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Monday, 9 June 2014

Fighting over a warm corpse

It's extraordinary that the Conservative Party is almost openly starting the hustings for the election of a new leader before the existing one has even lost the general election. The reason for his sudden snap at May and Gove, Huhne suggests in the Guardian, is "that he does not want to be fought over as if he were a warm corpse. He is not dead yet, and does not take kindly to infighting that suggests senior Conservatives are already jockeying for position post-Cameron."

Cameron typifies the role of the Etonian upper classes as being utterly useless at anything of importance. At the start of the second world war, the British army was led exclusively by such men; charming chaps, who knew which fork to use but couldn't win a battle for a pipe of port. As the BEF set off for France their commander the Lord Gort took his sword, his charger, grooms and servants. As Gort fled back to Blighty in the teeth of the German advance, the poor horse was shot on the quayside, thus ending the briefest period of active service for a warhorse. By the time we returned to Normandy in 1944 in the words of a contemporary "The Gentlemen are out and the Players are in". The old upper class had been replaced at almost all levels of higher command of the army by capable, hardy and effective Grammar school boys and those of the provincial Yeoman classes, by Saffies and Canucks, men who may not have been adept at peeling quails' eggs but who could turn a battle.

Cameron is the Lord Gort of our time. Brave but stupid and ineffective, leading the nation to defeat. Now is not the time for Osborne, another from the same drawer; his ship has sailed. The Conservative Party now needs a Player like Montgomery (St Pauls School). And that may even mean another woman. 


Robert said...

It was Lord Gort's decision to order the British to fall back on Dunkerque that helped to save the army in 1940. The navy did much of the rest.

Whatever his short comings for that alone we owe him our eternal gratitude.

Like Churchill he went to Harrow.

G. Tingey said...

Don't praise Monty
Dreadful little boastful tick & not really competent above Divisional level.
A lot of his "success" rests on his predecessors { Gott, Auchinleck ) & a brilliant subordinate, Horrocks.
For a truly great leader in WWII, try Bill Slim?

visc said...

"Cameron is the Lord Gort of our time. Brave but stupid and ineffective.."

I would substitute another quality for brave in Cameron's case ..

Sceptical Steve said...

Robert and Greg, many thanks for writing what I was thinking.

Gort's big problem was that his colleagues amongst the General Staff resented his glamour and his premature promotion to CIGS.
When, after Dunkirk, he was overthrown and exiled, the likes of Alan Brooke and Montgomery were quickest to go into print to pin all the blame on Gort and to claim their own tactical mastery.

Mr Ecks said...

Camoron is a prime piece of Bliar-sucking shite. Brave?--his wife wears the fucking trousers. He would have done better to have stayed home in his pinnie and sent that FOE hag in to run the country.She has more balls.

He should be hanged as the traitor and leftist stooge of tyranny that he is.

Anonymous said...

Tingey is wrong as usual. Monty was an obnoxious self-obsessed, weasel-faced twat, but he was usually right, truly cared for the troops under his command (even when they were Yanks cut off by the 'Bulge', and despite them not following the battle plan, he completed the first phase 2 weeks early. He also had to contend with the loss of one Mulberry because the Yanks knew best about how many anchors to use, and thus the supply rate was slowed. Not many people liked him, but most of them trusted him. His strategy of going for the Ruhr was largely defeated by American arsehole generals who dashed through the uncontested border to occupy empty countryside. Tingey, you only dislike him because he was rabidly anti-smoking!

Sceptical Steve said...

Anonymous 10:58, you are well and truly wrong on this. If you compare and contrast strategic vision, battlefield management and genuine empathy with the troops he commanded, Montgomery falls so far short of Bill Slim that it's embarrassing. The only person who thought Monty was a genius was, of course, Monty.
In this, he seems to bear a marked resemblance to David Cameron.

Raedwald said...

Oh don't be too hard on Alan Brooke - his diaries are amongst my fave reading. And it was Brooke's tactical command at Dunkirk that saved the BEF - and not only that, after Dunkirk he went back to the remainder of the BEF cut off south of the Somme and successfully evacuated almost a further 200,000 men.

And Monty's strength was his ability to talk directly to the men and be heard; the routine was never varied - his jeep would turn up at some camp, he'd clamber on the bonnet and signal the men to gather around whilst his aides distributed cartons of fags. "We're going to build up our strength then we're going to bosh the Germans - we're going to hit them for six. With God and right on our side we'll drive them back across the Rhine and win this war." You can take the piss all you like over his approach - but it was simple, it was exactly what the men wanted to hear, and the dynamic little haemorrhoid with the beret gave all the necessary reassurance they needed.

Bill Quango MP said...

Monty did win most of his battles.
He may have been luckier, having better and much more equipment than his predecessors but the fact remains he won his battles while those that went before lost theirs.

Gort did issue the retreat. Off his own bat and against the very wishes of his own Prime Minister and allied heads of states. He did save the army and so ultimately, he won the war.

However his one superlative decision, though doing much to redeem his reputation should not mean he is in our eternal gratitude forever.

After all, he led the troops into the panzer trap in the first place. And failed to have the adequate defences ready at either the front or rear lines.

Better to view Gort like Gordon Brown. Brown kept the UK out of the Euro and so almost certainly saved the entire nation from ruin.

But his other fuckupperies were of such a monumental scale that his victory, though great, is buried under the rather greater volume of defeats.

Sceptical Steve said...

Hi Raedwald

At the risk of labouring the point, here's a reference to a meeting with Bill Slim in George MacDonald Fraser's autobiography, "Quartered Safe Out Here". He was a young private serving with the 17th "Black Cat" Division, ready to defend Meiktila in early 1945.

"But the biggest boost to morale was the burly man who came to talk to the assembled battalion by the lake shore. Slim was like that: the only man I've ever seen who had a force that came out of him, a strength of personality that I have puzzled over ever since, for there was no apparent reason for it, unless it was the time and the place and my own state of mind. Yet others felt it too, and they were not impressionable men.

His appearance was plain enough: large, heavily built, grim-faced with that hard mouth and bulldog chin; the rakish Gurkha hat was at odds with the slung carbine and untidy trouser bottoms; he might have been a yard foreman who had become managing director, or a prosperous farmer who'd boxed in his youth. Nor was he an orator. There have been four brilliant speakers in my time: Churchill, Hitler, Martin Luther King, and Scargill; Slim was not in their street. His delivery was blunt, matter-of-fact, without gestures or mannerisms, only a lack of them.

He knew how to make an entrance - or rather, he probably didn't, and it came naturally. Slim emerged from under the trees by the lake shore, there was no nonsense of "gather round" or jumping on boxes; he just stood with his thumb hooked in his carbine sling and talked about how we had caught Jap off-balance and were going to annihilate him in the open; there was no exhortation or ringing clich├ęs, no jokes or self-conscious use of barrack-room slang - when he called the Japs "bastards" it was casual and without heat.

Perhaps the most revealing story, not only about Slim but about what his army thought of him, tells how he was addressing a unit about to go into action. The magic must have worked again, for some enthusiast actually shouted: " We'll follow you, general!" And Slim with one of his rare smiles, called back "Don't you believe it. You'll be a long way in front of me

Not many generals could have got away with that; one cannot imagine Monty saying it. The irony is that it wasn't true. Slim almost got himself killed in the fighting at Meiktila.

British soldiers don't love their commanders, much less worship them; Fourteenth Army trusted Slim and thought of him as one of themselves, and perhaps his real secret was that the feeling was mutual."

Like you, I've enjoyed Brooke's diaries, but he was a small minded man who inhabited a position of enormous influence. Slim oozed genuine leadership from every pore, and Brooke hated him for it. (Look in Brooke's diaries for references to Slim, and you'll struggle to find anything.)

Raedwald said...

Steve - I don't disagree in the slightest with your assessment of Slim. I'd rank him the same as you.

But it rather makes my point - Bill Slim was a million miles from the old-type commanding general who would walk his charger silently down the line of a body of troops drawn up in review order. As was Monty.

It reminds me of the anecdote of a titled general asking of a decorated veteran on parade in a nasal upper-class drawl "Where did you start this war?". The man spluttered and stammered, reddening. "Well? Out with it!" "Beg pardon, Sir, 'oo says I bloody started it?"

FrankS said...

Follow the link to the Huhne piece, and take a look at the the number of comments deleted. Nice to see the guardian values the insights of a convicted liar, but point this out and see how long you comment stays up - about 1 minute!

Demetrius said...

Gort (Vereker), Montgomery and Brooke were all peas out of the same pod, namely the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland. It is very likely that they had relations of relations from the evidence of two full folders of Irish Ascendancy family material. These go back to the 17th Century one way another and the interconnections of many people are fascinating. Monty had to go to St. Pauls because his clergyman father was rather short of the readies with a large family. When then made Bishop of Tasmania he could afford to keep Monty as an officer of a junior line regiment. The dark secret of all these men was they may well have all had Nesbitt ancestry swinging somewhere in the family trees.

Johnm said...

Which all avoids the problem. All we have today, as politicians, are career-minded, narrowly-educated; shits.

Johnm said...

Which all avoids the problem. All we have today, as politicians, are career-minded, narrowly-educated; shits.

John M said...

It's a dirty little attempt by Huhne to try and distract attention from the fact that the LibDem leader is a dead corpse already, but is refusing to admit it.

DeeDee99 said...

Personally, I think the "Player" the Party Elite are lining up for the Leadership is Javid.

Apart from anything else, they hope it will rectify their "problem" with the ethnic votes.

Elby the Beserk said...

Crying shame David Davis didn't win leadership of the Tories.

Elby the Beserk said...

Tingey. Bollocks frankly - my old man, a tanks man in the war, detested Monty, largely because he wore a Tank Regiment badge on his beret despite not being in the Tanks, but stated clearly that he was a fine soldier - whatever his personal faults. Which is all that matters in the heat of battle.

Elby the Beserk said...

Blogger John M said...
It's a dirty little attempt by Huhne to try and distract attention from the fact that the LibDem leader is a dead corpse already, but is refusing to admit it.

9 June 2014 21:28

And to distract attention from the fact that he Huhne truly is a loathsome little tick. Why do the media insist on giving space to our ever-increasing gang of convicted MPs?

Gordon the Fence Post Tortoise said...

I've read a fair bit of biography and history about WW2 - the discussion of Gort / Monty / Slim / Alan Brooke is interesting.

The purging of the spectacularly incompetent and the gang politics of WW2 has long fascinated me - especially after finding out about the utterly disgrace behavior of RAF cliques with regard to Keith Park.

Cameron doesn't qualify as a goody or a baddy or nasty or nice - he's just pointless and as somebody above said should be slaving over the AGA in a pinny. One thing that seems almost universal with the current crop of politicians is the absence of a spine and the quantity of slime they produce....