The thing with most politicians in this country is they set the bar low and often spectacularly fail to live up to those expectations.
Gordon Brown is one of those, in a despicable display of ‘playing politics’ with the defence of the realm and the people charged with that task, he has shown that he is is not fit to be trusted with the nations defence, putting the politics of saving his worthless skin before the security of the nation.
They say that everything is connected so sitting back and watching the events of the day unfold didn’t do my blood pressure any good at all but I decided not to blog until later in the day.
As is the norm with these things the mainstream media lead
An overdue boost for our forces reported the Telegraph early on Sunday. Instead of the planned £3.5b for operations in Afghanistan, £5b will now be allocated. Well, its not like we are at war or anything and this is money that should have been spent years ago, Treasury imposed limits on manpower and equipment have meant everything from shortages in helicopters to night vision equipment for training to dodgy ammunition. Let’s not forget, lives and limbs HAVE been lost as a result.
Brown goes into battle with billions for defence reports the Times today. Great one might think, new money for defence; stand fast at the back. The forthcoming Green Paper that is intended to inform the Future Strategic Defence Review is expected to maintain the commitment to CVF, JCA, Typhoon and numbers in the Army at 100,000 personnel. This is of course not extra money for new equipment but simply confirming the flagship projects, those with a large political profile will not be cut.
The Think Defence position on CVF is well documented but any decision should flow from the pages of the Strategic Defence Review so hamstringing discussion on the largest items of expenditure by preempting the result is simply ridiculous. Maintaining these in the face of a likely shrinking defence budget (make no mistake, it will shrink) is going to require our two old friends to get on parade, Admiral Efficiency Savings and General Tough Decisions. This means that he intends to maintain the tip of the spear but let everything wither, meaning in the real world that the tip of the spear becomes brittle and useless.
In terms of pure politics it is actually a masterstroke, especially as it indulges in his favourite hobby of announcing things that have already been announced.
1. The Conservative party have not ring fenced the Defence budget, perversely they have ring fenced overseas aid, instantly they become vulnerable, look at we are doing for our brave boys, how about you Dave?
2. Gordon Brown knows after the Gurkhas, helicopters, MoD legal action against injured veterans and rat infested married quarters he is vulnerable on defence. He supposes this will go some way to winning back trust and demonstrating commitment to defence of the realm, after years of underfunding some people won’t be that gullible but most will be.
3. It will keep the defence manufacturing unions happy, all those jobs
Now all this is bad enough, politicians being politicians, but later in the day it all became clear.
Giving evidence to the Chilcott Inquiry was Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup. During the session he stated;
We made it absolutely clear to ministers that if we were not allowed to engage with industry … there was a serious risk that [equipment] would not all be delivered by the assumed start of operations.
The other area where we could have done better is in terms of enhanced combat body armour. We didn’t have enough of that in theatre at the time. And I think, in part for both clothing and body armour, the issue was it was all done so rapidly at the last minute. No one was quite sure who had what. For example, just before the start of operations, the clear message that we were receiving in the Ministry of Defence was that all unit demands for enhanced combat body armour had been met. But quite clearly not everybody who needed it in theatre got it.
So the government stopped the military gearing up for the conflict because of domestic politics. To come from a serving Chief of the General Staff is explosive in itself but especially unbelievable coming from Sir Jock Stirrup who has in many peoples eyes been far too closely associated with the Labour Party.
General Lord Walker, the CDS at the time of the Iraq War also gave evidence. Describing the tense funding crisis at the time he said;
There was indeed a list of stuff that we were having to make decisions about and I think we drew a line somewhere halfway down the page and said, ‘If you go any further than that you will probably have to look for a new set of chiefs’. It makes it sound as though we were happy with what was above the line. We weren’t happy with any of it.”
One can only wonder if the very fact that Number 10 knew what was going to be reported from the Chilcott Inquiry had anything to do with the announcements on spending?
Of course it did.
Nothing like a worthless announcement of defence spending when you know you are going to be hammered on err, defence spending, is there.
Putting our forces first, as my kids mights say