Friday, 31 July 2009

Bob Ainsworth

Ok, Bob Ainsworth may not be everyone’s cup of tea as Defence Secretary. If I were him I probably wouldn’t want to read my morning papers. Phrases like “not up to the job” have followed him everywhere since his surprise promotion from Armed Forces Minister to Cabinet rank as Defence Secretary in June.

One of the few MPs in the Commons to have a background in manual work – he was a sheet metal worker and fitter with Jaguar cars – you wonder what Bob “Bollocks” Ainsworth (a nickname he is said to regard as undeserved, denying that he uttered the words in the Commons) makes of the condescension that seems to flavour a good deal of the coverage he receives. I have a notion that many who actually listen to him think he comes across as sincere and down to earth.

He is under huge pressure at present regarding the court action to limit compensation payments to British servicemen, and, yes, I recognise it’s an incredibly sensitive and serious issue where many of us are offended by what the Government are doing. But when I read that he was, disgracefully, on holiday and should be forced to return – as indeed he did – I began to feel uneasy. Am I the only one to find this perennial campaign every summer to bring a minister back from his or her holiday to “face the music” deeply unsettling? And I say it because, unpopular though the sentiment is at the moment after a year of ugly revelations about MPs and their expenses, many of them work incredibly hard. And I do mean hard, long days that last late into the night, the pressures of many competing demands, and decisions that all of us would find extraordinarily difficult and challenging should we be making them. Yes, politicians are accountable to us and we have every right to demand explanations from them. But it’s one thing to be critical, it’s quite another to treat them all as idle buffoons spending most of their time on holiday sun loungers. It simply isn’t true, and by tyrannising them back home from their family holidays all we do is make it harder for any of them to get a proper rest or to make good decisions when they get back..

1 comment:

  1. If I, in my former capacity as a serviceman, did not respond to emergency call out procedures, if I preferred to go on leave than perform my duty, then I would have been subjected to a courts martial. My message here is that people who work as minsisters, overseeing a core state function, particularly a critical one such as defence/security, must be available at all times. If they find this onerous or unacceptable they can step aside to allow another perform the job in a manner that reflects and supports the forces personnel who expect and need their minister to be available.