Page last updated at 20:12 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 21:12 UK

Ex-Army chief 'offered Tory role'

Gen Sir Richard Dannatt
Gen Dannatt was involved in a public dispute about troop numbers

Former Army chief Gen Sir Richard Dannatt is to become a defence adviser to the Tories, the BBC has learned.

Gen Dannatt, who called for better equipment for troops in Afghanistan when he was in post, is expected to be given a seat in the House of Lords.

Earlier he complained he had been smeared by the government for speaking out about resources.

But Labour peer Lord Foulkes said it had been "unprecedented" for a serving officer to speak out publicly.

Gen Dannatt told the BBC he would consider taking up some sort of post in a Tory government but had not been "publicly" approached for such a role.

'Wait and see'

Asked by a caller on BBC 5 Live's Victoria Derbyshire programme if he would consider a future role advising a Tory government, he replied: "You are asking the question on a theoretical basis and the answer is theoretically yes."

When Conservative leader David Cameron was asked whether there was potentially place for Gen Dannatt in a future cabinet, he told the BBC to "wait and see".

But it is understood Mr Cameron will announce the appointment of Gen Dannatt as an adviser to the party in his keynote speech at the party's conference in Manchester on Thursday.

He's been a great public servant and I think he's got more to give
David Cameron on Sir Richard Dannatt

Reports that the general may become a junior defence minister in a future Tory government have been played down.

It appears senior Conservatives were not aware of the offer as shadow home secretary Chris Grayling, who misheard the question, told the BBC he hoped the move was not a "political gimmick".

Mr Grayling thought it was Gordon Brown who had offered Gen Dannatt a role and said the PM had recruited too many non-politicians for PR reasons.

He later said it was "really good news" for the Conservatives.

Mr Brown recruited a number of experts from outside politics, including former Foreign Office minister Lord Malloch-Brown and former trade minister Lord Digby Jones, most of whom have since quit the government.

'Blurs the line'

Asked about the issue later, shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve said it would be "an enormous plus" for the Tories to call on a man of Gen Dannatt's experience and distinguished service.

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague also defended the move.

He said: "It's got to be a good thing for the politicians and the leaders of the country to have access to the best possible military advice - not just from the military themselves but from someone who's been recently engaged in it."

But the Lib Dems said it showed there was "no real difference between Labour and the Tories when it comes to gimmicks rather than solutions".

FROM BBC RADIO 5 LIVE

Labour's former defence minister Doug Henderson told the BBC's World at One that Admiral West - one of the independent experts recruited to the prime minister's "government of all the talents" - had been careful to "stay out of politics for a period of time" after stepping down as head of the Navy.

Stepping into a political role "so quickly ... blurs the line between political decisions and military decisions", he said.

Meanwhile, there are reports that the Army wants an extra 1,000 soldiers for the Afghan campaign.

'Too expensive'

The Cabinet sub-committee dealing with Afghanistan is to discuss how the mission is resourced on Thursday - but no decision on troop levels is thought to be imminent, a No 10 spokesman said.

Asked about it during an interview, Gen Dannatt said: "No 10 calls the shots. The question has to be asked: 'Does the prime minister want to deploy 9,800 troops?"

He admitted making mistakes when trying to persuade the prime minister to boost troop numbers in Helmand province and said he was "very disappointed" PM Gordon Brown refused to increase the level to 9,800.

Downing Street has denied refusing a request from the military for 1,800 extra personnel.

The debate about troop numbers led to claims that Labour figures were seeking to smear senior Army officers.

The Labour peer, Lord Foulkes, asked parliamentary questions in August about Gen Dannatt's expense claims and a number of Freedom of Information requests were made about entertaining costs at his official London residence.

Lord Foulkes said while Gen Dannatt had been free to talk about troop numbers in private it was "completely unprecedented to make political statements whilst you are a serving officer".

He questioned how far the general's links with the Conservatives went back.

Also on Wednesday, Gen Dannatt took up the largely ceremonial post of constable of the Tower of London.

He received the gold master-keys of the Tower from the Lord Chamberlain, symbolising his responsibility for the royal palace.



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