It really does come to something when a Defence Secretary has to write to his five junior ministers ordering them not to badmouth the Chief of the General Staff. But that is exactly what Bob Ainsworth did yesterday. It also demonstrates the weakness of his own position. Ordinarily, a strong Secretary of State would haul the culprit in and give him a good dressing down.
One can safely rule out Bill Rammell, who has only just arrived at Defence from the FCO. Quentin Davies has made a career out of sucking up to the military establishment, while Lord Drayson isn't stupid enough to do something so crass. So the spotlight, according to MoD sources, is falling on Kevan Jones, a Brown loyalist and close friend of chief whip Nick Brown.
Jones was sent to the MoD at the reshuffle before last to "mind" John Hutton and report back on his activities. He had got "history" with the MoD, having fiercely criticised them as a backbencher for extravagence and being a department full of upper class twits. Indeed, many thought it was a bit of a cruel joke on Brown's part to appoint one of the MoD's fiercest critics to the post where he would have to defend it.
If Bob Ainsworth believes Kevan Jones is guilty of badmouthing Sir Richard Dannatt he should sack him. Pure and simple. But to implicate all his ministers is a sign of a Secretary of State who hasn't got a grip on his department.