Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Dannatt Effect

It's been quite interesting watching the news about Sir Richard Dannatt joining the Tories break during the day. On the one hand, it looks like a brilliant recruitment for the Tories - as I suggested in the post below. Dannatt is a combative general who didn't shy away from fighting battles in Whitehall to defend the needs and wants of ordinary soldiers. Unlike politicians, he carries weight and authority when he speaks on defence matters. The down side, of course, is that the announcement that he is joining the Tories - might even be one of their defence ministers in government - immediately politicises him, and allows the government, probably rather thankfully, to be able to dismiss his views from hereon in. Worse, they might be tempted to suggest that he always was a Tory mole at the top of the defence establishment. On balance, though, the appointment adds weight and lustre to a Tory top team that is worried about its collective lack of experience.

From a non-partisan point of view, the entry of men and women who have made significant achievements outside politics into the political arena is to be welcomed. Another former serviceman, Colonel Bob Stewart, is already on the Conservative candidates list, and his performance on Newsnight was measured and authoritative, especially when set against the rather inane babbling of the always irritating Phil Woolas.

As a side issue, however, the Conservative high command certainly need to work on their communication skills - the Chris Grayling gaffe, where he cautioned against the appointment of Dannatt as a political 'gimic', because he thought it was a Labour appointment, didn't inspire great confidence in joined up opposition, even if it has provided the media with some regularly regurgitated amusement.

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