Friday, October 13, 2006

Now even Blair's generals defy him

Ever since Tony Blair announced he would not fight a fourth election, we have witnessed a slow ebbing away of his authority. But today, that process took on a new dimension with the comments by General Sir Richard Dannatt over the War in Iraq.

Contradicting everything Mr Blair has been telling us since the start of the conflict, Army chief Sir Richard said the continued presence of our troops in Iraq was endangering British security, that they needed to be brought home "sometime soon."

Ordinarily, a Chief of General Staff who made a comment so undermining of government policy would be summarily sacked. But Mr Blair cannot afford to make Sir Richard a martyr to the anti-war cause any more than he could have done in relation to Gordon Brown in 2003 (see previous post.)

Parallels are now being increasingly drawn with the Suez crisis fifty years ago. Few questioned then that withdarwal was the right thing to do, but it still cost Anthony Eden his job.

16 Oct Update: More in this vein on my Week in Politics Podcast which is now online. The full text version is available HERE.

* Apologies to my regular visitors for the lower-than-normal volume of posts this week. I do however have a busy "day job" which is completely unrelated to my political writing, and until the day when this blog can pay me a living (!) it must always come first.

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MorrisOx said...

There is a parallel, but it's a contrast.

In Suez, the US (in the shape of Ike and Dulles) told us wehere to get off.

In Iraq, the US (in the shape of Dubya and Rumsfeld) told us where to get on.

Richard Bailey said...

They are not "Blair's Generals".

Paul Linford said...

Who appointed them, then, Richard? And who started the war that it is (theoretically) their job to prosecute?

Richard Bailey said...

The Army Board appoints them, overseen, ultimately, by Her Majesty.
Government and the PM have no say whatsoever in the management of military careers.
Unlike the Judiciary there is no Lord Chancellor figure in the Cabinet connecting appointments to the Govt.

As for the war, well unless I missed something, Mr Blair started the "war" with his friend, Mr Bush Jnr. Did I get that one right?

Paul Linford said...

Any ex MoD people out there who can settle this argument? I can't believe Blair has no say at all in the appointment of generals, even if it is merely as a rubber-stamp.

My point about the war was simply that, if they are fighting his war, that makes them his generals.

MorrisOx said...

The history of generals standing up to prime ministers isn't new.

Indeed, anyone who has read the unexpurgated version of Alanbrooke's diaries might conclude that had it not been for the robust (and often despairing) advice of this wartime CIGS, Churchill might well have been responsible for several more Gallipolis.

Alanbrooke went into print (albeit with a few punches pulled) in the 1950s. Despite his undoubted contribution to the war, he became almost persona non grata.

Sir Richard may suffer a similar fate.

MorrisOx said...

Incidentally, isn't it funny how the Beeb has drawn the same conclusion about parrallels between Suez and Iraq?

Not that their decision to run a documentary revisiting a subject they have covered many times before is in anyway politically motivated.

Now that really would be crassly obvious, wouldn't it...