Fallon Takes A Bullet

'In politics... stupidity is not a handicap.' Napoleon Bonaparte  

'In politics... stupidity is not a handicap.' Napoleon Bonaparte
 

In 2015 when Malcolm Rifkind resigned I wrote, 'The galloping sense of self entitlement of some MP's so often seems to bury any of duty and honour that once they might have harboured.' We thought Parliament had touched the lowest possible ebb in the 2010 expenses scandal but no, here we are again. 

So, Michael Fallon has decided to take rather than dodge the allegations bullet, probably before more rise to the surface. For the Armed Forces, with a mini Defence spending review in progress, this is somewhat unhelpful. In an interview with the BBC's Laura Kuennsberg he said that his behaviour had in the past fallen short of those expected in our Armed Forces. He is right then to resign.

Where he is wrong is in his belief of what was acceptable, 'ten or fifteen years ago.' Here's a newsflash for Fallon and any other miscreants. Ten or fifteen years ago creepy behaviour in the workplace met with zero tolerance. In a bank for example, an allegation would have been met with probable suspension pending an HR investigation. HR would then proceed to unpick the suspects life starting with a trawl through thousands of emails and any other electronic communication, reviewing hundreds of hours of recorded telephone calls and close examination of all expenses. HR would also interview colleagues to establish if there was a pattern of nefarious conduct. In short, the only people behind the curve here are those in the Westminster bubble. 

Of course, many people meet, date and go on to marry work colleagues and such liaisons are perfectly acceptable. What is outrageous is when individuals abuse positions of power and influence to boost their inflated ego's. 

Amongst the WhatsApp groups and spreadsheets circulating I have no doubt there will be some innocent's named. What really bothers me though, and this goes to the beating heart of our Parliament, is that bad behaviour was tolerated throughout. It is no secret that the whips have for generations, used their 'little black books,' to keep order with recalcitrant MP's. That is blackmail by any other name. Also, it puts the whip's in the 'enabler,' category of offenders. Indeed, how many 'enablers,' are there in Westminster among the MP's, administrators and journalists who have looked the other way? Actually, just as most did with the expenses scandal.

It is not just a few names on spreadsheets that need a swift kick up the backside; the whole place needs a good wash-down. 

"The first such foreign policy defeat since 1782"

Last nights vote against intervention was a victory for Parliament who, for once, listened rather than heard and saw rather than looked. The lack of enthusiasm for catapulting us into conflict without a strong case being made to the country, without limitations and without a clear aim has been greeted with relief. Wisdom and maturity have prevailed.

The problem doesn't go away but there is a clear instruction to the government that having done exhaustive preparatory planning,  they must then engage and explain. We're not going to war off the cuff again. We value our country and the lives of our servicemen somewhat higher than the price of post Prime Ministerial American lecture tours.

The clear loser is David Cameron. The Prime Minister has a reputation in Westminster for being idle. He is thought not to anticipate problems coming down the tracks, (partly through not reading briefs thoroughly). This leads to ill thought out solutions hurriedly thrown together. If he spent more time working hard and less time on the beach, (more holidays than most Prime Ministers in modern times), he might not be so disconnected from the prevailing sentiment of the country, Parliament and indeed his own party. 

As my friend Stephen Lewis, (Chief Economist at Monument Securities), points out, 

"Before Mr Miliband and a number of Tory MP's frustrated his plans,  Cameron argued that any military action against Syria had to be ‘specific’.  ‘This is not about getting involved in a Middle Eastern war,’ he said.  Whatever the rights and wrongs of Mr Cameron’s stance, one thing is clear.  It would not be for him alone to say whether the outcome would be war.  That would partly depend also on the reaction of Syria and its allies to what they would see as NATO aggression.  One could sympathise with Mr Cameron in the position in which he found himself.  He knows that, to win general support for military action against the Syrian regime, he must at all costs avoid presenting it as the prelude to the kind of adventures Blair initiated in Afghanistan and Iraq.  There is every reason to believe he is sincere in thinking that Syria could be attacked with no further consequences.  Even so, it is disconcerting that he should contemplate action while taking for granted that war will not ensue.  In this, he shares a mindset that has developed within the ruling elite in the developed world.  It does not occur to members of this elite that their decisions might have results other than those they intend.  Consequently, they make no adequate provision for contingencies." 

That he has failed in his first big test creates a pretty big political problem for him. He is not without enemies within his party and many will now be less timid in articulating their concerns. It should be an interesting party season.

Having put a stake in the ground, perhaps the Americans will now prove to be more supportive going forward on issues like the Falklands and Gibraltar

Markets meanwhile, are somewhat relieved that short term uncertainty is removed yet have still to even countenance longer term political change which may result from the events of this week.

Congratulations though, to all those MP's who had the moral courage to stand up for what they believed in.