Did Nick Robinson really refer to David Cameron as the Prime Minister? And should any of us be terribly surprised?
Now of course it is possible to excuse the BBC political editor’s mistake as a slip of the tongue. The Conference season has been going for some weeks. That is an awful lot of day to night two-ways, the staple diet of current broadcast journalism, and a lot of early mornings and late nights. And when tiredness creeps in, mistakes can be made.
But I would say it is less a mistake, more a symbol of the mindset much of the media now has.
The bulk of them seem to have decided some time ago that Labour has lost, the Tories have won, and can we get the damned thing over with?
It is this frustration which in part explains the contrast between the soft and supine coverage of the Tories in large parts of the media and the relentlessly negative coverage of the government.
But this is one of those weeks where I have been in different parts of the country every day and there is a definite gulf between the mood inside the Westminster village and the mood in the country.
Yes, you meet people who have had it with Labour. You meet people whose general view of politics is not high. But you (or at least I) meet very few people who express a positive desire to see Cameron and Co elected. And I have met a fair few people for whom the week so far has not been the success the Tories and the media seem to think. They are wrong on so many of the big arguments, as I said to my first dinner last night, and therefore they remain beatable, as I said to the second, a Labour fundraiser.
We also had a glimpse of their basic incompetence yesterday with the bungled announcement of General Richard Dannatt’s support and possible ministerial role in a Cameron government. I found the announcement both unsurprising and shocking.
Unsurprising because he has been making persistent noises off which have been undermining of the PM in a way that goes beyond the inevitable military lobbying. But shocking because the political impartiality of soldiers is something most Prime Ministers have been able to take for granted.
The news puts into some perspective the constant sniping.
In the current media climate, a military man taking pot shots at GB is not going to have to work too hard to get himself a good press. But the impact on public support for the war in Afghanistan, and on morale, can hardly be positive.
It is true that Labour has its own military man in government, former defence intelligence chief Alan West. I had many dealings with him when I worked for TB and had no idea as to his politics. Indeed, as he used to wear a bowler hat which he plonked in front of himself at meetings, I can remember Robin Cook being convinced he must be a Tory.
The point is we should not know the party politics of the military, and they should not let party politics affect their words and actions, knowing as they do that they can always make their case privately.
General Dannatt, had he found Gordon as bad as the press coverage seems to suggest, could surely have resigned.
He has done a pretty good job undermining GB. Yesterday he undermined himself, even if the press focus mainly on the undermining of GB.
Come on Alastair lets get this thing in perspective…I love how you condemn the General for being a Tory and not GB for letting down the troops, why should the general have resigned and not the Prime Minister?…..Which do you think is the more important, a Tory general or a failed prime minister??
@AC”But shocking because the political impartiality of soldiers is something most Prime Ministers have been able to take for granted.”
Opinion is of course divided on the subject. General Dannatt had the right to expect a less disingenuous Prime Minister than Gordon Brown.
Senior Tories have said the general has been working for them for years, not shocking really. However, should a general of the army be working for a political party?
Interesting remarks from Lord Guthrie, former chief of defence, who I know from your diaries you liked and respected. Listening to him over recent months it is clear he has concerns aboht the government but he is clear people in his position should avoid party politics, That is surely right
Robinson has got wore and worse. But also the ome who fancies himself om itv said yesterday that Osborne was the chancellor. Mindset like you say
Gordon Brown doesn’t need undermining – his feet of clay crumbled some time ago. Only a die hard propagandist like yourself could still, even now blame Brown’s standing on the media.
True there is no love for Cameron but everyone I talk to wants rid of Brown and Labour. That’s why Labour will get annihilated at the next election – we can’t stand another day of Brown Labour’s arrogance, spin and incompetence.
General Dananatt’s criticisms of NuLabour’s incompetent, unconstitutional, and probably criminal misuse of Britain’s services have been those of a morally conscientious military professional, Alastair, and you do yourself no credit by attacking him.
And why should he resign probably to let a NuLabouir sycophant take over and wreck your services even more?
More importantly, are you attending the MGN trainees reunion in Plymouth?
Another case of these freudian slips was made by Paxman in an interview with Boris. He only just caught himself from saying “in the event of a likely Tory victory” leaving out the likely. Boris guessed what Paxman was going to say.
The problem is the media acting in this way does have the effect on creating a foregone conclusion impression of the next election. As you said before Alastair the key is to turn that round and get people to rebel against the suggestion that their vote doesn’t matter
My husband is a retired officer and one of the very few who supported the Labour Party. If one reads the military web sites then it is apparent that since GB became PM the relationship between the military and government has not been good. It was reported in the Observer sometime ago that when GB was Chancellor he never accepted invitations from the military to attend briefings. It was also reported that previous Chiefs of Staff went directly to Tony Blair if the Chancellor blocked any financial request.
The days of the Military not speaking out against the government of the day are gone forever now. Communication from the battlefield has changed as to has expectations. It must be awfully difficult for our troops to work beside our American colleagues and to see how better equipped they are. We have had analysis in the papers over equipment and how it can save lives. Similarly, we have families on television condemning equipment, strategy and government. We have Coroners criticising the government as well. We have read about the poor compensation awarded to injured soldiers. All of this has led the public to question the commitment to our military and whatever government in power would have had this bad press. Changing Defence Secretaries does not help either. I do wish John Hutton had remained as he was able to articulate the government’s position very well. Add to this, I have always been aware of the appalling state of Defence Procurement. No person has ever been held accountable for the dreadful errors in this field.
I listened to General Dannett’s interview on the BBC News Channel yesterday. I thought he was fair in his comment. He stated that he had excellent relationships with Ministers and met the PM this year on three occasions and he had listened. It appeared that meeting the PM was new. He clarified the request for troops and Downing Street later issued a rebuttal. It seems they were able to do on the matter of numbers. The press reported 2000 requested by the General when in fact it was slightly under this. Does the anomaly warrant a rebuttal – I don’t know but I do now that I believe the General’s account of events and not the ghastly team at No 10.
I am not happy that General Dannatt will become a member of the Tory team. Neither was I happy when Admiral West joined the Labour team. I feel the precedent was set with Admiral West as this has been my first experience of any senior military figure not being a cross bencher.
Yes of course it is always better to speak privately about matters of concern particularly when one holds a senior position. However, what does one do if one is not listened to? Somehow, I feel that this has occurred. And I ask myself what would I do in circumstances were those under my command did not have necessary equipment to protect their lives and I was not permitted to have the number of troops I needed. If I felt morally right – General Dannett is a devout Christian – and was unconcerned about extending my career (he was not permitted to do so)then I would strongly defend those soldiers under me. The military covenant requires all parties to respect each other. When six former Chief of Defence Staff rebuffed a statement by a Defence Secretary in 2007 regarding spending plans then it was broken.
Finally, this man is looking after his own interests. Do we not all do the same? He remains committed to the armed services and will be enobled. He sees himself being able to continue with his career by accepting the invitation from the Tories. Sorry, despite the mess of the announcement, General Dannett is repected by the public and this has not been diminished.
Do you ever take the time to read what you write ?
Your comments abour Richard Dannatt are unbelievable. Does it not occur to you that Richard Dannat actually cares about the troops in Afghanistan, unlike this Labour governement, which is why he is critical of Gordon Brown.
You find it shocking do you ?, it’s not as shocking as British soldiers losing their lives as a result of being under resourced and ill-equipped.
No wonder the country can’t wait to see the back of you and your cronies.
Any high ranking officer is entitled to air opinions and to press the government of the day. But ultimately once all the advice has been given, Prime ministers and ministers have to make decisions bearing in mind all the other pressures on resources. It was interesting that the American defence secretary Robert Gates put down his senior officer the other day. It does suggest something of a breakdown between ministers and military when that happens and this kind of public spat cannot help anyone
I wish someone would clock watch how much airtime the commentators get … too much
Just listened to Cameron’s speech. Did he actually just say Labour have failed the poor? How can he say that with a straight face?
The General is an honest man,this adjective cannot be applied to you.
He has risked his life for the country you and Blair risked other peoples lives and then lied about it.
The Tories under Cameron are the same old Tories,
‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’. Since when did the Tories stand up and clap when someone talked about the ‘poor’? Only at a Tory conference with all the media watching, this was sheer stage management. This includes Cameron’s shallow, dangerous and hypocritical comments with no real substance.Using the sad death of his son to turn suddenly be concerned about all of the poor unemployed etc, was unforgivable. God help the voters who vote them in if they do win the next GE, as the Tories will have done a good job on brain washing so many ordinary people. Shame that people have forgotten how Thatcher ruined this country, dismantled the unions, broke the power of local ‘small government’ to continue building council housing, stopped investment in NHS and public services, privatised all the nationalised industries and hoped that all those people who bought their council homes would vote Tory each time to be grateful. No help from them when it comes to getting us out of a world recession, which somehow Gordon Brown is to blame.
People are afraid to speak up when conditions are bad at work and so this is how the ‘ruling class’ want to dominate the ‘working class’ – make life as bad as possible so that we go ‘cap in hand’ to ask for their generosity. The Tory Toffs still want to rule and nothing has changed. Labour has done so well in turning around public investment, and helping people with training, and education and our health sadly we took our eyes off the ball and let the bankers do their worst and we all must pay.
So dont blame Labour but think carefully when you make your cross on that ballot paper.
The Tories here in Sandhurst are actually allowing the ppc candidates put literature through the doors of the electorate bout how they would like to take over from Andrew Mackay. A ‘public’ meeting is arranged, but you must register first. However, what a clever way to canvass you once they have your details then they will target you for the GE next year which has given them an edge in contacting potential voters. I think it stinks.
Well there is more but blogging for the first time takes it out of you.