It is no surprise that Tony Blair has been spared another visit to Court Room 73. But by recalling a larger than expected range of witnesses during the second phase of his inquiry, Lord Hutton has raised the prospect that his conclusions will scatter blame far and wide.
Of more than a dozen representatives of the government, the BBC and the intelligence services, to make a second appearance in front of the inquiry, three are from Downing Street, six are Ministry of Defence officials, and three are from the BBC.
According to James Dingemans, the inquiry counsel, witnesses have been called back to ensure that evidence is “tidied up” and that “inconsistencies” are resolved. Some have been told privately where “possible criticisms” might be made.
Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary, will return to the witness stand on Monday knowing that most observers are speculating only on the timing of the end of his career. He is under huge pressure to explain why in his first appearance he played down his part in the naming strategy when his special adviser later told Lord Hutton he was at a crucial meeting on the issue.
Mr Kelly’s widow has told the inquiry he felt “totally let down and betrayed” by the MoD for allowing his name to emerge as the source. Mr Dingemans identified “whether or not he [Mr Kelly] agreed to” the naming strategy as a crucial issue for the inquiry to address on Monday.
Of all the government witnesses, Mr Hoon is in most difficulty. But Downing Street, in particular Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair’s former director of communications and strategy, nevertheless face serious questions.
But perhaps ultimately more damaging for the government are questions over its unmasking of the weapons scientist. Tom Kelly, the prime minister’s official spokesman, will be under scrutiny over a briefing to journalists that gave crucial clues to his namesake’s identity.
He is also likely to face hostile questioning from lawyers representing the scientist’s family about his description of the dead man as a “Walter Mitty” fantasist.
Mr David Kelly’s widow said he felt he was treated “rather like a fly” by the government. Evidence from Mr Kelly’s family has, however, also made life more difficult for the BBC.