Lord West, the former security minister, has apologised to the ambassadors of Denmark and Belgium in a letter to The Independent after belittling their countries as "second rate".
He explained that he meant their "geostrategic status" is not comparable to that of the UK's, and he was fed up with "naïve" pundits who seemed to think it was. The former First Sea Lord made the remarks at the launch of a defence report commissioned by Labour, which he had helped to write.
Irritated by a question from the audience which suggested that the UK is a second-rate power, Lord West replied: "We are not a second-tier power. We are not bloody Denmark or Belgium." The Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, was quick to condemn the remarks, pointing out that 42 Danes have been killed in Helmand in Afghanistan. In his letter, Lord West wrote: "I apologise unreservedly for my intemperate language... I have very great respect for your nations and people."
Lord West has sailed into trouble before. As a minister in Gordon Brown's government he had to issue a retraction after he let slip that he did not support government policy on detaining terror suspects. In 1986, he dropped classified documents about naval cuts while walking his dog. They were picked up and passed to the Mail on Sunday.Reuse content