In a letter to the Prime Minister - and seen exclusively by Channel 4 News – Eric Joyce lays out his reasons for standing down concentrating on Afghanistan and the need for “greater geopolitical return from the United States for our efforts.”
In a long letter to Mr Brown, Mr Joyce refers to a “critical time for Labour and Defence” and cites “problems which need fixing with the greatest urgency”, adding “we cannot win (the next election) unless we grip defence.”
Mr Joyce warns Mr Brown that the Conservatives “think they can convince the public that we have lost our empathy with the Defence community. We must not allow this to happen.”
Relating to recent responses concerning the lobbying of government by defence chiefs he adds that “Behind the hand attacks by any Labour figure on senior service personnel are now, to the public, indistinguishable from attacks on the services themselves.”
Then going on to say “above all, Labour must remember that service folk and their families are our people .. and we must at literally all costs continue to show by our actions that we mean it.”
In relation to Afghanistan, Mr Joyce writes: “We also need to make it clear that our commitment in Afghanistan is high but time limited. It should be possible now to say that we will move off our present war-footing and reduce our forces there substantially during our next term in government.”
He also cautions Mr Brown that “I do not think the public will accept for much longer that our losses can be justified by simply referring to the risk of greater terrorism on our streets.”
Adding: “Nor do I think we can continue with the present level of uncertainty about the future of our deployment in Afghanistan.”
He also calls for a second round in the Afghan elections saying “I do not think the British people will support the physical risk to our servicemen and women unless they can be given confidence that Afghanistan’s government has been properly elected.”
Saying that the British people “would appreciate a more direct approach by politicians” he tells Mr Brown that “we must be much more direct about the reality that we do punch a long way above our weight, that many of our allies do far too little, and that leaving the field to the United States would mean the end of NATO as a meaningful proposition.”
He then calls for greater “geopolitical return from the United States for our efforts” adding “for many, Britain fights; Germany pays, France calculates; Italy avoids.”
“Most important of all” Mr Joyce writes “we must make it clear to every serviceman and woman, their families and the British public, that we give their well-being the highest political priority.”
It will be interested to see the level of panic this causes in Number Ten. It is difficult for them to brush it off, as Joyce is one of the few Labour politicians with a military background. According to Wikipedia...
He joined the army in 1978. Initially a private in the Black Watch, he went on to attend the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Royal Army Educational Corps (later Adjutant General's Corps) as a Captain in 1987.
Is this the start of a rather traumatic September for Mr Brown? One can but hope.