Bernard Jenkin MP (North Essex) is a member of the Defence Select Committee and was Shadow Defence Secretary from 2001 until 2003.
I am distressed the John Hutton should go now. John has been a conscientious, consensual, non-partisan defence secretary. Having said that, Bob Ainsworth has also been an excellent Minister for the Armed Forces. His taking over will provide continuity. He is equally non-partisan and has shown great commitment to the job. Particularly at a time when the Armed Forces are under such strain, while there is plenty of scope for legitimate questioning and disagreement, Defence is not, and should not be, part of the usual battle between the political parties.
Which ever party wins the next election will face the same huge challenges and decisions, while government as a whole will be facing the consequences of over-spending, over-borrowing and the recession. We should be working with Labour defence ministers to see where we can ensure continuity. Which ever Party wins, there will be a defence review. (We should not overuse the word "strategic", which Labour have used just for the political packaging of their defence review. A defence review is by definition "strategic"!)
Over the next 6-12 months, we want Labour to take the right decisions about revisions to the equipment programme which is way beyond the present defence budget, and about revised "strategic guidance". (This is the right use of the word here: this is MoD-speak for the context of long-term policy). Then the 2010 defence review will be set in the right strategic context.