If the army's rumours service ARRSE is to be believed, Defence Secretary Des Browne, his podgy frame sweating gently within an ill-fitting polyester suit, often feels uncomfortable appearing with uniformed servicemen, who take great pride in their appearance. So no doubt his other duties as part-time Scottish Secretary provided a convenient excuse on Thursday for him to be absent from the Chelsea Pensioners' annual parade. The Mail reports that:
These splendid, red-suited old soldiers paraded for an hour, standing for attention in the heat and then marched past the Princess Royal.This magnificent event, redolent of all that is best about Britain, was attended by senior generals, Baroness Thatcher, John Major and approximately 3,000 other friends of the pensioners. But Defence Secretary Des Browne was nowhere to be seen. When I asked a MoD official to explain his absence, he cited unspecified 'other commitments'. The Government was represented by Tessa Jowell, the Paymaster General. Ms Jowell turned up dressed casually in a pair of trousers and paid practically no attention to the parade, concentrating instead on sending text messages on her mobile phone. Truly shameful.Truly shameful indeed.