Yesterday, Gordon Brown argued that he curbed defence spending to prevent the public finances from spiralling out of control – but added that he had still given the MoD everything they had asked for. So, when it’s anything but defence spending, he boasts of all that extra "investment". But when it comes to defence, he suddenly grows a fiscal conscience, of sorts. If we weren’t talking about our country’s ability to fight two wars, there’d be something crudely hilarious about it all.
Today, various defence figures have rounded on Brown; arguing, rightly, that his tractor statistics avoided the fundamental point – that, despite increases in the defence budget, the military was consistently underfunded from 1997 on, and especially during Iraq and Afghanistan. The FT writes a punchy leader making the same argument, which concludes: "Even voters who are untroubled by the decision to go to war should be unnerved by the way Mr Brown defended his role in it."
But the general tone of the front pages, and of the broadcast coverage this morning, suggests that Brown has emerged relatively unscathed. If you were angry about Brown’s treatment of the military before yesterday, then you’ll probably be even angrier now. But his muddy, stubborn appearance at the Chilcot Inquiry probably won’t have rallied many more opponents against him. Yep, as Nick Robinson points out on his blog, politics is utterly unpredictable – sometimes, disturbingly so.