....is the sack. General Sir Richard Dannatt has spent his time as army chief of staff defending the interests of his soldiers, telling the truth as he sees it about the undeniably difficult, even wretched, conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and challenging the government over its funding for the army, and especially its provision of appropriate medical care for wounded soldiers. All of which goes down a storm in Whitehall as I'm sure you can imagine. Dannatt is, you might say, a soldier's soldier. Too much so for Gordon Brown. Dannatt is to be passed over for the top job of chief of the defence staff - as are his supporters, the current heads of the Navy and RAF.
It is a salutary lesson on the exigencies of power. It is a rare politician indeed who can accept criticism and challenges, and Gordon Brown is not that rare. When the criticism strikes so close to home, because it reveals genuine weaknesses and inadequacies in British government policy, well the only solution, obviously, is for the harbinger of bad news to be passed over in favour if someone who can read the script a little more effectively.
Brown, of course, was the Chancellor who presided over so much of the Defence department's cuts. Not for nothing was he the recipient of a censure motion signed in the Lords by all the former defence chiefs. Brown may like continuing the wars begun by his predecessor, but he doesn't like funding them. What's a few dead soldiers compared to the pressing need for cutbacks in the army to try and make the Treasury's desperate books balance. Let's not give them body armour; let's make sure we send the cheapest, not the best, armoured land vehicles even if it does lead to a few deaths; let's not provide anything like the appropriate level of air cover; and while we're about it, let's burnish our tarnished defence credentials more cheaply by proposing more CCF's in schools, but not providing any money for the gimic. And finally, let's get rid of plain speaking trouble-makers who might be good at their job, and let's instead keep promoting the toadies and the talentless, men like the Head of Secret Intelligence, John Scarlett, who colluded in one of British Intelligence's most lamentable hours.
There are many reasons to look forward to the demise of New Labour, and to rejoice over the tombs of Blair and Brown, but not the least of them will be their wilful slaughter of the British armed forces.