Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Friday, 21 August 2009

Lord Foulkes questions General Dannatt's spending.

It's being reported that Lord Foulkes has tabled Parliamentary questions about General Dannatt's use "of public money and military helicopters".

Foulkes is reported as saying,
“Why is it wrong to ask questions? They’re perfectly proper questions. It is perfectly proper for members of parliament to table questions asking for information about the use of public money and resources.”
Of course he's right.

We do have the right to know where our money is being spent, and we were understandably irritated when we discovered that the political classes, of all colours, are being rather free with our hard earned cash. Some of us continue to be annoyed, and ask why those who spent rather too much of our money on themselves are still in their jobs.

And that's where the comparison stalls.

Lord Foulkes needs to understand that the military have a very rigid set of rules that cannot be manipulated, bent or broken - unlike the parliamentary Green Book's flexible regulations that appear to be very flexible, more especially if there's a few quid left in an individual MPs "allowances" account.

A General is not a Member of Parliament. A General is a senior officer in the Army. A General is selected for promotion simply because they are the best person for the job - end of.

This may be something that our politicians, and especially Labour politicians, find terrifically hard to understand and relate to - because so many of them have reached their own position of authority not because of what they are capable of doing but because of what they look like, where they grew up, who their best friends are, which God they worship, and even which gender they prefer to have sex with.

It's increasingly rare for a politician to be chosen because of their outstanding ability, intellectual capacity, background knowledge, suitability for high office or love of their country. In fact these values can be, and often are, derided and scorned as being snobbish or "Upper Class".

Mrs Rigby thinks that people like Lord Foulkes and his as yet un-named supporters, might be looking at their own experience in an attempt to undermine the character of somebody they don't like. Maybe they don't know why they don't like him - beyond knowing that General Dannat has asked some questions about defence procurement and the provision of suitable, and adequate, equipment for his troops that have made them look bad.

It is sometimes said that the best form of defence is attack, but it's surely best to choose the right weapon.

To use the weapon of "personal" spending against a General may be rather unwise.

If they took a moment to stop and think they might realise that it isn't his spending at all, it's spending he is required to make because he is a General and as part of his job he is required to be in 'x' place at 'y' time to meet 'z' people to discuss whatever they are meeting to discuss - a meeting that will have been arranged by the Foreign Office, NATO and so on. General Dannatt's meetings won't ever have been month long fact-finding missions to Mauritius.

General Dannat is not, and will never have been, allowed to make personal gain from his expenses - because it is all regulated by the MoD - and we know how tight-fisted the MoD is, because they won't spend the money to make sure our troops have the right equipment.

I wish Lord Foulkes, and others, well in their quest to undermine those at the head of the Army, but I think they would be wise to listen to Corporal Fraser, because I think their quest is "Doomed, I tell you, doomed!"

And in the meantime, whilst they expend so much energy in finding ways of avoiding having to provide equipment for our troops, another two soldiers have died.

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