In the film Bambi, Thumper the rabbit recites the advice given to him by his father: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin` at all.” With Brer Fox no longer Defence Secretary, it would seem that Thumper`s dad is in charge of government spin.
Within seconds of Brer Fox announcing an inevitable return to the back benches, all manner of coalition apologists were in front of microphones howling the praises of the sly old dog with sophistry usually reserved for eulogising Churchill or the Duke of Wellington. Without Dr Liam manning the barricades, the suggestion is that our shores are now defenceless. One particular bone-headed Tory described the resignation as harming the national interest. No reason has been given as to why the Fox has gone to ground. For that, we will have to wait for Brer Gus MacDonald to mix up a bucket of whitewash and paint the hen house.
The days of politicians resigning after some sordid misdemeanour are long gone, the expenses scandal saw to that. Consider Brer Danny Alexander dodging Capital Gains Tax, or Brer Gove acting unlawfully over BSF, Brer Huhne blaming his ex for a motoring offence and now Brer Letwin dumping all that sensitive yet heavy paper in St James`s Park. The law that governs the rest of us is obviously a minor irritation that is of no concern to those that govern the law. It is, of course, expected of cabinet ministers with an overwhelming parliamentary majority to display a contemptuous arrogance towards the common herd and for MPs with safe seats to do stupid things. It is worth, then, remembering that this coalition was not actually elected and with more and more hygienic voters joining the great unwashed in taking to the streets, no seat is safe.
There is a long dishonourable tradition amongst honourable members of only resigning once they have been found out and any attempt at a cover-up is doomed to failure. In these more enlightened times, our elected representatives tend to dispense with this legal nicety. John Profumo, Reginald Maudling and even Jeremy Thorpe would, judging by today’s double standards, retain seats in cabinet. A hand in the till or another body part inside another human being seems to be de rigueur for a position of power.
With the ritual humiliation of the simple minded being broadcast nightly on television and outraged newspapers running headlines like, “Singer’s lewd and offensive performance – more pictures on page five”, surely we can forgive the occasional indiscretion from those that rule us. Given this laissez faire background, when one of the Brers actually resigns, you know that something serious is going on.
David Laws, sadly not in government long enough to be considered a Brer, did the decent thing after some unpleasantness involving rent. Within seconds the talking heads were in front of microphones describing him as the greatest Chief Secretary to the Treasury that had ever drew breath and that he should return to cabinet as soon as possible. The former investment banker worked for those paragons of virtue JP Morgan and Barclays de Zoete Wedd and is credited with forming coalition fiscal policy. With only three weeks in office before resigning, just imagine what he could have achieved for investment banking if he had remained in cabinet for the last 18 months.
The same nonsense about the early return of Brer Fox is being barked by the likes of John Redwood who fears that the resignation will embolden an opportunistic anschluss of the UK by the bad people in Europe. After a week of being trailed, the hounds are closing in on Reynard for, as yet, undisclosed errors of judgement and the Dutch courage of resignation may yet avert further scrutiny of his dealings with best man Werritty and goodness knows what else.
The record of the Defence Secretary is, indeed, impeccable. Nimrod gone, Harrier gone, Ark Royal gone, Leuchars Tornado gone, new aircraft carriers with no aircraft, Merlin outsourced and front line soldiers dodging bullets and road side IEDs in Afghanistan being told of their redundancy by text message. His Strategic Defence and Security Review certainly helped protect bonuses for bankers and his successful meetings with anyone with a bank account healthy enough to pay for weapons of death and destruction procured from BAE Systems or General Dynamic UK has increased the export of UK armaments. It is economic genius to sell weaponry to Gaddafi, bomb it and then charge the new interim government of Libya to replace it. Such entrepreneurial flair will not be easy to match so a simple mea culpa will probably result in the hounds being sent back to their kennels and the collateral damage to innocent civilians around the world allowed to continue as business as usual.
After all, with Bambi’s mum lying dead, it wasn’t Brer Fox that sold the hunter the snipers rifle. It might be best for him to lie low and say nothing.