“Jones tried to stop what became known as the "sexing up" of the dossier [on the instructions of] Alastair Campbell and various other people. Unfortunately he was stopped from doing that by his bosses, who told him to shut up. That, essentially, is the story of the drama.”
Though producing a drama from evidence submitted to multiple inquiries may have its problems, it also has its advantages, especially with a radio drama. Morley was able to take many emails and memos and dramatise the words exactly as they were written. Most of these were taken from the inquiries' evidence but Morley did also use leaked sources and others released to journalists under freedom of information requests. He also talked to interested parties such as people at BBC News and the Today programme, and Gordon Corera, the BBC's security correspondent, and Andrew Rawnsley, who had covered the subject in his book on the Blair years.
But the main source was Brian Jones himself. Morley spoke to him several times, with the last time being three months before his death in 2012 aged 67, when Jones seemed to have an intimation of what was going to happen. Morley remembers that conversation well.
“The last time I spoke to him, he said he wasn't feeling very well, because he was cancelling a meeting with me. So I asked what was wrong, and he said his doctor said he had shingles, but he felt it was something more serious, and three months later he was dead.”
He has fond memories of Jones, not just because of the help he afforded him in writing his drama.
“He was a very nice guy who felt it was his duty to inform his bosses and he hoped inform Alastair Campbell and Tony Blair that what they were putting in their dossier was an exaggeration and inaccurate, but he was not successful.”
The last time that Jones spoke to Morley he hinted at an extraordinary bit of information that the writer had not heard before. Jones had previously told him, and had written about separately, an episode in which spies from a foreign country were invited to Downing Street to take part in a meeting where they were shown a lot of the background information that formed the basis of the dossier. He'd never revealed the nationality of the spies, however much Morley asked, as he said that was covered by the Official Secrets Act. But during that final conversation he dropped a clue.
“Just before we stopped the conversation, he said, 'But they had been our enemies until quite recently.'”
From that Morley deduced that they must have been Russians, but the BBC was not going to be convinced by a verbal admission from one source. Morley and Clemlow had to build a case to take to the Beeb that it couldn't possibly have been the French or anyone else, for various other reasons. They won their case and the drama does feature a scene in which the Russian secret service are invited into Downing Street. A scene which Morley believes highlights an unprecedented moment in East-West relations.
“It's a bit odd to do that. They completely rubbished all the information that had been put in front of them and told them that there wasn't enough proof to base the 45-minute claim that Saddam could launch WMDs.”
The caution of the BBC in including that scene also applied to the drama as a whole, meaning that the majority of the script had to built purely from the evidence provided to the inquiries. It’s something that Morley admits could have a negative effect on the play, but he hopes that the subject matter in itself is enough to grab the interest.
“The BBC was obviously very, very careful that we didn't say anything that we couldn't back up. So as the writer there hasn’t been much leeway to step away from the facts and make a better drama. But it's been very exciting and interesting to write at the same time because of those kind of constraints. I think it's something you can listen to and think, bloody hell, did this actually happen. People did this, you know.”
Click below to listen to a clip.