LIKE some of the UK's high-powered political pundits I was impressed by Admiral Lord West's clear and capable exposition of the Government's new approach to security on BBC Radio 4's Today yesterday morning. Michael White, the Guardian's senior political commentator, was so taken with Lord West's performance that he immediately posted a blog saying that the Admiral was a fine advertisement for Gordon Brown's policy of bringing non-politicians into the government. Unfortunately, a less appreciative assessment of Lord West's interview was being made at No 10 Downing Street; his statement that he needed to be fully convinced about any extension of the 28 days imprisonment without charge for suspected terrorists must have caused Gordon Brown to choke over his cornflakes. Within an hour Lord West was at Downing Street for a meeting with the prime minister and later emerged to say that he was now personally convinced that the 28-days period would have to be extended. Mr Brown is clearly a very convincing kind of person.
Lord West might have left us all feeling slightly sorry for an Admiral who had been carpeted by a prime minister. But he unwisely chose to add, I haven't changed my position. Maybe as a simple sailor and not a politician I didn't choose my words very clearly. Of course, he had changed his position and he was a very simple sailor to pretend otherwise.