Sunday, May 29, 2005


Loaded Envelopes

The Guardian's Hay Festival blog has this tale from Channel 4 journalist Jon Snow about the oddly ritualistic manner of government leaking in the UK:

Among his stories is an insight into how leaks work; at least that of the attorney general’s advice on the legality of the Iraq war (published simultaneously here on Guardian Unlimited the night Channel 4 led on the story). It arrived at Jon Snow’s house via five people carrying brown envelopes. None of the five had loaded the envelopes nor knew what they contained. Only one carried the advice.

It was not the full text but just three pages of summary. The next day, Snow challenged the prime minister: “Now we’ve got the summary, will you publish the rest?” Blair retorted: “No doubt you’ve got the rest.” Snow took the chance: “So will you publish or shall I?” - and his bluff wasn’t called.

Incidentally, Bill Deedes -- the model in Scoop for Evelyn Waugh's hapless journalist William Boot, and still alive and kicking at age 92 -- has also put in an appearance at the festival.

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