Doubt hangs over future of defence secretary Des Browne as media frenzy goes into overdrive

Defence secretary Des Browne was facing an uncertain future last week after admitting he made a mistake in allowing the Royal Navy personnel captured in Iran to sell their stories to the media.

The publication of two survivors’ accounts prompted a barrage of abuse from within the Armed Forces.

Browne accepted that responsibility for the hugely controversial Navy move lay with him – and that he should have stopped it.

Rank-and-file officers swamped internet message boards last week to vent their fury at the decision to allow leading seaman Faye Turney and operator maintainer Arthur Batchelor to profit from their capture.

Turney sold her story to the Sun and also appeared on Tonight with Trevor McDonald, while Batchelor’s tale appeared in the Daily Mirror.

Browne subsequently decided on Monday 9 April to ban serving members of the Armed Forces from selling their stories.

Speaking about the Navy’s original decision to allow the sale, Browne said: “A note indicating the decision and the analysis of the regulations that supported that decision came in to my office on Thursday. I then made the announcement I made on Monday, so clearly, with hindsight, I could have made a different decision.”

Army news website British Army Rumour Service was bombarded with vitriol aimed at Turney and Batchelor from its members, mainly serving and former military personnel.

“I feel so ashamed by the actions of these moronic individuals,” wrote one contributor. “Hopefully now these subterranean parasites will go and leech elsewhere,” said another.

Turney was alluded to as a “fat, semi-literate chav”, while Batchelor was scorned for saying he was mentally tortured by being called Mr Bean.

The sailors also drew criticism from their forces colleagues for appearing on TV co-operating with their captors.

However, writing in the Guardian on Friday 13 April, commentator Polly Toynbee berated the national press for its double standards as many of the newspapers and other media outlets being critical of Browne and the Navy personnel involved actually offered cash for the stories themselves.

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