Pick a Tory. G’wan

These two David Hencke pieces on the election for chairman of the House of Commons Defence Committee are interesting in the light of this post.

We have, on the one side, hilariously rightwing Tory Julian Lewis. We have, on the other, a pick between Rory Stewart and Keith Simpson. Interestingly, even John McDonnell (and most of the rest of the Labour Party) supported Lewis. Hencke argues that Downing Street wanted Simpson, or failing that Stewart. This sounds surprising; everyone has the impression that Stewart is exciting and therefore opposed to the government (you can see how this would come about, but it’s still only an aesthetic reaction).

But it makes much more sense if you think about what the HoCDC is going to be doing for the next few years. After Afghanistan, the military is expected to be in “roll up that map…” mode for the foreseeable future, while a whole variety of big equipment and infrastructure projects are in the pipeline. In so far as the HoCDC scrutinises operations, it will therefore only be able to do any damage to past governments.

Instead, it should be getting its teeth into the projects that will define the terms of the future. This requires a different skill-set and mind-set. I can well imagine Rory Stewart’s committee getting sidetracked into re-fighting Iraq and pursuing individual complaints and leaving the DESiders of Defence Equipment & Support well alone, which is how prime ministers like it and therefore how DES got that way.

One fascinating fact: We have a new chair of defence who has tabled only one question on defence to the government in the last year. He’ll have to ask a lot more now to make an impact.

If you were to make a decision on that basis you’d probably end up picking the SNP’s Angus Robertson, aka Mr Quantity.

Interestingly, Tom Watson, John Denham, and Malcolm Rifkind were supporting Crispin Blunt as a less pungent alternative to Lewis. Blunt, of course, is out of sympathy with the Tories, but has also been a surprisingly important gatekeeper in the lobbying system.

1 Comment on "Pick a Tory. G’wan"

  1. There is a piece in the latest Private Eye about this. The gist of the article is that Lewis is a friend of Bercow, Bercow was pushing for the chair to go to Lewis but the pushing was too blatant, so in reaction some votes went to Stewart. The story was being put around that Lewis would be tough on the Minister to try to get Labour MPs to vote for him but few believed this story. Maybe this is where Hencke got the (erroneous) idea that Lewis was the anti-establishment candidate.


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