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There was so much to commend about William Hague's recent article in the Telegraph which so eloquently exposed the damage to Britain's reputation over this affair. One hopes that Browne is starting to seriously consider his position after today's debate and the announcement that he has the Prime Minister's fullest support.

Didn't Mandelson have that support not once but twice?

It seems recently whenever we say someone's position is untenable they have the horrible knack of sticking it out. Who was our last major scalp?

But Ashton, its interesting that Liam DIDN'T demand his scalp. I was very surprised that he used the words 'becoming untenable'. Sky are reporting the Tory line is soft, and I'm not sure it isn't.

The Conservative line was very soft,indeed almost apologetic.This is almost acceptance of Browns meagre excuse.

What an incredibly grudging commentary. You've got two independent inquiries, one under the hugely respected Major General Rob Fulton, Royal Marines who, unlike the Iranians, does not take prisoners.

The terms of reference are comprehensive, covering all aspects of the debacle and there is a commitment to deliver the full report in six weeks, complete with classified operational details, to the Defence Select Committee - which will then have an opportunity to draft its own report.

The review of the media handling is to be chaired by an independent person with "wide media experience" and you can judge his or her merits when the name is announced.

If you recall, one of Fox' great demands was an independent inquiry. Cameron wanted one as well. They've got two. What's the problem with stating that and at least acknowledging that you've been met half way?

But why the soft line in the House Richard? That's what I don't understand. Liam could have piled into Browne, if the boot was on Blair or Brown's foot, it would be burried by now. We need to give at least as good as we get.

I thought it was a considered statement. There was a huge danger of over playing our hand today. Liam Fox didn't, I don't think anyone will be convinced by Des and I think he is dangling in the wind.

Throughout this entire debacle we must not look opportunistic, else all of our efforts will be put down to party politics. I think Liam Fox struck the perfect balance, he got the knife in, but managed to remain statesmanlike at all times.

I particularly liked his reference to the resignation of Lord Carrington, and how he effectively said that Browne was a man with no honour. You can hardly strike a lower blow than that.

Browne on the other hand came across as a bumbling fool, who couldn't even stop himself from stuttering when responding to questions following his statement. I think the mans days are numbered...

Well, fair enough, the proof of the pudding is in whether he does go though, lets wait and see.

Who will be next?? The Labour ranks are so deviod of talent it's a wonder they don't move Reid go back... oh no I remember now, he has a knack of getting out before the piss poor performance of his department's are noticed. What a shower, if we can break Brown however, the whole house of cards will go with him though!

I particularly liked Dr Fox's performance and Browne seemed to be twisting in the wind, but for sheer ineptitude you couldnt beat the dozy cow member for Plymouth who screwed up her lines so badly it was cringemaking.

If that is the dross that gets in the house then maybe I should stand!

Fox did well and landed blows but any negative reaction to Browne's statement will be washed away by coverage of the campus killings in the US. A good day to bury a grudging apology.

Who is Andrew Burkinshaw?

He demanded and he received an apology from Browne, and that is the headline on the BBC.

Well done to Liam Fox.

Posted by: Oberon Houston | April 16, 2007 at 18:30

But why the soft line in the House Richard? That's what I don't understand. Liam could have piled into Browne, if the boot was on Blair or Brown's foot, it would be burried by now. We need to give at least as good as we get.

Don't forget, the opposition front bench gets to see the statement before it is delivered. Browne, in offering such comprehensive inquiries - far better than we imaged we would get - he could not be touched. The game was over before it had even started. Browne shot the fox (almost literally).

Once the inquiries were announced, Browne could then bat away any probing questions saying that these were matters for the inquiries. There is no answer to that. There was no value even in trying to ask serious questions - it would look foolish.

The funny thing is that, outside the bubble, we knew these inquiries were coming days ago - see Christopher Booker's column yesterday (written on Friday). If Fox had just pushed for a comprehensive inquiry, he would have walked away with a score.

As it is, he overplayed a weak hand and went for the big score, the resignation, hyping it up over the weekend, ending up in the ludicrous statement by Cameron, setting out the condition which Browne would have to fulfil to keep his job. As a result, Fox walks away with nothing. Outside the Tory bubble (where your voters are) he looks ineffectual - he failed to force the resignation of Browne. Game over.

Only in the wildest imaginations of the Tory activists is Browne fighting for his future. In fact, he was never seriously threatened, not least because - contrary to the pub talk - he does have the confidence of the military and, crucially, the support of the CGS. For the moment, he is as safe as any Cabinet minister ever is.

Throughout the previous threads, I have taken all sorts or merd, for counselling a more realistic and focused atack. The Lib Dems realised by last Wednesday that the "cash for stories" was a distraction, and came in behind the "reason for capture" issue.

But the Tory parliamentary team knew better. As a result, tactically, they've played a poor game. You need to recognise that if the Party is going to improve its game.

Thankyou for being so candid Richard, given your previous post. What a rascal.

I think I need a cup of tea.

Perhaps it was a tactical decision not to press too hard for Browne to go, so that the electorate on 3 May would see the position of Defence Secretary occupied by a shifty incompetent buffoon without the good grace or integrity to have recognised that he ought to have quit (with the implicit parallel image of Blair not having had the courage to sack him) rather than a new face untainted by past calamities.

North is a wind up merchant. He has called this wrong from the start. Browne has in effect admitted everything North said he wasn't responsible for.

Lets wait for the inquiry now and more egg on the face.

Foxe's problem was the same as most Tory parliamentary problems; he was playing the man (rather well I thought) instead of the ball. The ball is that Labour are supposed to be good at welfare (which they are now demonstrating is a myth) but not good at military matters. Here is a Labour government flashing our military round the world while their Chancelor penney pinches them to prop up his collapsing welfare programme while they are up to their elbows in two wars likely to go on for years. Foulups like this are inevitable with a Labour government. Browne isn't the issue, Labour is and Fox missed it.

Foe Example, in the past, Davis did a good job of getting rid of Home Office Ministers but no big points were scored because people felt sorry for the Ministers. The Tory mindset of chasing the people rather than the party gives an impression of winning in Westminster when voters don't see it that way. If you want to unelect a Labour M.P. you have to get at Labour, not some Labour Minister who the BBC are happy to put over is nice. (The oposite of nasty,)

I watched the statement live.I thought Liam Fox was about right, though I thought the mention of Lord Carrington's resignation was off key. Browne's error of judgement regarding the sale of stories is nowhere in the same league as the errors that led to the Argentine invasion of the Falklands.

Far be it from me to defend a Labour minister, but while Browne is wooden and has admitted an error of judgement, I don't think it is fair to describe him as "shifty". Dull yes, but not dishonest (unlike some of his colleagues).

On balance, I don't think this was a resigning matter.To have pushed too hard would have left us looking ridiculous in public eyes.

It is a pity that so much attention has been paid to "media handling" and not enough of the gradual demoralisation (in several senses) of our armed services under Labour. Not only cuts and politicisation, but to arrive at a state where hostages smile and joke with their captors rather than defy them and where not only other ranks but a very senior naval officer thinks it's honourable to sell stories to the media.It's Blair and Gordon Brown who are responsible for this sorry state, not their latest minion, Des Browne.

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