The cautionary tale of the field marshal MP for North Down

They don’t make MPs for North Down like this anymore. Constitutional expert Vernon Bogadanor warns retired former Defence chief Lord Guthrie against becoming a political general like Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, who retired as Army chief in Feb 1922 and became Unionist MP for North Down the following month. Assassins suspected of being agents of Michael Collins cut him down on his doorstep three months later.

Bogdanor recalls

Before 1914, Major-General Henry Wilson, Director of Military Operations at the War Office, sought to sabotage the Liberal Government’s policy of Irish Home Rule by providing the Conservative Opposition with details of confidential ministerial discussions. Some serving officers declared that they would refuse to obey orders if the Government sought to move against illegal arms depots in Ulster

Wilson’s latest biographer Prof Keith Jeffrey of Queen’s records that he resumed his championship of the Unionist cause after the war when..

he became an MP and was chief security adviser to the new Northern Ireland government. As such, he became a target for nationalist Irish militants, being identified with the security policies of the Belfast regime, though wrongly with Protestant sectarian attacks on Catholics. He is remembered today in unionist Northern Ireland as a kind of founding martyr for the state.

Brown’s claims of ever rising Defence budgets may be controversial but the verdict of Bogdanor ( who was Cameron’s political tutor at Oxford btw) is definitive.

Lord Guthrie’s remark that “not fully funding the Army … undoubtedly cost the lives of soldiers”, blaming Gordon Brown for loss of life because of decisions made when he was Chancellor, hardly falls within that category ( of criticising in calm and measured tones). It is unseemly to use the deaths of soldiers in Afghanistan as the basis for a personal attack upon the Prime Minister.

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