Des Browne and multi tasking

25 November, 2007

Des is missing the point: it is not that those of us in the service community feel he could be doing more ( I am not privy to the conversations he has with the Treasury or Number 10, but I suspect that he argues our case pretty forcefully), it is that Gordon Brown apparently doesn’t think that being Defence Secretary is one of the great offices of State.

Perception is everything: we all know that, on taking up residence in Number 10, Gordon Brown was concerned about the tartan colour of the cabinet. He knew that Des was doing a pretty good job at defence, but couldn’t afford another Scot in the Cabinet as SoS for Scotland, so decided to combine the roles.

As Julia Roberts said so memorably in Pretty Woman, “Big mistake, huge.” Not only has he given the services the impression that they only merit a ‘part-time’ secretary of state, he has sent the same message out to the Scots, thus playing into Alex Salmond’s hands and running the risk of alienating his bedrock support.

I confess that I am no expert on the configuration of a cabinet, and the mutual antipathy between Alex Salmond and Douglas Alexander might have precluded his continuing at the Scotland Office, but a PM with almost 40 Scottish MPs (who is capable of creating three entirely new departments, splitting one and abolishing another altogether) can surely manage to find someone to do this less-than-onerous, but still politically important job?


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