • Aj Forse

    Yes but will you apologise when the Chilcott enquiry issues his report.

  • Megan

    I bet if you were to ask most people who they think lied to Parliament & misled the British public, they would be able to answer straight away. I suspect the first name on their lips would not be David Cameron!

  • Ehtch
  • I think it is not his age that should be focused on here but is he credible enough for the job. I hope he would be a great and just Prime Minister in the following years.