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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 July, 2003, 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK
Kelly death 'changes everything'

By Nick Assinder
BBC News Online political correspondent

If one thing is certain in the wake of the tragic death of David Kelly it is that politics in Britain has changed for ever.

In the short term, this awful event has changed the entire landscape for the already-beleaguered government, and Tony Blair in particular.

Governments have fallen and prime ministerial careers have collapsed over less.

Tony Blair
Biggest crisis yet for Blair
And, whatever the outcome of the judicial inquiry, this affair will hang over this government for the rest of its life.

There have already been demands from his own side for the prime minister to resign.

And his Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and, in particular, his spin doctor Alastair Campbell must also be considering their positions.

There will also be some soul searching by those outside parliament, but who regularly engage as players in the political process.

There will clearly be questions over the role played by the BBC, particularly over its previous refusal to confirm Dr Kelly as the principal source for claims Tony Blair "sexed up" the case for war on Iraq.

At the moment there is a notable lack of willingness by anybody to accept responsibility for this tragedy.

But, in this case, that cannot stand.

Public opinion will not allow for there to be no consequences for this.

Amoral game

The judicial inquiry will be expected to finally get to the bottom of this, although whether it will be able to, or wish to, apportion blame is a hugely difficult issue.

But, whatever the inquiry finds, those consequences will have to offer some sort of closure to this affair, at the very least for Dr Kelly's family.

It is all too easy for those who are close to the political process to see it as a game.

A vicious, high stakes and occasionally amoral game, but a game none the less.

David Kelly, government weapons proliferation adviser
David Kelly gave evidence to MPs
After this weekend, that must surely change.

An innocent man who has spent much of his working life shunning the limelight while quietly serving his country was sucked into that game and paid with his life.

David Kelly was not from a world where spin, cynicism and manipulation are the order of the day.

And it was abundantly clear to anyone who witnessed his performance before the foreign affairs select committee that he wanted nothing to do with such a world.

The proceedings of the committee on that day were depressing enough for seasoned politics watchers.

Unthinkable horror

They must have been devastating for Dr Kelly who had very likely already been subjected to days of anguish after telling his bosses he feared he may have been the BBC's source.

So the long term effects of this tragedy must surely be to force all those who participate in politics to look long and hard at their behaviour.

It raises numerous questions about openness, responsibility, trust and even morality.

And there can be no more powerful a case for a new deal between the public and those who are elected to serve it.

It is now unthinkable that, once this horror has passed, we will all simply go back to our old ways.

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