Scottish Referendum

Admiral Lord West of Spithead, former first sea lord, The UK is, “sailing into danger”

1. Lord West, Once the UK’s Top Sailor – Switched to politics and joined Gordon Browns government- Not long after he became a life peer and took his seat in the House of Lords. Prone to shooting himself in the foot his political career was short lived. He is a Labour Party member and his support of Better Together is not unexpected although his criticism of proposals for the defence forces of an independent Scotland should be balanced against his comments about the UK’s present set-up. A man of many coats is our Alan.

2. .In 2006 Gordon Brown chose a “government of all the talents”, he selected a new anti-terror chief with a heroic military background, a formidable intellect and a knowledge of the vagaries of Westminster. But within months the Prime Minister found, to his embarrassment, that Admiral Lord West of Spithead also had a talent for courting controversy.

3. In 2007 He said in a radio interview he was not, “totally convinced” of the need to hold terror suspects for 42 days. At the time Labour was pushing for police to be given powers to detain such suspects for six weeks. But two hours later, after meeting then prime minister Gordon Brown, Lord West reversed his opinion saying he was “convinced” of the requirement for such a power. He explained the switch (under 2 hours) by saying, “Being a simple sailor, not a politician, maybe I didn’t choose my words well.”

4. He was forced to deny extraordinary claims that he was having an affair with “the brunette one” from 1970s group Abba, after it emerged they had been friends for the past year or so. Amid gathering rumors, high level sources sought to divert attention by revealing that Lord West had admitted, “some years ago” to an infidelity during a routine vetting procedure – but emphatically not with the Abba star.

5. Labour was forced to apologize after former security minister Lord West branded Denmark and Belgium second-rate countries. He said the UK was still a first-rate military power, “not like bloody Denmark or Belgium”. His comments came as Labour delivered the findings of a 10-month review into defence procurement, aimed at getting better value for money from buying equipment for the UK’s armed forces.

6. Speaking in a question and answer session with 100 journalists and guests from the defence industry at Labour headquarters in central London, He said: “This business of a second-tier power – we are probably, depending on what figures you use, the fifth or sixth wealthiest nation in the world. “We have the largest percentage of our GDP on exports, apart from the tiny countries around the world, we run world shipping from the UK, we are the largest European navy. “We are a permanent member of the (United Nations) Security Council and I think that gives us certain clout and certain ability. “These mean we are not a second-tier power. We are not bloody Denmark or Belgium, and if we try to become that, I think we would be worse-off as a result. “I get slightly annoyed at this sort of statement.”

7. Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy and shadow minister Michael Dugher sat next to the peer, as he unleashed his rant. Mr Murphy looked embarrassed before saying: “Thanks Alan, and obviously for any friends from Belgium or Denmark, apologies. Or should I say former friends from Belgium or Denmark?”

8. Defence Secretary Liam Fox hailed the nations’ contribution both to the Afghan war and the conflict in Libya. He said, “I’m appalled to hear Labour’s Lord West insulting Denmark and Belgium, both of whom have been operating alongside British forces in Libya. “Forty-two Danes have lost their lives fighting alongside us in Helmand. “Lord West’s remarks are both stupid and insensitive.”

9. “Defence cuts imperil our proud nation”, warned Lord West. “Have we really decided that this great maritime nation of ours only needs 13 frigates”. “Has there been any realistic assumption of the requirement of the number of frigates – and I’m talking frigates not destroyers and other things – or is the number 13 purely based on an arbitrary cost figure? “In the final analysis, the defence of the nation is the top priority for any nation of whatever hue and I do believe we are standing into danger.”

10. Admiral Lord West of Spithead, a former first sea lord, said the country is “sailing into danger” because the Government is not planning to build enough ships. The Labour peer and former security minister under Gordon Brown said Britain’s proud naval tradition was at risk from bureaucratic and political neglect.

11. Friends say that Lord West is a bon viveur, fond of good wine, good food and good chat. Must have had a few at the time he lost top secret documents and was court marshaled earlier in his career.

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