Brown fails to punish rebellion in the ranks

Author: By Michael Savage, Political correspondent

Eric Joyce, a parliamentary private secretary to the Defence Secretary, Bob
Ainsworth, said that court cases brought by the Government, which are
designed to cut payments to two injured servicemen, were “profoundly
wrong”. His remarks caused anger among ministers.

Mr Joyce said that the Government should not remove “a penny” from
the men who were struggling with injuries and hinted that he would inflict
another resignation on Mr Brown if the court action was upheld. Mr Ainsworth
has already announced a review of the way in which armed forces personnel
are compensated but has refused to drop the test cases.

“Politicians have to recognise that while the public will give us a lot
of rope at times, where we get the moral call profoundly wrong on a matter
of how we treat our astonishingly brave service personnel, we’ll find
ourselves dangling at the end of it,” Mr Joyce said.

Ministers questioned whether Mr Joyce, a former Army major, should be allowed
to keep his role at the Ministry of Defence (MoD). However, Government
sources said that Mr Joyce would hold on to his position. Downing St refused
to criticise Mr Joyce last night, despite his clear breach of the doctrine
of collective responsibility. Ministerial aides are usually expected to step
down if they plan to criticise the Government. In an article, Mr Joyce
wrote: “A strong technical argument has come into direct contact with
what most people think is the right thing to do. While politics has a bad
name at the moment, political instincts should by definition usually lead to
decisions which most people agree are fair and right.

“In this compensation case, a victory for the MoD in October at the Court
of Appeal would come against the backdrop of a giant neon sign saying
spelling out the word ‘Pyrrhic’. It would represent a victory for
bureaucracy over bravery.”

The MoD’s action in the Court of Appeal, which is ongoing, challenges the
payouts awarded to Corporal Anthony Duncan and Royal Marine Matthew
McWilliams. Cpl Duncan was originally awarded £9,250 after he was shot in
the leg while in Iraq in 2005 but his award was increased to £46,000 as a
result of complications during his surgery. Mr McWilliams initially won
£8,250 for fracturing his thigh on a training exercise but his payout was
later increased to £28,750.

The MoD argues that it should not be held liable to pay for the men’s medical
complications.

The criticisms from Mr Joyce prompted a fresh offensive from the Armed Forces
minister Bill Rammell, who said that not challenging the men’s payments
would have been “unfair and disadvantaging” to their more
seriously injured colleagues.

“If this were about money then the Government wouldn’t have doubled the
maximum payout in compensation as we did just last year,” Mr Rammell
told the BBC yesterday. “Those are not the actions of a Government
which is resigning from its responsibilities.”

The Conservatives pushed Mr Joyce’s comments as further evidence that the
Prime Minister had lost control of his Government which they claimed was in
a fast and terminal decline. Greg Hands, a Treasury spokesman for the
Tories, said that ministers appeared to be “losing the will to govern”.

Speaking out: Labour’s rebels

*Tom Harris, the former transport minister, tried to fend off criticism
after he said that the public were “bloody miserable” as the
credit crunch hit. Gordon Brown was not so laid back about the remarks,
however, and Harris was sacked at the next reshuffle.

*Hazel Blears’ now infamous “YouTube if you want to” jibe at the
Prime Minster made her Cabinet role impossible. Brown publicly accused her
of “totally unacceptable behaviour” following a series of
allegations about her parliamentary expenses, but Blears stepped down in
June before she was pushed.

*Angela Smith, a ministerial aide, admitted that she had “concerns”
over the abolition of the 10p tax rate. She was persuaded not to resign
after Gordon Brown interrupted a US trip to talk her round.

*Jim McGovern felt he could not remain a ministerial aide in the Business
Department after saying it “beggared belief” that a private
company could be selected to advise the Royal Mail.

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