British Journal of Political Science



Research Article

Agency, Truth and Meaning: Judging the Hutton Report


DIANA  COOLE a1
a1 School of Politics and Sociology, Birkbeck College, University of London

Abstract

The Hutton Report is now established as an important element of Britain's involvement in the Iraq War. In this article the ideas that underpin it are analysed. In particular, the focus is on Hutton's presuppositions concerning the nature of truth, agency, subjectivity, meaning and language. It is shown how unquestioned assumptions structured his method and shaped his conclusions. Although such presuppositions are widely shared by the public, too, a discursive conflict within the report is identified, revealing a sub-text of competing understandings that protagonists invoked. These suggest a more phenomenological and intersubjective approach to the interpretation of events. The conclusion is that Dr Kelly and the BBC were victims of a particular sense of truth and that Hutton failed to situate important actors and events within geopolitical, institutional, experiential and affective structures. The author suggests that a greater appreciation of the contingent way information enters the public domain (itself more evident in the Butler Report) is a pre-condition for better intelligence and public policy making.