Ware: Dyke did not separate his anger from his analysis of the journalism
Panorama journalist John Ware has hit out at ousted BBC director general Greg Dyke’s attempt to defend Andrew Gilligan’s “sexed up dossier” story that caused his downfall.
Ware, who criticised Dyke in the past for “having bet the farm” in his haste to support Gilligan, claimed that his former boss’s rage at his treatment by the BBC governors and the government “is having some influence on his analysis of serious mistakes by a member of his staff”.
Ware and Dyke came face to face at City University on Monday, when Ware received the annual James Cameron award and Dyke gave the memorial lecture.
Dyke stoutly defended the BBC, arguing that opinion polls showed the public had rejected the findings of Lord Hutton as a whitewash and that the BBC had since been vindicated by the Butler Report.
He said: “Butler found that virtually everything Dr Kelly had alleged had been true. The dossier had been grossly exaggerated, the claim that weapons of mass destruction could be used in 45 minutes was misleading and the people in Downing Street knew that to be the case.”
But Ware told Press Gazette after Dyke’s speech that such claims sent a “profoundly unhealthy message” to aspiring young journalists “who need to understand that however much flak is going on, that the precision of words really matters”.
He added: “Gilligan got several things right, but that’s not the same as saying he got his major allegation – one of conscious deliberate wrongdoing by people in Number 10 and the government – right. Gilligan’s words weren’t just slightly off track, they were way off track on that core allegation.
“The fact that there are up to 15,000 dead and no weapons of mass destruction, dreadful though that is, does not equal Gilligan’s allegations that the government set out to fool everyone.
“It may be when the full story is told that that is what the evidence will show, but I have not yet seen the evidence that proves that. For Greg to say that evidence is contained in Butler is news to me.”
Dyke suggested in his speech that Tony Blair should now make a series of apologies to put the record straight, and wrote them for him.
They included: “I am sorry that I didn’t fire Alastair Campbell for incompetence” and “I am sorry I described Andrew Gilligan’s story as a ‘mountain of untruths’ in the House of Commons. I now recognise that wasn’t the case.”
But Ware said Dyke, who was sacked by the governors after the Hutton Inquiry, had failed to “separate his anger from his analysis of the journalism in his role as former editor-in-chief”.
“I think that Greg is a very angry man and that’s understandable. He felt dreadfully betrayed by the BBC governors, bullied and pressured by the government and he lost the job he loved.
“He feels a raging sense of injustice and that, in human terms, is understandable.
But I think that it was profoundly wrong to allow his anger to undermine his critical analysis of what his reporter actually said”
Accepting the Cameron award, Ware said: “I don’t detect any loss of nerve in the BBC since Hutton, but I do detect a lack of conviction and confidence about what Panorama and current affairs should be about.”
He added: “We have become a leper because of the obsession with ratings and schedules.”
Ware argued that BBC decision makers should not ask what current affairs could do for ratings, but “decide what you really believe in, what you really want to do and then stick to it and invest in it with confidence and passion”.
A special Cameron award was made in memory of Paul Foot.
His son, John, received the award and told the audience: “You journalists and budding journalists should get out of the office and do some investigating.
“That’s the best way to honour Paul.”
By Julie Tomlin and Jon Slattery