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Ashdown goes Fox-hunting

22 February 2011

6:07 PM

22 February 2011

6:07 PM

There’s a quite remarkable op-ed by Paddy Ashdown in The Times (£) today which goes public with a lot of the griping about Liam Fox that one heard behind the scenes at
the time of the Strategic Defence Review. Ashdown remarks that the ‘problem with the SDSR was not speed, but lack of political direction.’ He then details how ‘Sir David Richards,
then head of the Army and now Chief of the Defence Staff, had to bypass the whole process (and his Secretary of State) to appeal to the Prime Minister to avert catastrophe in the Army.’
Before concluding that:

‘The decisions made in the SDSR, with some notable exceptions, such as scrapping Harriers, were broadly right — but only thanks to the last-minute intervention of the Prime Minister and
Deputy Prime Minister.’

This is brutal criticism of a serving secretary of state from one of Nick Clegg’s closest political confidants. Ashdown continues that:

“The Defence Secretary did find himself in charge of a department facing tremendously difficult financial choices. And I accept that they will take time to resolve. But not only do
these problems remain, the MoD has also made some new blunders.”

Perhaps, the most interesting bit of the piece though is Ashdown’s warning that the Treasury will either have to bail the MoD out, something it will be incredibly reluctant to do, or that
Britain will have to see “more defence cuts down to a level that could even include our precious amphibious capability.”

Ashdown finishes his intervention with this thought:

‘In these turbulent times it is hard to tell where the next security challenge will come from. But I fear that if Britain were to face such a challenge in the next two or three years, our
current inadequacies would be cruelly exposed. That would be very dangerous for our country — and could prove disastrous for a Conservative-led government.’

This seems to roughly translate to: sort this out Mr Cameron.

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