Former Conservative Defence Secretaries have lined up to criticise the Ministry of Defence’s decision to allow the released British sailors to sell their stories to the press. Sir Malcolm Rifkind has called the decision vulgar and Lord Heseltine was seething on Radio 4 this morning. Michael Heseltine called for an immediate inquiry into the affair. It is vital, he said, that we establish if Secretary of State Des Browne personally authorised this decision and that we establish what advice was given to him by the Chief of the Defence Staff. Lord Heseltine said that all rules, regulations, discipline and traditions had been thrown aside in ways that were quintessentially New Labour.
There are reports this morning that the Head of the Army is furious with the freedom that has been given to Navy personnel and has ordered that his own soldiers will respect the no-speaking-to-the-press rules.
In another sign of the confusion that has been caused by the whole Iran episode we learn that the Rt Rev Tom Burns, the Roman Catholic Bishop to the Forces, has praised Iran for the "forgiveness" and "act of mercy" that was involved in freeing the 15 British sailors (Telegraph):
"Faith in a forgiving God has been exemplified in action by their good deeds. They are offering to release the sailors and marines, not just as the result of diplomacy, but also as an act of mercy in accordance with their religion."
"This is a regime that illegally captured our servicemen and held them in quite dreadful conditions for some time. The true moral worth of a leader is in his or her deeds, not words. I think that those who talk in religious terms while practising abduction should be judged on what they have done, not what they have said."