The former naval officer Lewis Page wrote his book Lions, Donkeys and Dinosaurs in 2007, I was so impressed that I contact him. With his help I put down a score or so of parliamentary questions on defence procurement. The replies were not helpful so I followed them up the questions with a speech or two.
Liam Fox and the rest of the Tories were silent. Now with a leak of a document stating the obvious he has leapt on another bandwagon. Again he blithely ignored his own party's part in a forty year old scandal. He might note that the failure to get the new Chinooks airborne is because of the cock-up in the procurement made by Tory Defence Minister James Arbuthnot in 1996.
Many of delays and waste mentioned in the leaked document go back decades. Liam should get hold of Lewis Page's book. It makes powerful points. Page contends that inter-service rivalry, bureaucracy and second-rate equipment waste taxpayer's money and risk the lives of soldiers. He is particularly critical of the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Type 45 destroyer and the Nimrod MRA4 as being both overpriced and of little military value. Above all, he criticises BAE Systems, the British defence company involved in these projects, for huge cost-overruns and poor workmanship. He argues that the UK government should purchase cheaper and better weapons from foreign sources (usually American), rather than continue to prop up BAE.
Page argues that some weapons, including heavy artillery, tanks, frigates and destroyers, are rendered obsolete by modern airpower and that the UK should scrap most or all of its capacity in these areas.
In the Commons debate in July, I praised General McChristal, the new Nato supremo and Obama for using the words 'exit' and 'defeat'. These were never before part on the American's vocabulary on Afghanistan. Liam Fox answered the debate. While he did refer to my speech, he did not say he agreed with the key points I made. But he has now.
Is it only because public opinion in support of our presence in Afghanistan is collapsing. This is progress, but politicians have the duty to lead public opinion not meekly follow it.
Liam, you are doing the right thing for the wrong reason.