August 8, 2006
William Rees-Mogg, in The Times, writes,
I made inquiries in Washington and was told that Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, had taken exception to Mr Straw’s statement that it would be “nuts” to bomb Iran. The United States, it was said, had put pressure on Tony Blair to change his Foreign Secretary. Mr Straw had been fired at the request of the Bush Administration, particularly at the Pentagon.
Rees-Mogg also adds some stuff from the Mail on Sunday, which claimed ‘senior sources close to the U.S. government’ had told it that Straw was removed from the Foreign Office after Condoleezza Rice’s visit to his Blackburn constituency with its 20 per cent muslim population. It is unclear if this is new information by the Mail or a recycling of Irwin Stelzer’s well-informed gossip which carried the same message. Irwin Stelzer is Rupert Murdoch’s voice on earth, and in a diary piece in today’s Sun, The Whip writes,
Pals of Jack (Man of) Straw are pushing their luck by bleating that he was sacked from the foreign office on the orders of President Bush AND that he was going to quit anyway in protest at the PM’s tough line. Funny, say Tony Blair’s chums. When the Cabinet last discussed the Middle East war there wasn’t a peep from boy Jack.
Rees-Mogg asserts that this was the first time that a foreign power had removed a British Foreign Secretary since Chamberlain and the Italian Ambassador, Count Grandi, conspired to force the resignation of Anthony Eden in 1938.
This was a period in history when a British Prime Minister was convinced that his personal powers of persuasion could moderate the actions of a country gripped by a hypertrophied sense of nationalism. Then, a British Prime Minister believed that ultra-nationalist leaders, if treated sympathetically and public criticism of them was avoided, would come to see reason; that they were men he could do business with. This policy was called appeasement.