Brown ‘lured by goats’ glitter’

By Alex Stevenson

The thought of adding “glitter” to Whitehall prompted Gordon Brown to press ahead with his ‘government of all the talents’ policy, security minister Alan West has said.

Lord West of Spithead, a former First Sea Lord, joined the government in 2007 as one of the new prime minister’s unelected ministers. Most ‘goats’ have now left the government but, as one of the few survivors, Lord West appeared to answer questions on the issue by the Commons’ public administration select committee this morning.

Chairman Tony Wright had asked whether one reason prime ministers might invite non-MPs to join the government was to add “a bit of glitter to the administration”.

Ara Darzi, the former health minister who led a major Next Steps review of the NHS, said:”I don’t think that was in any way the motive”. Transport secretary Andrew Adonis claimed he “added no glitter”, but added: “Apart from my name, which is very glittery.”

Lord West disagreed. “That did cross my mind,” he admitted. “It does involve glitter, it would be stupid not to think that was the case. I made certain the prime minister did feel the security and safety of the nation was his primary concern.”

The issue of unelected ministers was especially prominent during the recent Conservative party conference, when former Army chief General Sir Richard Dannatt was announced as a potential minister in a future Tory government.

Lord West hit out against Gen Dannatt’s decision to accept Tory overtures, warning he was making a “terrible error”.

He explained he waited 14 months after leaving the armed forces before taking on his role in government and admitted even then he felt this was “quite close”.

On Gen Dannatt, he added: “I think it was an error and a mistake and I think he will regret it.”

Lord West said a sense of “loyalty” to “Gordon” meant he would be reluctant to serve in a Conservative government, but – unlike Lord Adonis – he did not immediately dismiss the idea.