Yesterday afternoon the establishment closed ranks to prop up the wobbling Labour government and its defence secretary Des Browne.
Following Browne’s statement to the House of Commons, many MPs of all parties made scathing remarks about the humiliation of the armed forces and the ‘nation’ but not one MP demanded his resignation over the handling of the sailors selling stories.
They left it up to Browne over whether he would do the ‘honourable thing’.
Earlier, the prime minister’s official spokesman had said that Browne had the backing of defence chiefs.
In the House of Commons, Browne announced an inquiry into the original capture of the 15 personnel, to be led by the Governor General of Gibraltar, former Royal Marines commander Lieutenant General Sir Rob Fulton.
Browne also announced that an inquiry into the media handling aspects would be conducted by a senior military officer and a senior MoD official, led by an ‘independent figure with wide media experience’.
He said in his statement: ‘I take responsibility for what happened over last weekend. I have acted to put it right.’
Tory shadow defence secretary, Liam Fox, cited Tory defence secretary Carrington’s resignation over the Malvinas war.
Fox said of the current crisis: ‘In a more honourable time in politics, the resignation of a secretary of state who had overseen such a humiliating fiasco on his watch would have been an inevitability.’
Fox added of Browne: ‘He and his colleagues must make their own judgement. Ultimately, so must he.’
Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Nick Harvey said questions needed to be asked about the arrest of the sailors: ‘It is those questions about what happened on 23 March which need to be answered and which should determine the fate of the secretary of state for defence.
‘It would not be right for him to resign his post over the media coverage of these events while the prime minister and cabinet who led us into the most disastrous foreign intervention in fifty years remained in post.’