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Kelly inquiry may be live on TV
Matthew Tempest, political correspondent
Wednesday July 23, 2003
Tony Blair was faced with the prospect of a long, hot and troubled summer today, as it emerged that Lord Hutton has requested that his judicial inquiry into the death of David Kelly be broadcast live on TV.
The investigation, which is expected to last around two months, is already likely to take evidence from the Mr Blair, his director of communications, Alastair Campbell, and the defence secretary, Geoff Hoon.
Lord Hutton, who was appointed on Monday to head the inquiry, has already stated he wants to take most evidence "in public", but transmitting testimonies live raises the stakes still further.
Mr Blair arrives back in London tonight from a gruelling, and sometimes traumatic, week-long diplomatic tour of the US and far east - but has already pledged to interrupt his Caribbean holiday at the home of Sir Cliff Richard to give evidence if necessary.
The prospect of daily live broadcasts of the inquiry - which would still require the participation and interest of the BBC and commercial broadcasters - will inevitably keep the suicide of Dr Kelly, and the government's whole case for a war in Iraq, on the front pages through the summer recess of parliament.
Lord Hutton's request was reported in today's Times, but no one at the Department of Constitutional Affairs - where the inquiry will be based - was able to confirm or deny it.
In another blow to the prime minister's morale, it was reported today that one of his closes advisers, Jonathan Powell, was ready to leave Downing Street for a lucrative new career elsewhere.
Mr Powell has been part of Mr Blair's inner "kitchen cabinet" since before he became prime minister, along with Sally Morgan, Anji Hunter, Peter Mandelson and Mr Campbell.
Of those, only Mr Campbell remains on board, and widespread rumours predict he will leave over the summer as a result of the Kelly affair.
The Daily Mail reports that Mr Powell, who has been at Mr Blair's side for eight years, has "discreetly let it be known that he is open to job offers".