Fears of deep cuts to the Army have sparked a bitter war of words between Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and the top Tory MP overseeing his work at Westminster.
Mr Wallace used a private text message to tear into defence committee chairman Tobias Ellwood for criticising tomorrow’s Armed Forces shake-up before it is made public.
He wrote: ‘Don’t lecture me on courtesy when you have not had the courtesy to wait for the review to be published before you condemned it!’
Ben Wallace (pictured centre) used a private text message to tear into defence committee chairman Tobias Ellwood
In a ‘Hi Ben’ message, Mr Ellwood (pictured) referred to the ‘excellent’ background briefings given to journalists on last week’s Integrated Review on foreign and defence policy
Just days earlier, Mr Wallace appeared to accuse Mr Ellwood of a ‘Ladybird book’ approach.
The rows are the latest sign of Tory tensions over tomorrow’s defence ‘command paper’ on the future of the Armed Forces amid fears it could slash troop numbers by 10,000. Tanks and other weapons are also said to be in the firing line.
But a new 1,000-strong ‘Rangers’ regiment – modelled on the US Army’s ‘Green Berets’ and to undertake Special Forces-style missions – was announced yesterday.
However, the overall service changes have led to deteriorating relations between Mr Wallace and Mr Ellwood.
In the Commons last week, former Scots Guard Mr Wallace openly humiliated Mr Ellwood, himself a former Army officer, after he warned MPs that infantry cuts would ‘worry our closest allies’.
The Defence Secretary replied: ‘Playing by the Ladybird book of defence design is not the way to progress.’
And their feud continued according to an exchange of messages on the defence committee’s private WhatsApp group.
In a ‘Hi Ben’ message, Mr Ellwood referred to the ‘excellent’ background briefings given to journalists on last week’s Integrated Review on foreign and defence policy.
He continued: ‘Def Ctte (sic) would be honoured to receive same level of courtesy given our formal oversight role.’
Mr Wallace replied that he had already arranged ‘a full day for your committee’, but added: ‘If you’re not interested (and as you seemed to make your mind up long ago on the review), I am happy to cancel it. Your call.’
He then rebuked Mr Ellwood for lecturing him about courtesy.
Last week’s wider foreign and defence review fuelled reports that the Army will fall from 80,000 to 70,000 soldiers as resources are focused on electronic and cyber warfare as well as more nuclear warheads.
Mr Ellwood warned MPs last week: ‘Russia is rearming, Daesh is regrouping and China is nudging us out of military and trade partnerships across Africa, yet we are about to witness a shocking reduction in our conventional hard power and full-spectrum capabilities… Yes, we must adapt to new threats, but that does not mean that the old threats have disappeared.’
Both Mr Ellwood and Mr Wallace declined to comment.