UK

Ex-army chief Dannatt criticises Blair and Brown

General Sir Richard Dannatt
Image caption Sir Richard has criticised Labour's record in the past

A former head of the Army has accused Tony Blair and Gordon Brown of letting down UK troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Gen Sir Richard Dannatt criticised Mr Brown for inadequate funding and said Mr Blair lacked the "moral courage" to make his chancellor deliver money.

Sir Richard made the claims in his book, Leading From the Front, which is serialised in the Sunday Telegraph.

The five Labour leadership candidates taking part in a TV debate condemned Sir Richard's comments.

Ed Miliband, his brother David, Ed Balls, Diane Abbot and Andy Burnham all criticised Sir Richard.

He sparked a row when he acted as a defence adviser to the Conservatives after stepping down from the armed forces.

But last month the former Army chief revealed he had quit the role when David Cameron became prime minister.

'Abject failure'

Sir Richard said he had given up the post to ensure military advice came from chiefs of staff, not a "has-been".

He has made a series of public criticisms of Labour's record on defence since standing down as Chief of the General Staff in 2009.

The Sunday Telegraph reports that in his book, Sir Richard said evidence for Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction - the justification for Britain's involvement in the 2003 invasion of the country - was "most uncompelling" and the planning for the aftermath of war an "abject failure".

And while the 1998 Strategic Defence Review (SDR) provided a "good framework" for defence policy in the Labour years, he said it was "fatally flawed" by being underfunded by Mr Brown's Treasury and could not cope with the strains of deploying troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan at the same time.

Criticising the two politicians at the head of the Labour administration, he wrote: "History will pass judgment on these foreign adventures in due course, but in my view Gordon Brown's malign intervention, when chancellor, on the SDR by refusing to fund what his own government had agreed, fatally flawed the entire process from the outset.

"The seeds were sown for some of the impossible operational pressures to come."

'Crack the whip'

And he accused Mr Blair of lacking the "moral courage to impose his will on his own chancellor".

"Every organisation has its tone set by its leadership," he wrote.

"To me it seems extraordinary that the prime minister, the number one guy, cannot crack the whip sufficiently to his very close friend, the chancellor, and say 'We're doing this in the national interest, Gordon, you fund it'."

During the televised debate on Sky News, Labour leadership hopeful Andy Burnham said the general's comments appeared to be "misplaced" and he had seen Mr Blair and Gordon Brown "agonising" over the situation.

"As chief secretary to the Treasury, I remember giving full support to every request for military equipment that came our way.

"I think it's really not fair to make this criticism," he said.

Ed Miliband said: "I think the language of betrayal is frankly reprehensible".

His brother David, the shadow foreign secretary, said: "This really pains me because there are people in our country who have lost sons and daughters in Afghanistan and Iraq and that is torture enough for anyone to live with.

"To then be told it could all have been easier and better if it hadn't been for some bureaucrats and politicians - it's just not true.

"We have armed forces fighting in some of the most dangerous parts of the world with the best equipment they have ever had."

Diane Abbott said the general had "rather discredited himself by moving so quickly to become a Tory adviser".

Ed Balls said the former army chief was "playing politics" and "had "moved in an unseemly way from being a military leader to being a Conservative adviser to David Cameron".

Meanwhile, former Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon has said he is concerned about motives behind the current coalition government's strategic defence and security review.

Sir Michael told the BBC: "I think it's been rushed. I do worry that a so-called strategic defence and security review is nothing of the sort.

"All the rumours that I hear suggest it's a cost-cutting exercise.

"What you need is a rigorous foreign policy review, roots up, define our national interest, decide what advances it, what threatens it, what our priorities should be [and] once you've established that everything else follows."

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