'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Monday, 17 September 2012

It's Wednesday. It's 3am. And somewhere in Putney a groggy DPM answers the phone...

I’ve made a few comments in recent weeks about the decision to give up our Ministerial posts in the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence. Seemed a bit devil-may-care to me regarding foreign interventions.

Almost universally the response from fellow Lib Dems has been ‘don’t worry, if anything SERIOUS is going to happen, Nick will be consulted’.

Well, while I think this Telegraph piece is possibly exaggerating for effect, and this Huffington Post piece from Mehdi Hasan is rather stirring the pot, it seems something IS likely to happen between Israel and Iran in the near future. Hopefully a lot of grandstanding and hot air, nothing more.

But I would feel rather better if we had a Minister still in one (or better still) both departments. I think it’s very naïve to think that two departments of Tory Ministers are going to run every nuance of policy and each development of the situation past Nick. There’s a reason why you have Ministers in a department – they find out what’s going on (hence the bevy of Tory Ministers currently parking their tanks on Vince’s lawn over at BIS). And let's not forget last time major military intervention was suggested we were the only party to say no.

If it doesn’t ‘matter’ whether we have anyone in there or not, you wonder why we bothered putting say, Nick Harvey, in the MoD in the first place. Except we know he did a brilliant job on developing and promoting the alternative strategy to Trident. I don’t think David Laws, for all his skills, will have the same time from down the road in the Dept of Education to keep an eye on Trident developments…

And to all those who think  the DPM will be consulted before military action is taken, can I remind them what happened over the EU veto, where a similar promise was made to keep us up to speed with negotiations – Nick got a call at 3 am from Cameron to say he’d played the veto. I wouldn’t want the same phone call over Iran to announce ‘I’ve sent the military in’.

In short – I was already worried we didn’t have a spy in the MoD or the FO. Now there are rumours swirling around Iran – I’m more worried. Reports like this don't make me feel any better.

If only we had someone on the inside to tell me it’s all OK.

But those posts are currently sitting in DEFRA and International Development…


  1. Remember Nick Clegg is Deputy Chair of the National Security Council (and Davey and Alexander are also members). For major international incidents that matters much more than ministers further down the departmental ranks, I reckon.

  2. That's true - but that only applies once things have essentially kicked off. Hence I suspect they spend a lot of time talking about Syria there. But I wish we still had a calm voice in the FO or MoD as these things develop.

    I don't really buy this 'as long as we know what's going on at the top, its OK' argument - it rather undermines the point of having ministers at all. Although with the quad making all the big decisions anyway....

  3. I'm suspicious. Bearing in mind that Hague is as much a catspaw of the American right and Netenyahu as Liam Fox, a fait accompli of participation in war against Iran is not fanciful. We're then over a barrel faced with either collapsing the coalition while the country is at war or conniving at further insane military adventurism.

  4. Yes. Our manifesto commitment to oppose military action against Iran will come under a fair amount of scrutiny in that scenario!