Michael Fallon’s transformation from the young semi-delinquent Thatcherite hit man of 30 years ago to gravitas-imbued safe pair of hands is finally complete.
Moreover thanks to the drastic reduction in force numbers since those days there is no need to worry that the new Defence Secretary once, when the Berlin wall was still standing, called for cuts in “our well-appointed encampment on the Rhine.”
To be on the safe side, however, Fallon made sure, on his first outing as a Cabinet minister, to hoist the flag. “As long as there is a Conservative government, the Red Arrows will continue to fly,” he assured an appreciative Commons with a flourish.
His starkest question was from the well decorated Col Bob Sewart who said -or rather barked- that Isis would only be defeated by “boots on the ground”. Well, said Fallon, UK forces were ready to supply and train “home forces” of Iraqis and Kurds. As he pointed out, it was already doing so with Kurdish troops. But how far, on past form, Col Bob -or Fallon himself- are confident about the “Iraqi” part of that equation must be doubtful.
Fallon is not the only MoD newcomer. Julian Brazier who has a cheeky hint of the swivel eyed Bertie Wooster about him, graciously accepted congratulations on what he called with some justice his “unexpected mobilisation” as a minister. He can only hope that an ex-territorial para he is not going to be the fall guy for much slower than promised build-up of reserves -suddenly now his responsibility.
Meanwhile Labour’s Joan Whalley described how she had initially been denied by the dreaded Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority a visit to the “the West Mercian Regiment in Fallingbostel”. Minister Mark Francois was so delighted at her "doggedness" in forcing IPSA to change her mind he suggested she deserved a statue. There’s nothing like IPSA, hated creature of the expenses scandal, to create cross-party harmony.Reuse content