I was in London on business last week and on Wednesday evening, and after a long day of meetings I arrived to late to eat at my hotel so I decided to have a meal in a small Indian Restaurant not far from the House of Commons. 

As is common in many such establishments the tables are close together. When I had settled down and ordered my meal I looked around and noticed that the grey-haired man sitting across from me at the next table, looked familiar but I couldn’t quite place him.

Then it clicked. It was Des Browne, Member of Parliament for Kilmarnock and Loudoun. A man with two cabinet jobs: Secretary of State for Defence and Secretary of State for Scotland.

It is comforting to think that at a time when we are being told that the threat of terrorism is so great that we have to lock suspects up for 42 days without charge, that the government minister responsible for the defence of the realm can enjoy a late night curry, and a few beers, with a some colleagues.

I suppose one or two of the men with him may have been armed police but it wouldn’t have taken much for a terrorist to spray bullets or hurl a bomb through the window and at a stroke remove “two jobs” Browne.

Actually now I think of it I was only sitting three feet away from him so I’d have been in the firing line too.

Anyway, this chance encounter was just a few hours after the Labour government had managed to get its controversial 42 day detention bill through the House of Commons, a feat it managed only with the votes of the Ulster Unionists

I didn’t think it was the time or place to make comment on the long history of the Ulster “tail” wagging the Westminster “dog”. Such as their killing off the 1914 Irish Home Rule Bill (which had been passed in the UK Parliament) as the price of keeping the Belfast shipyards open. This feat they could have managed for at that time – and for a long time after – you had to be Protestant to work there. Had they carried out their threat then the outcome of World War 1 would have been altered.

However, as he prepared to leave I couldn’t help but comment that perhaps he should be thinking of looking for a new job. ”

Every Government that has relied on the Ulster Unionists to get their bills through Parliament has lost the next election”, I said, “Look at John Major. Look at Jim Callaghan”.

“Better brush up the old CV”, he said.

Nice one Des. Have you done it yet?

That is how I finished this post originally. Since then Des Brown was dismissed from the cabinet on 3rd October 2008 and on 29th November 2009 announced his resignation from parliament.

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2 Responses to “The Night I Told a Cabinet Minister to Look for a New Job”

  1. James Green says:

    On 3rd October Des Browne lost his position as both Secretary of State for Scotland and Secretary of State for Defence. I hope he has brushed up his CV as he is likley to lose his parliamentary seat next year.

  2. David Irwin says:

    Nice one! It does seem odd that a senior minister who claims that we all have to be paranoid about Islamic terrorists who are going to blow us all up and who must be locked up without charge or trial (?) can sit in an unprotected curry shop (can he tell whether they are Hindu or Muslim) and enjoy a pint and a bit of badinage with a member of the public.

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