Hagiography

The Hutton inquiry is a source of endless fascination. Rarely have the cogs of government been exposed in such grand detail. Even now with the hearing of evidence complete strange new details emerge.

Today’s Guardian reports on a bizarre tug of war between the the Cabinet Office’s ceremonial secretariat and Hutton over the publication of the full citation prepared when David Kelly was awarded the Cross of St Michael and St George. The head of the unit initially refused to allow Hutton access to the document on the grounds that such citations are “never” made public. Eventually after intervention by the Cabinet secretary Hutton was given a copy but only on the condition it was not published.

Is this just the result of pompous British protocol queens run amok? Or is there something else going on here.

From an evidentiary point of view the award itself holds some significance because it is given to senior public servants and ambassadors therefore it challenges the government’s controversial dismissal of Kelly as a “middle-ranking official”.

But is one of the elements underlying the ceremonial unit’s fear of publication the fact that they realise – either consciously or unconsciously – such citations are little more than hagiography? Do they fear the clash of cultures that might emerge if such ritual myth making is dragged before the cold eyes of the court?

In spite of all the evidence Kelly remains an enigmatic figure. As Michael White points out Kelly has largely only been intelligible as a victim.

One of the least contested features of the much-contested battle in courtroom No 73 has been Dr Kelly’s possession of that most priceless of treasures of our times, victim status.

White’s is one of the few extended, sympathetic attempts to see the world through Kelly’s eyes and go past the cipher of Kelly as victim, or rather to add human form and incident to that cold outline.

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