Fraser Nelson

Brown plays politics over troop numbers

Brown plays politics over troop numbers
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So Gordon Brown is in Afghanistan, pledging that Britain will provide 700 more  troops “to allow us to do more during the election period. We are confident that we are shouldering our share of the burden”. I hear that he made this commitment for a pre-election troop surge at the G20 summit to suck up to Obama - but that he hadn't squared this with the military, who had a frantic few days trying to work out how how on earth they would find the men. Ditto his notorious claim, made during the 2007 Tory conference, that 1,000 troops would be home by Christmas. The MoD had no idea what he was talking about, so they called No.10, who didn't know anything either. It was a piece of pre-election posturing, using soldiers as pawns in his battle against the Tories.

Brown has a habit of demanding something to announce on these trips, even if there is nothing. I have heard anecdotes about how his aides have to cook something up on the plane, and then he spins it far further than it should go. When it comes to health spending, that doesn't matter much. But when he's raising - and dashing - the hopes of service families, then it's unconscionable. His 1,000 troops by Christmas pledge turned out to be a con, as some of these troops were coming home anyway and others would be in Kuwait. I'm told this was the moment that the military realised that Brown would be a worse spinner than Tony Blair ever was.

For months, we have been waiting to hear about a real surge to the Afghanistan deployment - and still no word. When it comes to spinning, Brown can concoct policies in an instant. But for real strategic issues, it seems his indecision is final.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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