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Monday, December 13, 2010

Lid comes off Labour Defence Department

The tensions that lay at the heart of the defence establishment under Labour have been laid bare today after the former Defence Secretary, Bob Ainsworth, told the Daily Telegraph that the retired head of the Armed Forces, General Lord Dannatt could not be trusted as he was “constantly going public” in criticising the government and should have resigned.

The paper says that Mr Ainsworth had to work with the general through the toughest period of the war in Afghanistan but suggested that the relationship was impossible as the officer leaked information to the Telegraph. Mr. Ainsworth also admitted that, in common with most other Ministers, he “didn’t always have a good relationship” with the Prime Minister but it was not “through lack of trying”.

“The problem a lot of people had with Richard was that by constantly going public in his criticism he damaged trust and the ability to work as a team.

“If you shared something with him I knew it was likely to be in the Daily Telegraph and you had to take that into account.”

He added that as an officer Gen Dannatt, who retired last year then accepted a job as a Tory defence advisor, should have accepted that in a democratic country the “decisions are taken by politicians”.

“If he does not like that then there are things he could do about it which he never did,” he added, suggesting the officer should have resigned as CGS.

To be fair, I do have a lot of sympathy with Mr. Ainsworth on this. It is not the job of military commanders to criticise the government publicly from a position of trust within the command structure. There are avenues through which they can express their views and if they still do not get satisfaction then they should resign before they start to play politics.

It is a long and slippery slope onto which Generals embark when they become politicians rather than military commanders, no matter how deeply felt their concerns are.
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