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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 September, 2004, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
Interview with Greg Dyke
On Sunday, 19 September 2004, Sir David Frost interviewed Greg Dyke, former Director General BBC

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Greg Dyke
Greg Dyke, former Director General BBC

DAVID FROST: Back in the spring, following Lord Hutton's report, back in January, Alastair Campbell said that 'heads should roll at the BBC' and within hours the chairman resigned, followed shortly thereafter by the director general.

Lord Hutton proved, the Prime Minister said, that in the Gilligan affair the government had got it right and the BBC had got it wrong.

Greg Dyke has spent the months since his dramatic exit writing a book called 'Inside Story' and his conclusion, perhaps unsurprisingly, is exactly the opposite - the governors panicked in seeking his dismissal, he believes.

I spoke to Greg Dyke earlier and I asked him whether it was the facts that came out after Hutton reported that he felt bolstered his case.

GREG DYKE: If you look at it now what is clear is - I'm a bit of a nerd about this now David - but I mean was the dossier sexed up? Yes. Did it exaggerate the case for war? Yes. Did some people in Downing Street know that the impact of this dossier was exaggerating the case for war?

Yes. But that's all that the Gilligan story ever said and of course what the story really was, was not Gilligan's but Dr David Kelly's. And what Dr Kelly told Andrew Gilligan, I think, is overwhelmingly true.

DAVID FROST: But the key thing that strong evidence never came out or was, in terms of looking about the government knowing it was wrong, that exchange in the Gilligan 6am conversation, that, that, you nail a lot of points in here but there's no nailing of that is there?

GREG DYKE: Well they knew, what was clear is, they knew that, that what followed, from the publication of the dossier, the press reporting of it, they knew was wrong.

There were people inside Downing Street who knew, when it's suggested that there were weapons of mass destruction that could be used in 45 minutes that would threaten British interests, there were people inside Downing Street who knew that was wrong. What I've tried to do in the whole thing is look back and say what was this whole thing about.

And what is clear is we, the Prime Minister took a decision to go to war - one could say a valid decision, that's up to your political perspective - but he took a decision to go to war and then said to the intelligence services 'find me the case for doing this.'

And the intelligence services, I think to their shame, found him a lot of evidence, that was then used in the dossiers, which has since turned out to be untrue. And there were people inside the intelligence services, one of whom was Dr Kelly, who were extremely concerned at the use of that information.

DAVID FROST: I suppose some people are going to say here he is, coming back to this subject, it's a bit of sour grapes and so on.

GREG DYKE: I mean I did the book for two reasons, I did it first of all because, basically, I was told by my friends that if I didn't do something I'd drive them all nuts, on leaving the BBC, but I also did it because I thought it was important, particularly the BBC years and particularly the whole of the Hutton inquiry, it was important that, that the, my side, our side, was put onto the record and that by then the BBC had stopped arguing the case and the only people left to argue the case were myself and Gavyn Davies.

DAVID FROST: And you say in the book 'we were duped into going into war,' and right at the end of the book you say, talking about shoddy intelligence and so on, and then you say 'Some of that intelligence he knew was unproven and some of it he should have questioned and didn't. He is still the Prime Minister.' That implies, do you think he should have resigned - rather than you?

GREG DYKE: Well I'm not sure whether it's for me to say whether or not the Prime Minister should resign, that's for him to say. What I, what I do think is right is that he tells us, he told the House of Commons that he didn't know that 45 minute threat was only for battlefield weapons, now he should have known.

I mean if you're the, if you're the leader of the nation, if you're taking us into war, there's no more profound decision for a prime minister than to take us into war, he should have questioned - what does this mean, this 45 minutes? - because if he had of got the answer, the answer would have been 'actually' which is a point that Jonathan Powell, his chief of staff made in one of the memos he sent, the answer would have meant that if he had found out that these were only battlefield munitions, it actually took away the case for war.

And therefore he either did ask the question, knew the answer and ignored it, or he didn't ask the question but he should have done.

DAVID FROST: Yes, you, you avoid saying that he lied, I mean -

GREG DYKE: I don't, I don't think the Prime Minister did lie, personally, but I do think he didn't ask the questions that we should have, we, we would have expected the Prime Minister - I think the same applies to Geoff Hoon at the Ministry of Defence, I think the same applies to Jack Straw at the Foreign Office - they should have asked questions of the intelligence that they were getting that they didn't ask.

DAVID FROST: Was there a moment when you could have made an honourable peace with ...

GREG DYKE: I - I - I don't think there was an honourable peace to be made, no. There was a moment when I could have stopped, slowed down and said let's have a comprehensive inquiry - which, as I told Lord Hutton, I should have done and didn't.

DAVID FROST: Do you think, not finding the moment of peace and so on, damaged the BBC? Do you think this whole thing damaged the BBC, well, very badly?

GREG DYKE: Well, well I think there are parts that have damaged the BBC. I think the governors' decision to get rid of me was a panic decision, taken one night, and I think that is very damaging to the BBC.

Not about me. I don't matter. I mean director generals come, director generals go, what matters is that the governors, the job of the governors of the BBC is to defend the integrity and the independence of the BBC and they failed to do it that night - after Gavyn Davies had resigned they decided to get rid of me. Do I think it's damaged the BBC overall? No.

I think quite the opposite, I think actually it's strengthened the BBC because it came down to such an enormous bust-up between government and the BBC, the public had to take a side and it's quite clear from all the polls and all the research that the, that the public believed the BBC and not the government.

DAVID FROST: Do you think that you got anything at all wrong in this situation - is there anything that you would have done differently?

GREG DYKE: Yes, as I say, as I said earlier, I wouldn't have, I should have set up an inquiry at a particular time and I didn't -

DAVID FROST: ... that one ...

GREG DYKE: - that , I think was a mistake. And I think on, I went to the governors and said look if I'm going to stay I need you're support - and I shouldn't have done that because I didn't need their support.

I'm sure going back over it we will all say we made certain mistakes at certain places, there were certain things we did, but by and large once Alastair Campbell had launched that enormous attack - not just on this story but on the whole coverage of the war by the BBC, which I was very proud of and I thought had been very fair - once he launched that, I think we were set on course for a bust-up that was, that was difficult to stop.

DAVID FROST: We mentioned the governors earlier on, in the book you say six of them who voted against you ought to do the decent thing and resign, and they would probably say they thought they were doing the decent thing to help the BBC when they voted against you, but is there any chance, do you think, they will resign?

GREG DYKE: Oh I would think none at all. But the point I'm making is, if you now, if you read Butler, if you read my analysis of what Hutton was about, you can now see that actually Hutton got it wrong. Butler showed how Hutton got it wrong. And they, on the night that Hutton came out, panicked.

And I think they did a great disservice to the BBC: by panicking in the way they did, they actually looked as if the BBC was bowing to political pressure. And the BBC must never be seen to be bowing to political pressure.

DAVID FROST: And Hutton's decision not to include weapons of mass destruction was a blow to you, wasn't it?

GREG DYKE: Well I think Hutton, looking back now, I mean I think anybody reading the book, anybody reading Butler would say Hutton got it wrong, got it seriously wrong. I think Hutton has done a great damage to himself and I think he's done great damage to, to the judiciary in this country, because he was, he did get it wrong - but we must remember he wasn't given the full evidence.

Some of the intelligence which was the basis of the dossiers had been withdrawn by the time Hutton came about and yet nobody from the intelligence services or government told him. So I mean I think you've got to say that the, the conspiracy continued. I mean what I do believe is that the whole thing is a very large political scandal. And I believe that because we went to war on a false basis.

We were given the wrong story for going to war. And the story has, you know, it's fallen apart, there's no, it's now clear there are no weapons of mass destruction, all the claims that were in that dossier turned out not to be true and, and they were never questioned properly. And that's a scandal. And what I'm - all the way through this you're thinking, I mean I've got, as you have, I've got sons that could have ended up going to Iraq. You know, I've got sons of that age. And I, all the way through you think about well if my child had been killed in Iraq, what would I be thinking today.

I know joining the army there's a risk, but I was, as a parent and as the public, I was given a case for going to war which is fundamentally false, it wasn't the real case.

DAVID FROST: You've been a lifelong Labour supporter, if Tony Blair leads Labour into the - as is very likely - leads Labour into the next election, will you vote Labour?

GREG DYKE: Well what I vote or what I don't vote I shall - is up to me really, David. I mean would I, when I joined the BBC I left the Labour Party and I've said very little about the Labour Party since. I, I think, along with many others who were new Labour supporters, would probably find it quite difficult to vote Labour.

DAVID FROST: And as you look forward, you say you are going to put this aside now, now you've finished the book, you don't want to become a nerd as you say.

GREG DYKE: Well I think I've become a bit of a Hutton bore, honestly David, so I think it's time to just get away from it and go on and do something else.

DAVID FROST: So when some people have said that your crusade is such that, and attacking Blair and the government so strongly, will inhibit the sort of jobs you can do next, where people, whether at ITV or whatever, will be worried about the fact that you are a man at war with No. 10. Do you think you've taken that risk by writing this book?

GREG DYKE: I don't care really, David. I mean it mattered to me to write the book - all my life people have been saying things like that to me.

DAVID FROST: Do you think you will go to ITV?

GREG DYKE: Nobody's offered me a job anywhere - well that's not true, all sorts of people have offered me jobs but not at ITV. I, I have no idea, David, what I'm going to do next in my life. I never have done.

I've never had a career plan, you know I just take opportunities when they come and I shall either take an opportunity that comes or I might decide not to and decide that actually I'll lead, I'll lead a different sort of life.

As I sat in Ireland this summer for a week thinking wouldn't it be nice to spend a couple of months here, well you never get that chance when you're doing a job. You know I've worked pretty hard for 20, 30 years, maybe I'd like to do a bit less.

NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.

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