Lord Dannatt? The appointment of all peers is now a ‘political gimmick’
And so he ought to be.
And equally suspicious ought one to be of the motives of the Opposition ‘when it does things like this’.
Mr Grayling was neither ‘in the loop’, nor attentive to what Ms Maitlis was telling him. She specifically said that the General was to join the Tories, while he continued under the mistaken impression that it was Gordon Brown, and not his own leader, who was offering the General a job.
And so Mr Grayling went on to berate the Government for a ‘political gimmick’.
Rather like former bishops or speakers, it is rare for former service chiefs to align themselves openly with any political party. Most former defence chiefs raised to the peerage sit as cross-benchers, above the unedifying fray of partisan politics.
There are some who are questioning David Cameron’s judgement over this appointment, suggesting that he has potentially politicised the armed forces as the motives of each retiring senior military figure will now be questioned and ‘tainted’.
This is not a problem for Mr Cameron. But it is certainly one for General Dannatt.
It was his lack of judgement which leaked this story on a Radio Five interview yesterday. Today, that poor grasp of politics has wiped the reporting of every other Conference speech off the front pages. He alone is responsible for this.
It transpires that he has been advising the Conservative Party ‘for months’, which is a manifest assertion of political allegiance and a breach of the convention that the military are politically neutral.
While the whole country has heard Sir Richard openly criticise the Government for not providing enough support and equipment for troops in the frontline in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was believed that he was speaking up nobly for the armed forces. When he said he believed that the Army is fighting the Taliban with ‘at least part of one arm’ tied behind its back, we believed that the General was speaking with honourable motives.
Now there is more than a whiff of playing politics.
That Sir Richard is to be made a peer will now come as no surprise. That he will be a minister in the next Conservative government is now foregone.
But the reality is that there is no real difference between Labour and the Conservatives when it comes to appointments to the House of Lords. All peers are now ‘gimmicks’, for the second chamber is itself now nothing but a gimmick – a political football for either party to fill with its placemen and cronies in order to gain partisan advantage in the legislating process. Lord Dannatt may bring more to the Upper House than Lord Sugar, but as a Conservative what he brings will be much diminished.
And what will David Cameron do when the next wing commander, general or admiral steps out of the chain of command and starts to criticise publicly his Conservative government for not ring-fencing the defence budget, or for failing to provide the necessary ships, helicopters or body armour to allow them to do what they have been sent into a theatre of war to do?
And when he does nothing, will he object if they start to advise Labour?