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Question Time BBC Oct 7 2004 -"..the most charged and focused programme I have seen."

From email received "... Paticia Hewitt was completely taken aback by the ferocity of comment against Blair's 'apology'. Not only that but a very articulate ex-soldier completely demolished her 'sorry' for the intelligience being wrong. He said the intelligience wasn't wrong - it was what Blair did with it that was wrong. He misled the country on the most grave matter a Prime Minister can ever address - taking the country to war. The audience applause was overwhelming

Patricia Hewitt was completely floored. Then the Lib Dem woman, Jodie ??, (i.e. Jody Dunn) who stood as the candidate in Hartlepool (an equally eloquent barrister), then spelt out what Blair had done in parliament re the Dossier, etc.

Both she and the ex-soldier received the greatest applause - and Patricia Hewitt was treated with disdain - and not even applauded on other points she made on other issues.

I think it really came home to her that gen pub has not been deceived by the Blair 'apology' - and what is more the strength of feeling on the issue shows that there is real anger and loathing for all Blair and 'his war' stand for.

Patricia Hewitt was completely shaken at the vehemence of the audience. Interesting she was unavailable for comment this am - when the Today prog ran the item that she had at last said 'sorry' on behalf of the government.

I hope Kennedy and Jodie (who I thought was outstanding) get their heads together - she is a far better debater than Kennedy - clear, unambiguous, direct - and nearly as good as Caroline Lucas - who I think stands head and shoulders above all other politicians. - so that's saying something.

For once, last night, democracy really seemed to work - and to be able to say that in present circumstances is at least something. But what was most heartening is that the QT audience had in no way swallowed what Blair had said - they were eloquent in their disgust and contempt at his tawdry attempt to apologise."


Extract from another email

"... I was so delighted by the programme that I didn't get to sleep for hours - you can't win. Usually I don't sleep because I am worrying about where everything is going!! ... Do you think Hewitt is now being hauled over the coals, or "debriefed"? Or do you think that she had planned this if she got in a difficult situation. I am afraid I simply cannot stand her "creamy" voice, and the way she talks down to people..."


http://politics.guardian.co.uk/iraq/story/0,12956,1322815,00.html

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12.30pm update

Hewitt apology over Iraq intelligence

Matthew Tempest, political correspondent

Friday October 8, 2004

Patricia Hewitt last night became the first member of the government to use the word "sorry" in relation to the Iraq war - although she stressed she was only apologising for "wrong information". The trade and industry secretary, speaking on the BBC's Question Time programme, added that she still believed the decision to invade Iraq was correct.

But she made it clear that her apology, either spontaneous or orchestrated in advance, was on behalf of the cabinet and Tony Blair personally.

The prime minister himself has never apologised for the war, although in his speech to the Labour party conference in Brighton last month he said he "accepted" that the intelligence that led to the war was wrong.

In fact, opponents of the war are likely to seize on the fact - revealed in the Butler inquiry and through the emails from Downing Street revealed during the Hutton inquiry - that the original intelligence was ambivalent and opaque, and only the dossiers issued by the government were "wrong".

Conservative MP and policy coordinator David Cameron, who was also on the Question Time panel, said: "It was surprising and refreshing in as much as she used the 'S' word and actually said sorry."

Ms Hewitt was challenged by members of the audience when she said that the prime minister had actually apologised for the inaccuracy of the intelligence.

She then said: "I certainly want to say that all of us, from the PM down, all of us who were involved in making an incredibly difficult decision are very sorry and do apologise for the fact that that information was wrong, but I don't think we were wrong to go in."

The Iraq Survey Group report on Wednesday confirmed that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction at the time of last year's war, though it said he still retained ambitions to obtain them.

The government's case for joining the US president, George Bush, in military action in Iraq was based on the claim that intelligence indicated beyond doubt that Saddam's weapons of mass destruction were a threat to British interests.

In his keynote speech to the Labour conference, Mr Blair said: "I can apologise for the information that turned out to be wrong, but I can't, sincerely at least, apologise for removing Saddam."

In an earlier newspaper interview, he claimed that he had already apologised for the flawed information, although observers were unable to track down any occasion on which he had done so.

Last night Ms Hewitt sparked gasps of disbelief from the studio audience when she told Question Time: "What we said at the time and in the dossier about the stockpiles of weapons was wrong and we've apologised for that."

One audience member shouted out "you haven't".

And there was loud and prolonged applause for a woman who said of Mr Blair's conference comment: "That is saying 'I'm able to apologise but I'm not actually apologising'."

Ms Hewitt then went ahead to give her full apology.

Mr Cameron added: "It was very striking that the audience really didn't believe that the Blair apology at the conference added up to anything.

"In fact they didn't even think it was an apology at all. They just shouted back 'no' when she said he'd apologised," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning. Mr Cameron added: "I still think they are apologising for the wrong thing."

An apology was required not only for the faulty information on WMD but for the way it was presented to parliament, he argued.

"When the prime minister comes to the House of Commons to talk about health or education, we all know that he spins and twists and bends it, because that's what he does.

"But when he comes to talk about the most serious threat to this country we want the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

This morning the Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman, Sir Menzies Campbell, dismissed her words.

"Patricia Hewitt may have said 'sorry', but the only apology that would count would be from the prime minister acknowledging the government took us to war on a flawed prospectus," he said.

"It is not the intelligence for which we need an apology, but the way in which it was used."

Alex Salmond, the leader of the Scottish Nationalists and one of the leading campaigners for the impeachment of the prime minister over the Iraq war, called the apology "half-hearted".

He said: "'All the evidence is clear; there were no weapons of mass destruction. Patricia Hewitt's half hearted apology will not hide the fact that the prime minister and this government misled the country on the case for war.

"The failure was not one just of intelligence, but of the prime minister's abusing that intelligence. On 28 occasions he presented information to parliament and to the people which was not borne out by the intelligence he was receiving. He therefore misled the country and lied his way into an illegal war.

"For that we require not just a whole hearted apology but a full scale resignation."