I’ve spoken a fair amount, albeit less than some Tories, about Defence over the years. Recently, though, I’ve had reservations about some aspects of government policy (in areas where the government and opposition are pretty much on the same page). I think we should be out of Afghanistan sooner than later; I think we give to much too the Americans for too little in return; and I tend towards thinking we shouldn’t renew Trident. In many ways, that’s all pretty uncontroversial and I predict that regardless of who’s in government in 2012, Trident will be extended rather than renewed.
Uncontroversial to most, maybe, but not to one Defence minister who has ordered The Defence Academy at Shrivenham in Wiltshire to ban me from their premises.
As MPs often do, I was due to speak to officers there tomorrow alongside an opposing Conservative MP, at an event organised by the Academy and the excellent Industry and Parliament Trust. When the organisers sought clearance from ministers for guests to enter, always previously a technicality, the minister singled me out to be ‘denied admission’ on the grounds that I may not reflect his views, and suggested an alternative MP. This seems to me a pity, especially since the government today issued a green paper on Defence which is designed to facilitate public discussion.
I don’t believe for a moment that the prime minister and defence secretary have have anything other than good intent as regards discussion about future defence policy. But it does seem a shame, and rather odd, that a junior minister should wish to so blatantly gag an MP.
Still, we live and learn. We sure do that.
Indeed. So, who was the junior defence minister who banned Joyce? Two senior Labour sources have identified Kevan Jones as the culprit. It was my first reaction too, as I doubt whether it is Bill Rammell's style. This is not the first time that Mr Jones has had an accusatory finger pointed at him. On the last occasion, Bob Ainsworth had to slap him down. Will he now do so again, and apologise on behalf og his junior minister to Eric Joyce?