One piece of recent “Brexit Fallout” is the resignation of Minister Defence Procurement (MDP), Guto Bebb. Only six months ago, upon being appointed he was talking about “being humbled” to be part of “that important contribution to the defence of the United Kingdom”. Unlike so many serving members of the Forces who do not have the chance to “call-time” when the going gets rough, he felt able to leave what is a very important ministerial post on account of his political conscience.
Walking out of the job like this is bound to lead to uncertainty – which is more than a tad ironic given that Mr Bebb was recorded earlier talking about the need for the Government to create assurances in what was an uncertain world after Brexit. This point was put to a former Defence Minister, Mark Francois, in a recent BBC interview. Mr Francois said that Mr Bebb clearly felt his views, as an MP, on aspects of the recent White Paper outweighed any other considerations – including, one might assume, his responsibilities to the Defence Community.
Mr Francios further commented that MDP’s job was a challenging one that required the Minister to be up to speed on a wide range of topics. He further agreed that it was a particularly difficult time given the current issues facing defence budgets and the need to see MDP through as soon as possible. Mr Francois also commented that the summer recess is coming up which will give any new MDP time to gather their thoughts before the next session of parliament, but not much time before the Modernising Defence Programme strategy is to be released.
Mr Bebb criticised Boris Johnson for resigning over Brexit calling it a selfish decision. One wonders what he is feeling about his own decision and timing. Even the BBC, not usually known for its staunchly right-wing, pro-defence stance, has observed that his resignation was, in the end, a waste of time as it changed nothing in terms of the outcome of the recent vote, and that it has left the MOD casting around for yet another senior political person to fill a post that desperately needs a steady and competent hand at the helm.
TMT has already commented on the lack of continuity and/or depth of experience in senior appointments leading to silly decisions being made that adversely affect serving personnel and the taxpayer. Perhaps it is time to start treating Defence Procurement as a very serious and long term task that should be raised above the silly games that modern politicians seem so happy to play these days.
The next MDP should ask him- or herself – some very searching questions about their commitment to the job. Above all, they should be very honest about what they expect members of the armed forces to think of them when they look them in the eye at some visit or review. They should ask whether they, the MDP, are worthy of the respect of people who do not have the ability simply to down tools and walk away when the pooh hits the fan.
Photo: Forces Network