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Hutton a whitewash, say 56pc

London Telegraph

A majority of voters thinks the Hutton report on events leading to the death of Dr David Kelly is a "whitewash", a YouGov poll for The Telegraph says today.

The public expressed doubts about the report's one-sided verdict, which savaged the BBC while exonerating the Government, as Tony Blair claimed a second scalp with the resignation of Greg Dyke, the BBC's director-general. He also secured an "unreserved" apology from the corporation's governors.

The survey found that 56 per cent of people interviewed said Lord Hutton, as a member of the Establishment, was too ready to sympathise with the Government.

Only 34 per cent thought his report represented a thorough and impartial attempt to discover the truth about Dr Kelly's death.

After the BBC suffered the most traumatic 24 hours in its history, the poll shows that the corporation is still trusted more than the Government.

YouGov found that 67 per cent trust BBC news journalists to tell the truth, compared with 31 per cent who trust the Government.

The finding is a blow to the Prime Minister, who had hoped that the report would enable him to rebuild trust, badly damaged by the controversy over the Iraq conflict.

He called a halt to his eight-month war with the BBC after what amounted to an unconditional surrender by the corporation's board.

Sir Christopher Bland, a former BBC chairman, said Lord Hutton had whitewashed the Government and "tarred and feathered the BBC".

Lord Rees-Mogg, a former vice-chairman of the BBC board, said the report was a "bad bit of work". Clare Short, who resigned from the Cabinet over the war, described it as "completely one-sided".

Mr Dyke resigned after Downing Street and Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair's former communications chief, pressed for more heads to roll at the BBC.

Officials made clear that Mr Blair was not satisfied with the resignation of Gavyn Davies, the chairman of governors, or a qualified apology issued by Mr Dyke immediately after Lord Hutton had criticised the BBC's management from top to bottom.

Mr Dyke offered his resignation to the governors on Wednesday but was "disappointed" when they made clear that they would accept it.

After Mr Dyke announced that he was going, Lord Ryder, the corporation's acting chairman and a former Tory MP, said: "On behalf of the BBC I have no hesitation in apologising unreservedly for our errors and to the individuals whose reputations were affected by them."

There were emotional scenes at the BBC Television Centre when he said farewell and staff around the country staged protests. In an email to employees, he confirmed that he did not want to go but acknowledged that the BBC needed a new start. He urged staff not to be cowed and said his aim had been to defend the corporation's editorial independence.

Interviewed later, he said he did not regret backing Andrew Gilligan's report that led to the whole affair by accusing the Government of "sexing up" its dossier on Iraq's weapons. But he admitted "it was not as accurate in places as it should have been".

Mr Dyke, who was criticised as a Labour "crony" when he was appointed four years ago, said he felt justified in "going to the barricades because [Mr Campbell] attacked us for having an anti-war agenda and accused many of the BBC's journalists of being liars".

Welcoming the BBC's apology, Mr Blair said that all he had ever wanted was the withdrawal of the serious accusation of deceit and duplicity made against him.

He fully respected the BBC's independence. "I have no doubt that the BBC will continue as it should do to probe and question the Government in every proper way. What this does now is allow us to draw a line and move on."

Downing Street said Mr Blair regarded Mr Davies and Mr Dyke as "honourable and decent men who had done the decent and honourable thing".

Mr Campbell, who launched an intemperate attack on the BBC after being accused of "sexing up" the Iraq weapons dossier, accepted that the affair was over. All he had wanted was the stain on his character removed, he said.

The departure of the BBC's two top executives has left it rudderless as it prepares to renegotiate the renewal of its charter. No 10 said it hoped to appoint a new chairman of governors by Easter and that the post would be advertised.

A new director-general will then be appointed by the governors. Mark Byford, the deputy director-general, will step in temporarily.

Richard Sambrook, who had been expected to go, will keep his job as the head of news, his staff were told.