Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has been talked up by the media as the Tories’ ‘hatchet man’ ever since his Crosby-inspired, nonsensical condemnation of Ed Miliband for standing for the Labour leadership as ‘stabbing his brother in the back’, as though David M had some kind of divine right not to be opposed.
It’s always been obvious to any objective observer that Fallon’s substance came nowhere near matching the hype, especially after his laughable performance over the Conservatives’ lies in January about the failed Trident test – and now the penny seems to have dropped in even the most unexpected quarters.
Fallon appeared on the BBC’s Marr Show this morning and was taken apart by both Marr and by Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry.
Fallon’s answers on where the money was coming from for increased defence spending were so vague and meaningless that Marr accused him of having a ‘Diane Abbott moment’ – and squirmed like a worm on a hook as Marr pointed out that the Tory promise never to let the number of armed forces personnel fall below 80,000 has been broken.
The most fatal point for Fallon’s – and the Tories’ – credibility came when Marr read out a letter from military chiefs accusing him of being ‘disingenuous and quoting irrelevant statistics‘ on defence spending and, even worse, of ‘accounting deception‘ and ‘damaging’ the armed forces. In other words, lying and hurting our servicemen and women.
Of course, Thornberry telling him – live on the state broadcaster – that he was ‘talking bollocks’ didn’t help, either. He was, too – putting words in Thornberry’s mouth about the Falklands that bore no relation to truth.
Marr also nailed Fallon over his party’s failure to defend the NHS and other vital institutions against cyber-attack. Fallon’s evasiveness and weasel words couldn’t have been more obvious. He’s clearly reading from the same Tory playbook that is Theresa May’s bible.
Fallon attempted – of course – to deflect attention by accusing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of ‘supporting’ the IRA but, as Emily Thornberry pointed out, in 2007 Fallon attended celebrations in Syria to mark Bashar al-Assad’s re-election. Fallon admitted shaking hands with the Syrian dictator but attempted to portray it as ‘completely different’, which is of course nonsense.
Fallon thought Thornberry was accusing him of doing something wrong – which showed that he had completely missed the point. It was the equivalence of his meeting and celebrating with Assad and Corbyn’s meetings with the IRA (and Hamas) that matter – and that make Michael Fallon a craven hypocrite.
But perhaps the most humiliating aspect of this morning was that even the right-wing rags whose normal, pavlovian response would be to defend a Tory politician agreed he had been humiliated.
The Daily Mail is as Tory a publication as you could find – and even they couldn’t disagree that Fallon had been well and truly made to look a fool. They couldn’t even pretend it hadn’t happened – the usual right-wing media response (including the BBC) to a Tory disaster.
Here’s what the Mail said about this morning’s debacle:
Fallon’s ‘drive-by’ on Ed Miliband in 2015 is considered by many to have been the crucial moment in that year’s General Election campaign. Today he showed that even Marr and the right-wing media see through him and his obvious lack of substance and competence.
The wheels are coming off the Tories’ carefully-constructed façade of competence – even in the media that helped build it.
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