So Sir Richard Dannatt has departed the Tory fold almost as curiously as he
entered it. Sure, have been no gaffes from Chris Grayling this time around – but when it was announced last October
that the former head of the Army was advising David Cameron, it was widely expected that he’d graduate to become a peer and a minister in any Tory government. But today he announces his
"retirement" as neither.
The Tories are downplaying all this, eager to avoid a repeat of the speculation that surrounded Sir Alan Budd’s departure. And, to be fair, there are few signs, as yet, that this is a viciously
unamicable split. But I’d be surprised if both parties hadn’t thought that there were a few too many cooks stirring the defence broth – and that one of them could do to shuffle off the scene.
After all, Dannatt has clashed with the new
Chief of Defence staff, General Sir David Richards. He has drawn fire from Liam
Fox. And his (sensible) views on Trident don’t quite line up with those of the Treasury.
You do hope that the Cameroons have learnt something from all this. As soon as they offered a political peerage to a man who had only just left a senior military role, it was always likely to end
uncertainly – if not in tears. Winnning the backing of as pugnacious a figure as Dannatt may result in a few useful headlines in opposition, but his appointment just wasn’t geared towards the
long-term demands, and power struggles, of government.