On Strategy – East of East of Suez, The UK military presence in the Asia Pacific Region

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A Guest Post from Sir Humphrey, author of ‘The Thin Pinstriped Line‘ defence blog

East of East of Suez – the UK commitment to the Asia / Pacific Rim.

The Far East is an area which has long held a fascination for many in the UK – both as a tourist destination, a source of economic prosperity, an emerging powerhouse of influence and dynamism, and a location where over many years the MOD has been engaged in one form or another. The region conjures up images of UK forces fighting in the jungles and seas of the Pacific, of the fall of Singapore, of great national humiliation, and immense pride, in wars such as Korea in the 1950s. Even today the UK contribution in Malaysia and the ‘Confrontation’ Campaign are seen as good examples of how to successfully handle low level insurgencies or military clashes.

The phrase ‘East of Suez’ seems to sum up a generational policy shift in the 1960s, when the UK began the process of recalling the legions, and withdrawing the tens of thousands of troops from the Asia Pacific region, and the drawing down of the great naval fortress of Singapore. In the public eye, the UK ceased to be a military power in the region in the 1970s, and to many our final withdrawal was completed in 1997 with the handover of Hong Kong. Yet, against all odds, and despite the expectations of many, the UK retains a small military presence in the region, and continues to enjoy strong relations with many of the nations present in this fascinating and immensely complex part of the world.

The purpose of this short series of articles is to review the UKs military commitments to the region, to gain an understanding of where UK defence interests lie, and review what it is that the UK is being expected to deliver, and my own personal view as to why it benefits the taxpayer to retain an influence in this region. It will be structured over three parts, and should be seen in the context of the wider TD series of Strategy Posts. It does not represent any official viewpoint, and should not be read or construed as being anything other than a personal interpretation of the current UK level of military commitment to the Asia Pacific region.

UK Commitments

For the purposes of this article, the Asia pacific region is deemed to be those nations east of the Indian Ocean, from Singapore through to the pacific coastlines of the Americas. It does not look at the roles played by UK forces in the Indian Ocean itself. Since 1997, the two main physical locations for UK forces in the region have been Brunei and Singapore.

Brunei: The role of the garrison in Brunei has been, at the request of his Majesty the Sultan of Brunei, to provide security for the country as a whole. The UK has had a military presence in Brunei since 1962, when troops landed to provide additional security. Today the garrison comprises some 900 personnel, predominantly drawn from the Ghurkhas’, for whom one battalion of light infantry is usually based in the Kingdom. Additionally, a small flight of helicopters and the UKs primary jungle warfare school (the other being in Belize, which has been downsized in the last year), as well as assorted other staff.

The Sultan meets the costs of the provision of the battalion, and also much of the infrastructure costs associated with their presence. The garrison arrangement is renewed on a five yearly basis between Brunei and the UK. At present the UK presence is scheduled to continue until at least 2015. An excellent summary of the UK defence commitment can be found at the FCO website, click here

Singapore: The UK presence in Singapore is not known to many in the MOD, let alone outside it. Until 1971 Singapore was home to a not inconsiderable number of UK warships and support vessels, using the dockyard facilities and support networks to provide the Far East Fleet. This organisation continued in a much reduced tri-national (Australia, New Zealand, UK) format until 1976, when the UK then withdrew its final contingents as economic problems forced a final withdrawal from the region.

Despite this, the UK retains to this day the ownership of a large fuel depot, and berthing wharves in Sembewang dockyard. Having been to the site a few years ago, the author can personally attest to its size, which provides berthing access for up to three escorts at a time, plus access to fuel and spare parts. Reportedly the fuel depot is the second largest in the Asia-Pacific region, and provides useful access for UK and allied warships to fuel. The FCO website has a good description of current UK military assets in Singapore, click here

These two facilities constitute the only permanent UK military presence in the region in terms of formed units or military installations. There is a wider set of individual exchange posts, particularly in Australia and New Zealand, where a plethora of UK personnel work as integrated members of these nations militaries.

Defence Attaches: One of the most significant UK military contributions in the region in terms of influence is the Defence Attaché network. Although many people are often sceptical of the value of defence attaches (a recent Daily Mail article referred to them as the so-called ‘Ferrero Roche’ network’), there is a strong argument to be made for the retention of these posts.

Attaches provide the UK with the opportunity to put military personnel into the region, to meet with and understand the military issues facing a country, and to get a better feel for strategic developments in a region. Many countries genuinely appreciate a UK Defence Attaché presence – it is seen as a sign that the UK takes their nation seriously from a military perspective, and this presence can often be invaluable in opening doors in an emergency.

In a region like the Far East, the Defence Attaché network represents one of the best means of the MOD to engage with local military forces and continue a relationship, particularly in nations which may rarely see a UK visit. As of November 2010, there were DA’s located in Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, and Singapore. (Source). Additionally, since 1998, posts have closed in the Philippines and Thailand.

Some of these posts are of particular interest, and worthy of note. The two posts in Korea and Japan owe much to the Korean War for their continued existence. As one of the main participants in the war, the UK continues to have a place on the UN Military Armistice Commission, and the position of a 1* helps ensure the UK is engaged in this particular diplomatic issue. Additionally, the presence of military personnel in Japan, where the DA holds the position of UK Liaison Officer to the United Nations Command (Rear) helps ensure that the UK can invoke access to Japanese ports and airfields at short notice under UN resolutions dating back to the war – and as seen during the North Korean nuclear tests some years ago, where the UK sent a radiation sampling VC10 to the region, this is a useful access right to be able to invoke (and also a means of demonstrating continued interest and influence in the region). For further information on the role both sections play, see these links – http://ukinjapan.fco.gov.uk/en/about-us/our-embassy/how-we-can-help/defence-section and http://ukinrok.fco.gov.uk/en/about-us/working-with-korea/defence-relations/

For the relatively small outlay of two defence sections, the UK is able to remain not only engaged in, and kept abreast of developments in the Korean peninsula, but also is able to safeguard access into the region. This helps the UK play a small, but influential role, and when coupled with the wider diplomatic presence in both Seoul and Pyongyang, means that the UK can help punch above its weight when it comes to influencing both these nations, and others involved in the delicate diplomatic situation in the region. While this may only be a small example, it does show that often a deft touch with the presence of a military attaché can have significantly wider ramifications for the UK as a whole.

Wider Exercises / Deployments: Although the UK has not had a major permanent military presence in the region for some time, until late in the last decade, regular task group deployments to the region ensured that there was a routine RN presence at least once per year, often in substantial numbers. The Ocean Wave 97 and Taurus 09 deployments are both good examples of the UK deploying substantial forces into the region, using enablers such as amphibious assault capabilities, and also wider surface ship capabilities, to visit a range of nations, conduct exercises under the auspices of regional alliances (such as the Five Power Defence Arrangement), and generally show the UK flag in an area which rarely sees a substantial UK military presence.

The combination of a smaller RN and a busyoperational tasking schedule means that deployments such as these have been less frequent for some time. Although there has been a limited RN surface presence – such as HMS RICHMOND in 2011, the reality is that for the time being, there is likely to be only a limited engagement in the area. The RN is very busy at present, and with a smaller escort fleet and reduced amphibious capability, all of which are in demand for real world operations, it is likely that future deployments to the region will see physically fewer, but materially vastly more capable, vessels operating there. Sadly the days of 10 – 15 vessel deployments such as OCEAN WAVE 97 are likely to have gone forever.

The RAF is also unlikely to see significant non-operational deployments into the region for the time being. The RAF operational fleet remains committed for operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and for as long as support to operations in Afghanistan remains the Defence Main Effort, then this is the priority for resources. That said, it is likely that exercises or small deployments, for instance to showcase Typhoon, will continue. As ever, it is important to remember that numbers of aircraft does not directly equate to capability, as both Typhoon and Tornado are immensely capable aircraft.

The Army is the service least likely to deploy in any substantial numbers to the region, although this is in keeping with the wider reality that since the 1960s and the end of Confrontation, the Far East region was far more an RN / RAF operational environment than an Army one. At the same time, the Army has the largest laydown of personnel of any UK service in the region, through the Brunei garrison.

Therefore, at any one time the UK military presence in the Asia Pacific region is just under 1000 permanently based military personnel, including Singapore, Brunei and the Defence Attache network. There are reasonably regular visits by RAF aircraft, and RN vessels, and although vastly smaller than the 1960s, there still remains a relatively substantial UK military presence to the East of East of Suez.

Having considered what the current UK military capabilities and commitments are in the region, the next instalment of this article will consider what possible challenges and threats exist in the region. This will also focus on the role of the FPDA, and wider UK engagement.

208 Comments
  1. martin says

    very interesting Read Sir H, I live about two miles from Sebawang and had no idea the MOD maintained a facility there. Its just a pitty we are unable to permanently base any vessels there. I wonder if we might consider renting it out the US Navy for their new LCS deployment in Singapore. It seems the ideal size for a fleet of 4 LCS.

  2. ArmChairCivvy says

    A good one, as always!

    The oddity in Brunei is the Bell 212s listed as UK assets; maybe they are the same ones as flown by the Brunei Air Force, and will then soon disappear (wiki tells us):”10 Bell 212 and the 4 Sikorsky S-70. The Bell 212s are to be replaced 2013-2015 by 12 Sikorsky S-70i”
    – as a minimum, the shared logistics will disappear; or maybe the type is widely used by the oil sector and the technical support contracted out
    – not a point of significance; just wondering why things are done differently for one garrison (Observer made good points recently about the minimum clearance needed for Puma/ Chinook types to land)

  3. Observer says

    No joke on the facility martin, I even mentioned to Anixtu that those guys have the F-22 beat in terms of stealth.

    LCS basing… er…. big problem, that one. Singapore must be seen to be netural, though it’s more or less an open secret it’s “neutrally” leaning towards the US. If there is marked bias, then it becomes a very important question on if the country is reliable enough to leave ~50% of all your trade in their control? If they decided to play games, it’s almost instant economic recession with “closure to X shipping”.

    IMO, deploying (cough.. not basing… as both parties keep reminding us…) the LCS there on a permanant rotational basis was seriously stretching it, and honestly, I think it’s a stupid idea. It stretches diplomatic credibility for both sides and people are not too fooled by the “deploying there, not basing there” argument, and all for 4 ships that are of limited combat capability and are probably just there as a symbolic gesture. Why can’t they “diplomatic gesture” in the Philipines? It’s seen that they need American support, and that they are already staring eye to eye with China, so it is expected for them to lean far towards the US, being former US territory and all.

    As for the US using Sembawang, not likely. The new facilities at Changi are more catered for them, complete with fuel and ammo storage. Which, now that I think of it, may be why LCS got deployed here in the 1st place. Storage of their damn “modular mission” system.

  4. Challenger says

    A good post, very informative.

    Most of the information fits well with what I would like to see in the future.

    A battalion for a land contingent is fine by me, it’s enough to act as a regional reserve and as a starting point for a quick increase should the need ever present itself.

    As for the rest, Id really like to see a small Royal Navy squadron based at Diego Garcia, using Singapore for regular forward presence visits. The same goes for the RAF, a handful of aircraft in the Indian Ocean that can conduct stopovers further east when desired.

    These commitments wouldn’t cost the earth if we decided we really wanted them. Furthermore I think a low level of activity would be very useful over the next few decades, it would be enough to show that we remain in support of our Five Powers allies and can contribute to the bulwark against Chinese expansion.

  5. Brian Black says

    Under Five Powers and other agreements, the British fuel depot in Sembewang apparently supplies all British, Malaysian, American, Australian and New Zealand navy ships using the dock.

    We don’t do to badly as to a Royal Navy presence in the far east, though not all that extensive. HMS Echo, for example, has seen several long stints out east, including last year. If we did want to permanently base a ship in Sembewang, a survey ship like Echo or a transport/logistics ship -providing humanitarian cover and regional mobility for the Brunei garrison- might be the best choices. Wouldn’t achieve a great deal putting a single frigate out there.

  6. Challenger says

    @Brian Black

    Yeah I get what you mean in terms of ships being permanently based out there. I don’t think it would really matter what kind of presence you had, as long as it was British Armed Forces and ‘flew the flag’ I think it would prove it’s worth.

    A carrier group (if we actually get one) could occasionally head that way to hook up with East of Suez assets. It would be a clear reminder to everyone in the region that we still have that kind of reach and power…just!

  7. Gareth Jones says

    @ Sir H – an excellent and informative arficle.Looking forward to the next post.

  8. IXION says

    Challenger

    Row upon Row of carrier junkies, has told me off on this forum, for suggesting we might send the elephant(s)East Of Suez in any kind of a shooting war.

    It is also worth saying that the costs of doing some ‘Cruise of the great white fleet’* would use up a years defence cash, so won’t happen anyway.

    I got accused of the great sin of setting up my own ‘straw man’ when I suggested it would be utterly stupid to do that. Got lots of quotes about how that was not what they are for, and no one has suggested they will ever be used like that etc etc. Of course

    So strike such heresy from your mind, QE and or POW will never set foot east of Suez.

    * If I recall correctly:- An operation by the US Navy circa 1907 to show the flag by cruising around the world: – So called because until then US Battle ships were painted white, soon after their return, and to show the US was entering the naval power game, they were painted a more warlike grey.

  9. badrobot says

    I’d like to pose the question of what tangible benefit, as opposed to notional, do we get from having DAs or even a ship stationed in the far east? Why are we maintaining jungle warfare shools in Brunei and Belize? Give me an example, where having a DA or a ship stationed out there in the past thirty years that has earnt us anything in the defence sphere. Happy to be corrected and put back in my box. The thinner we spread our forces the less credible we are in Afghan, the Falklands, for NATO commitments, counter-piracy and in terms of availability for the next crisis. No more pointless standing commitments like the Carribean patrol please…we can’t afford to do defence diplomacy anymore, leave it to the foreign office backed by a well resourced, well trained, credible expeditionary warfare capability.

  10. Challenger says

    @IXION

    I was suggesting a small group of half a dozen ships heading east of Suez every 5 or so years, I have heard of the great white fleet and it doesn’t really compare!

    What’s the point of 2 gigantic carriers if they can’t take the odd holiday further than the channel?

  11. IXION says

    Challenger

    ‘What’s the point of 2 gigantic carriers if they can’t take the odd holiday further than the channel?’

    No point whatsoever:- and thats my point:- they are ‘pointless’.

  12. Observer says

    @badrobot

    Very few places in the world for triple canopy jungle training. That place is hell, but in comparison, once you get used to it, anywhere else is easy. Just don’t throw thunderflashes into the water. It used to frighten the crocodiles away, but after a few decades, it’s now like the dinner bell to them.

    @IXION

    Well.. if you want a low cost way of showing the flag, the carrier probably isn’t it. We’d be more impressed with a 4 ship squadron (2 destroyers, 2 frigates). It shows… balance.

    On a more painful note, what good is a carrier with a chopped down air wing? And frankly, the F-35 delivery schedule is very impressive. In the wrong way. I got a bit paranoid about the F-35 after the dead silence post-“first flight”, and did some checking up. The MoD forced some cost reductions on LM and the cost cutting LM did was to worker pensions and benefits. The assembly line is now on strike.

    Painful lol. What a mess.

  13. All Politicians are the Same says

    There is little doubt that a Carrier and her associated assets will deploy East o Suez pretty sharply after her being declared operationally ready.
    Obviously ongoing ops may look different but in today’s climate she would probably do something along the lines of sail in to Med. Utilise Gib exercise areas. PASSEX with NATO standing forces in the Med.
    Transit Suez provide assets for a short period to anti Piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden.
    Transit Straits of Hormuz to demonstrate freedom of Navigation. Exercise with US and RN forces in Gulf. host a British trade fair/delegation in Dubai or Qatar.
    Leave Gulf conduct defence Diplomacy mission in india along with exercise with Indian naval Units.
    Back across Indian Ocean transit through anti Piracy areas enroute to visit in South Africa.
    Make an unnaounced appearance IVO the FIs and fly a few jets overhead.
    Then split the TG to conduct visits and tasking in either West Africa or the Caribbean enroute UK.
    6 or 7 months contributing to NATO, Anti piracy, sending a message to Iran and cooperating with Gulf States and 5th fleet. Working with the Indians and South Africans. Send a quick message to the Argies and contribute in Caribbean and West Africa.
    A useful deployment. The best use of a CV 25% of escort strengths an SSN and RFA? Discuss.

  14. Sir_Humphrey says

    Thanks for the comments – hopefully parts 2 & 3 will expand on some of the questions raised here, and in particular basing, which I highly doubt will occur.

    As to the tangible value of DAs. I am a huge fan of DAs – its not that you can point to a spreadsheet and go ‘they delivered X’. Its more that they provide access, influence, the ability to provide a discrete message, to be a conduit for communication. They can represent the UK interest, provide useful warning or advance notice, and a good read out of mood music. My judgement is that a good DA is the equivalent of a decent J2 cell in most locations – not because they gather intelligence, but because they give a good idea of what is going on, and more importantly why.

  15. Observer says

    Carrier hunting pirates? Ouch to be them. OTOH overkill? And you guys really are stuck on the Falklands ain’t you?

    The rest is probably very likely. Maybe RIMPAC as well? Having it perform well in an international exercise would go a ways to silence its detractors.

  16. Brian Black says

    If the carriers go out to the Far East, bringing a few container loads of oriental electronic goods and car parts back to Europe would help offset the costs.
    Plenty of spare room on them big ships.

  17. All Politicians are the Same says

    Observers, US CBGs regularly detach escorts to take part in anti piracy ops in the GOA when the group is outside the Gulf itself. A few days’ utilisng jets and AEW assets to build a clear picture and detach a couple of escorts for a convoy in the IRTC would be useful.
    Yes RIMPAC would be an option; though it would turn the deployment into a global!

  18. Simon says

    Observer,

    The Falklands represents almost 30% of the UK’s EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) – i.e. our mineral rights. What I find astounding is not the importance I/we attach to them now, but the lack of importance we attached to them 30+ years ago!

    As for the carrier task group going East of Suez – I think it’s highly likely and like APATS first outing ;-)

  19. Observer says

    @APATS

    That was meant to be tongue in cheek. Emotion doesn’t carry well online, my bad. But I’ll really love to watch the face of the first pirate to have an airstrike called on him. lol. Or have a huge carrier chase after him. Sorry, watched too many Road Runner shows when young. :P

    Simon. 30%? That’s a fair chunk, more if they dug up oil.

  20. Challenger says

    @IXION

    I have to disagree on the likelihood of a carrier deployment east of Suez, I think, like a few of the previous commentators that it will most probably happen at some point, although I have no idea what the context will be or whether it will become a semi regular tasking or simply an isolated show of force when they are shiny and new.

    I do agree however with the sad truth that the carrier project has been so regularly underfunded and appallingly mismanaged that any substantial deployment will look hollow to the point of national embarrassment.

    We will most likely see either QE or POW head east with barely any aircraft on the deck and an equally pitiful task group accompanying it.

    I’m a carrier advocate, but a 65,000 ton leviathan with 6-12 jets, maybe half a dozen helicopters and even fewer ships in tow is from my point of view not a justification for the billions spent.

  21. All Politicians are the Same says

    Challenger, CDG regularly deploys with 2 or 3 escorts. If you looked at my post ref a possible deployment based on a few different ones I have been on you would have seen that actually it is not all about a show of force.
    1 QE Class with 16 F35B, an AEW detachment and perhaps 3 Wildcats, 4 CHF helos or Chinooks and 3 Grey Merlin supported by an RFA 2 T23 or T26, 2 T45 and an Astute or T boat would be anything but a national embarrassment.

  22. Observer says

    APATS, it would not have been, if not for the shining example of the Thais with THEIR aircraft carrier, at least in Asia. India might be far enough that the connection isn’t automatic, but a carrier with ~1 squadron on board is just begging for comparison.

    Messages can be misread in the wrong light. :)

    India, carrier deployment, maybe. Asia? Best not. Escort squadron might be a better idea.

  23. All Politicians are the Same says

    Observer, What about the Thais 11k tonne Carrier? It does not even operate fighters off it anymore, it is a disaster relief LPH with a ski jump.

  24. Challenger says

    @APATS

    A carrier group that had 16 jets, plus more than a dozen helicopters and a decent escort of several RFA’S, around 4 high-end frigates and destroyers and a submarine would indeed be an impressive sight, it’s the kind of force mix and strength I would see as very desirable for a blue water navy to be in possession of.

    However, I honestly think it is going to take a very long time to reach that level of capability, if ever. What’s more is that it would be a pretty occasional event, stretching naval resources to breaking point in the process.

    What’s the point in this show of force if 1. anyone observing knows that the Royal Navy will need months of downtime, gasping for air after such an almighty effort and 2. that if a real all out carrier operation were called for they wouldn’t be able to find the auxiliaries, escorts, aircraft, pilots etc to do it.

    I want to be an optimist and believe that everything will work out in the end. But my honest opinion is that we will end up with 2 very large ships completed, but which will lack all the support structures and investment that make carriers the formidable and potent military tools they should be.

  25. All Politicians are the Same says

    Challenger, Where did I say several RFAs and why should we be gasping fo air after such a deployment? Also how do you justify your point 2 against the future force structure?

  26. Aussie Johnno says

    I hate to say this, but, the military resources of individual European nations have declined to the point where single nations (UK or otherwise) would have little prospect of influencing events in Asia. If Europe wanted to exert influence, the only practical option would be the equivalent of a NATO Standing Force.
    A say UK, German, Dutch force based on Deigo Garcia with rotating presence from other countries like Denmark, France and Norway, would sustain a useful force without straining (financially or numerically) the resources of any individual country.
    Of course it would require European co-operation and unity of purpose so it would seem to be in the pigs might fly category.

  27. Observer says

    True AJ.

    What I find more likely is a banding together of Asian nations to form a more convincing deterent against *cough* you know who. Especially all those with claims to the Spratleys. Unfortunately, military equipment and co-ordination wise, the region’s a mess with Soviet, Chinese and Euopean equipment in a mish-mash. Credible players would be Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Taiwan and Australia. Japan is 50/50, their constitution forbids external adventures. Russia? Who knows? Their inclusion will make things extremely “interesting”. AKA complicated…

    James might find some business here, someone who can come up with a common system to link all the equipment together in Link 16 quality is going to clean up.

  28. Chris.B. says

    “What I find more likely is a banding together of Asian nations to form a more convincing deterent against *cough* you know who”

    — This is precisely what the US wants and what the Chinese do not want. Unilaterally, the nations of the South China Sea cannot hope to negotiate reasonable deals with China over access to the resources. Multi-laterally, they have a significantly greater chance of negotiating a good, mutual deal.

    They do need to come up with some sort of union though, like an asian version of NATO that is focused on that area.

  29. Red Trousers says

    I believe that the Indian Ocean is of more interest to the UK, for 3 choke points (Suez, Hormuz and Malacca), and for influence into east Africa, and we retain Allies with port facilities all around the Indian Ocean. However, there’s nothing at all wrong with the lay down Sir H describes. I’ll wholeheartedly support his views on DAs – the old man was one in his final tour and I spent some time with him. It’s damned hard work, can be hugely influential, and takes a certain type of person to do it well.

    I do think the Andrew have a potentially greater role to play in both the Indian and Pacific Oceans, but not necessarily in the warship sense. A ship capable of cruising at 25 knots based at Diego Garcia can be anywhere in the Indian Ocean in 100 hours, and into the western Pacific as well (I’m sure Sir H’s future analysis of the hotspots will reveal them to be almost exclusively in the western Pacific). If the MoD initially stationed an RFA on Diego Garcia, there’s a useful asset that can:

    1. Support normal RN operations in the Gulf.
    2. Support (or lead) anti-piracy operations in Suez or Malacca.
    3. Act as a disaster relief ship for any country that needs it (tsunamis, cyclones, etc)
    4. Forward operating base for NEO operations, with the ability to take British nationals offshore.

    I say an RFA initially as I’m convinced that a ferry-type ship would be better suited long term, crewed by the RFA who fly in and out for 4 month stints to operate the ship. The ship would need helicopter handling / hosting facilities, but a ro-ro design is suitable for civilian ports, can store containers for disaster relief aid, and probably provide accommodation for 500-1000 people as well, whether they are embarked troops or rescued civilians. I’m sure the MoD would also use it in conjunction with the Brunei Garrison for some annual power projection / FPDA exercising on an annual basis.

    How much are reasonably decent ferries on the used market?

  30. Simon says

    I’d suggest QE, Daring, Astute and an RFA tanker are all that is needed as a show of force.

    I don’t quite see the difficulty in getting a dozen jets on board along with a commando battalion, half a dozen Chinooks and a dozen Merlin.

    You’re not going to war you’re just saying “we can put these chaps on your turf and you can’t do a thing about it”.

    Furthermore I don’t see it as stretching the RN, in fact, I’d suggest the deployment could (not that we would) be sustained indefinitely – well until the hulls rust through.

  31. x says

    I think the Pacific, beyond aid to Australia and New Zealand, is an ocean too far.

  32. Red Trousers says

    X,

    agreed. I noted Sir H’s definition (“…those nations east of the Indian Ocean, from Singapore through to the pacific coastlines of the Americas“), but it didn’t quite fit with the hobby horse I wanted to ride….;)

    Sorry, Sir H, but in seriousness I’d include the Indian Ocean in Asia. Using your definition it would be hard to argue in Whitehall that we’ve got a serious national interest, so would be unlikely to attract any funding. I appreciate that you are not making a case for that, at least in this article. Maybe your analysis of the hotspots will indeed throw up something we should be thinking about and possibly preparing for, in which case my idea about making better use of Diego Garcia could be a contributory resource – a sort of stepping stone and safe haven most of the way towards the trouble.

  33. Aussie Johnno says

    Simon; a carrier with only 12 jets is hardly a show of force, it is more a statement of helplessness. The Astute would provide the carrier group with an impressive degree of surface/sub-surface protection but with the carrier air group you suggest the QE/T45 couldn’t do much more than sit off shore and watch in most likely scenarios.

    Observer; the chance of Asian nations forming an alliance to counter balance China is remote. People are prepared to fall in behind the US but that is about as far as it goes. I will give you an example the Australian 2009 White paper postulated a much stronger RAN. Our Defence Minister recently visited China. Unfortunately for him some of the force studies backing a stronger Navy had also leaked. Not surprisingly the studies described supporting the US in various action against China. When China demanded he expain the threat we consider China to be…… To say that he crawled away on all fours is to be polite. Trade with China is just too important.
    People are pinning their hopes on the US sticking around….., and joining the fan club …., and getting a free ride.
    P.S. The 2009 White paper lasted around 9 months, in the two budgets since none of the additional funding on which the white paper was based has eventuated. Situation normal?

  34. x says

    @ RT

    I see the Indian Ocean “area” as a rough triangle that extends to cover the Antipodes and NZ, and even reaches around the Cape of Good Hope to include the FI. Deigo Garcia being just as a close as the UK to the those islands.

    (A lot depends on whether the southern shore of the Mediterranean stays friendly (and Turkey too.))

  35. Simon says

    Aussie Johnno,

    I know what you’re getting at but 12 jets would cover a battalion of marines with T45 covering the fleet. I doubt many nations could repel that kind of focused power?

    I think we all tend to underestimate how effective modern jets actually are. Especially when we look at the likes of Nimitz. Kuznetsov carries a single squadron for long range air defence and a stack of anti-ship/air missiles along with the ability to deploy a small force to land. I’d suggest this too is a little more effective than many think. It would seriously unsettle this country if it let rip off the shores of Scotland.

  36. jedibeeftrix says

    if we are to accept that unit-selection is driven by desired outputs on MoD scenario planning, and not purely the chequebook, then we can be pretty sure that we will be getting a larger fleet of F35b than would have been the case if we had stayed with “c”.

    i will put money on the fact that:
    1. an every day gin-palace cruise will have twelve jets.
    2. an ATG with a job to do (like Libya) will have twenty four jets.
    3. an event like the islands-that-must-remain-unnamed will have thirty six jets
    4. and likely the second carrier alongside as a spare airfield with twelve hot-spares and lots of empty deckspace

    we’ll buy at least 72 F35b, even if over a period of time.

  37. milner says

    The view from is the region is that a UK is presence nice to have, but don’t count on it. Its like the Queen monarch, mostly ceremonial.

    All the big operational exercises are US-focused; Cobra Gold, Talisman Sabre, RIMPAC etc. Very few UK hardware have been involved.

  38. Jim says

    Do we really want to send HMS Prince of Wales to the Far East, look what happened to the last one.

  39. Simon says

    jedibeeftrix,

    I’d bet (not much mind you) that we’ll never see more than 24 jets on QE.

    However, if we get Albion/Bulwark replaced by a couple of proper LHDs then I’ll up my bet to 30 (three squadrons of ten).

  40. Observer says

    lol Jim, good one.

    @AJ

    I remember that incident. The Australian media didn’t help. Should have handwaved it away as “possibility studies” “similar to what you guys do for the US.” etc. Oh well. As for military alliances, it all depends on how aggressive China behaves I guess. Aggressive enough to scare everyone together is the needed level of tension for this to happen.

    @Simon

    Most countries in Asia yawn at a Battalion. Seriously. Their manpower pool is so huge, and their labour costs so low, they can afford scary amounts of soldiers, not to mention their “militia”(not soldiers) tend to be fighting rebels year in, year out. Very experienced jungle fighters. Unless you go in as part of a huge force, I’d recommend “don’t”.

    As I mentioned before, and AJ concurs, unless you have 40+ jets on your carrier, don’t expect us to be impressed. All we’ll think of is “Another Thailand, wanted a carrier, can’t afford the aircraft.”.

  41. Simon says

    Observer,

    I’m not sure I’d be terribly interested in simply impressing. It’s a matter of what a dozen stealth jets can do to your barracks and air-defences whilst you’re asleep that matters. The battalion is there simply to wipe away the mess that’s left.

    Sorry that sounds a bit ratty but we’re not talking about 12 Harrier from 50nm – we’re talking about 24 x 1000lb Paveway (or cluster bombs if I could have my way) from outside most Asian’s countries early warning range for stealth jets.

  42. Observer says

    Simon, China has the J-20. The F-35 is simply a “sanitized” “cheap” version of the F-22 intended for export. It’s stealth characteristics have been degraded to “Acceptable Congressional limits”, not to mention it’s primarily configured for anti-air radar, it’s weaker against ground based radars which uses different frequencies. I’ve always considered the “stealth” part (LO actually) to be a lot of LM propaganda.

    I suspect you seriously underestimate the region. Ask AJ if he’s going to be worried about 24 Paveways from mythtical “invisible jets”. Which we are going to use too, results pending. In batches of 100-150. As opposed to…. 12.

    Wasn’t the point of “showing the flag” meant to impress? Or did you want to skip the preliminaries and go straight to the bombings?

    As for cluster munitions, you’d have to ask HMG why they signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions treaty. And guess who refused to sign it?

  43. Brian says

    Better to focus our efforts as currently deployed and leave the Far East/Pacific to the US… Our forces would be more effective relieving US + other partner nations forces in the Atlantic/Med/Indian Ocean, freeing up their forces to deploy there.
    As stated we just dont have the combat power to effectively deploy to the Far East/Pacific in anything more than a token gesture with all the committments the UK has abroad.

  44. Observer says

    True Brian.

    I always thought it was a mistake for the UK to disassociate with Asia so fully. Militarily and administration wise, there was no choice, sentiment of the time didn’t support it. But economically? There was a total shift to Europe, which chopped almost 1/4 of the world market away from British companies with some exceptions (e.g BP). Admittedly, it might have looked to make some sense then as Asia was fairly undeveloped as a market, but it failed to take into long ranged account that regions grow. Oh well. We can only wait and see.

  45. Chris.B. says

    @ Brian,

    “Better to focus our efforts as currently deployed and leave the Far East/Pacific to the US… Our forces would be more effective relieving US + other partner nations forces in the Atlantic/Med/Indian Ocean, freeing up their forces to deploy there”

    Precisely. I think this is the most value we can offer to that region, by allowing nations like the US to focus their efforts there. Our contribution to the region is likely to be marginal at best.

  46. Aussie Johnno says

    Observer, the Australian media never help, in a rather even and stable environment they tend beat up stories. They are currently making a dogs breakfast out of boat people.
    Getting back to what Europe might do east of Suez I stick to my original point ‘no european country individually has the resources to have much impact alone’. Defence spending is growing significantly across Asia. It is patchy but countries tend to fall into 2 categories, growing economies with growing Defence forces or countries which (for what ever reason) are missing out on growth but are not particularly target rich unless you are prepared to go for the civilian infrastructure.
    If Europeans want to extend there influence you really have to coordinate your assets somehow. Take AWD’s for interest, you have 6 modern T45’s (not enough). But the Dutch have 4 AWD’s, the Germans about 2 or 4(building I think), the French have 2 with more AWD Fremms coming, the Italians have 2, the Spanish have 4 or 5. That is suddenly a force of over 20 vessels.

  47. Aussie Johnno says

    Oh, I forgot Denmark’s 3 AA frigates based on the Absalom hull. Thats around 25, and second only to the US, and you can do similar calculations with other vessel types.

  48. Repulse says

    @AJ, re ‘no european country individually has the resources to have much impact alone’ – you are right of course, but the UK does have interests and historical ties to the region and could bring to bear sea / air military assets even at that distance that only a handful of countries in the region could even try to emulate.

    The area where we cannot have much impact (outside of total war and drafting civilians) is on the ground. Sure we could provide SFs, Training, weapons or even a limited short duration intervention from sea, but beyond that a token battalion or two is all we could realistically offer.

    Having significant naval / air bases at Gibraltar (and Cyprus for air base) and Diego Garcia, forward supply / lesser military bases in the Falklands, Ascension, Oman and Singapore and small detachments / training facilities in Belieze, Canada, Brunei and Kenya would give the UK a truely global reach. Hang on… Apart from bulking in up Diego Garcia and making more use of Singapore we have this already right…

    The UK should just start by confirming the relevance of the Five Power pact and it’s position as an equal to the other nations involved. We should then abandon our efforts to cosy up with the French and start to commit more resources for training etc.

  49. Repulse says

    Sorry, missed we should be making more of “Gibraltar” also…

    Europe will be a deadzone for the next 50 years; some minor strife maybe. As long as we do not ignore the primary duty of defending the UK, Europe will be decreasing in relevance and our future prosperity will be dependant on getting out their and engaging in the world as a whole (the military is only part of this of course!)

  50. Chris.B. says

    “Europe will be a deadzone for the next 50 years; some minor strife maybe. As long as we do not ignore the primary duty of defending the UK, Europe will be decreasing in relevance and our future prosperity will be dependant on getting out their and engaging in the world as a whole (the military is only part of this of course!)”

    — Just as the Eurozone is on the brink of collapse, the EU wants to create a European Superstate, and a lot of raw national feelings are being rubbed together around the continent?

    Europe may just get a far lot more “interesting” shall we say in the next decade.

  51. x says

    @ Chris B

    Further to that I expect a push against immigrants too. Here in places like Oldham, Leicester, Bradford, etc. And London is a powder keg. Whether the threat is imagined or not.

  52. Simon says

    Observer,

    “…China has the J-20. The F-35 is simply a “sanitized” “cheap” version of the F-22 intended for export. It’s stealth characteristics have been degraded to “Acceptable…”

    Remind me again why we’re buying these ;-)

    “…we are going to use too, results pending. In batches of 100-150…”

    Sorry who are “we”? I thought you were based in Singapore? Didn’t know anything about an F35 purchase there.

    As for impressing. 100 jets certainly is a fair few sorties per day, but a squadron on a carrier close in could generate 100 a day too (if you wanted to burn them in a little ;-)).

  53. Repulse says

    ChrisB: “Just as the Eurozone is on the brink of collapse, the EU wants to create a European Superstate, and a lot of raw national feelings are being rubbed together around the continent?”

    Maybe, but I can’t see country fighting country or anything even close to the early 20th century. Plus, our trade (interests) should be primarily with the broader world, not a dying closed club.

  54. ArmChairCivvy says

    Hi Johnno, RE “Oh, I forgot Denmark’s ”
    – Norway got theirs from Spain, just like you (gives you a few more)

  55. Observer says

    @Simon

    “Remind me again why we’re buying these?”

    Because LM has media hyped and strong armed American aircraft development to the point where it is the ONLY aircraft with a future development program, not to mention all the vested interests to create a “too big to fail” project. I dare you to deny that the F-35 is not a sanitized F-22, especially with all the claims stated to the American Congress no less, and published from multiple sources.

    “I thought you were based in Singapore? Didn’t know anything about an F35 purchase there.”

    Outstanding requirement on a light bomber to replace A-4s retired earlier. Tempororily using F-16s for the role, but they are light fighters/interceptors. Hardly the ideal platform for it. And read more. We’ve been a “Security Cooperative Participants (SCP)” for the project for a long time. (Translation: We and Israel tossed a few million in to keep a foot in the door just in case it does turn out good.) Most analysts estimate a minimum of 100 planes.

    “100 jets certainly is a fair few sorties per day, but a squadron on a carrier close in could generate 100 a day too”

    Bullshit. That is for a full combat load of 48 fighters. A squadron of 12 I’d estimate at 24 normal to 48 pushing the limit (16 x 4 = 64 best case) and this is assuming defences stripped out and planes operating as singletons (which is definately NOT SOP). The IAF, even when operating off static air bases and hot loading aircraft in the 6 Day War only managed 4x per plane per day, and this is off airfields, not complex carrier ops.

    I suspect a bit of rose coloured bias in your expectation of results regarding the QE-class. You want to show it off? Wait till it gets a full complement of 48 F-35s. Otherwise, you’re just begging for HTMS Chakri Nareubet comparisons.

  56. Simon says

    Observer,

    Sanitised F-22: Dare? No chance – I think you’re spot on ;-)

    100 F35: Oh! Good move.

    Sortie generation rate increases as sortie range and endurance decreases. If you move close in you can generate a whole lot more sorties than the declared 3-4 at 450nm radius. So parked 150nm away I’d suggest 12 jets would indeed just about manage to notch up 100 sorties a day, sustained for about 2-3 days and then dropping off to 50 a day for 2-3 days.

  57. Challenger says

    I love how little time it takes to get back to CVF!

    My overarching point was simply that I would love to see a carrier group heading east, even for just a one off ‘don’t mess with us’ deployment.

    However…their is only a point in carrier aviation if you have the whole package. That means two ships on a one on one off pattern, enough jets and helicopters to stick on the deck, enough pilots, munitions, spares and enough other ships to flesh out a reasonable task group.

    What’s the point in sending a carrier off if it fails in it’s primary objective of displaying Royal Navy power?

    This isn’t just about the level of capability you can reach for one task group either. It’s something that needs to be easily repeatable. I’m not saying we could or should have an American level of ability, but the whole point of a fully functioning carrier is that it can travel at short notice thousands of miles, fully loaded and park off a coast for months at a time.

    Having a carrier capability in a minimal ‘cut to the bone’ sense defeats to the objective.

    I really hope we do end up with a good level of commitment to the project, but well…I will believe it when I see it.

  58. Chris.B. says

    @ X,

    “Further to that I expect a push against immigrants too. Here in places like Oldham, Leicester, Bradford, etc. And London is a powder keg. Whether the threat is imagined or not”
    — Not a bad shout.

    @ Repulse,
    “Maybe, but I can’t see country fighting country or anything even close to the early 20th century. Plus, our trade (interests) should be primarily with the broader world, not a dying closed club.”
    — You’d be surprised just how many paralells exist between Greece now and Germany in the 1920’s-30’s. All they need is for a few more years of economic hardship followed by a far right party winning power and they’ll be well on their way to creating a mirror image. It’s actually a little quietly unsettling (though still unlikely at this stage) just how closely the conditions are matched.

    @ Simon,
    “Sortie generation rate increases as sortie range and endurance decreases. If you move close in you can generate a whole lot more sorties than the declared 3-4 at 450nm radius. So parked 150nm away I’d suggest 12 jets would indeed just about manage to notch up 100 sorties a day, sustained for about 2-3 days and then dropping off to 50 a day for 2-3 days.”
    — As much as I believe the F-35 will be more than adequate for our needs, that kind of sortie rate would shag the shit out of them in short order. You’re also being a tad optimistic with the 150nm away range. Remember “them Islands”. Having paid damn near £7 billion for the two carriers to become the centre of the future Royal Navy, it’s unlikely we’re going to be taking undue risks with them.

  59. Simon says

    Chris B,

    Yup, it’d run the things in a bit ;-)

    My point is that 12 x F35B can do quite a lot if needed. Some SHARs in 1982 did eight sorties a day!

    A full onslaught of an Asian nation would be park in the lee of the prevailing wind. Wait for a night with a wind in that direction so that we can steam towards the target area and create WOD at the same time. Launch alpha wave of 12 jets to take out air defenses within our target area. Second sortie wave would bomb the middle of a target airfield (we can still operate STOVL from the remaining ends). We’re now at about 200nm and can up the sortie rate to 12 per hour and risk 4 Paveway (no stealth). A few hours later we can up the sortie rate yet again and start to see a drop off in mission capable airframes. This is when we throttle back to CAS for the landed battalion with (hopefully) eight available airframes at all times.

    …as you can see, I have no real idea :-)

    PS: it would be completely unfair for the nation under attack to have moved a sub into the waters of the Falklands/Ascension and let rip a cruise missile offensive because that would be a proper game of chess ;-)

  60. Chris.B. says

    @ Simon

    If you’re letting rip on some unspecified nation in Asia, wouldn’t you prefer to let an Astute do some of the early shooting? Of course if we had TLAM capable T45 then that would make things easier still…

    What about CAP? Allies?

  61. Simon says

    Chris B,

    Wouldn’t use TLAM from Astute because I want to get my first wave in without them knowing (stealth).

    However, I do tend to agree with Observer in that I doubt F35 is that stealthy esp from ground based radar arrays (i.e. more than one radar working together) so am not sure my strategy would really work anyway.

    Don’t need CAP – I have a T45 to protect the fleet. The tatty remains of my squadron doing the CAS would also be armed with a couple of AMRAAM each so we’ll have adequate air defence.

  62. Observer says

    @Simon

    As much as I have some severe disagreements with Chris, I actually think his TLAM move is MUCH better than a F-35 first strike. Stealth for the F-35 is comparable to a RAMed F-15 with canted tail (Silent Eagle). Which, while an improvement, isn’t really a quantum leap in stealth (or LO to be precise). A TLAM barrage takes SAM totally out of the question in a fairly cost effective manner (1 F-35 costs about 70-140 TLAMs, depending on whose estimates you use) and at massively less risk of life.

    And I really think you misunderstood the roles of AEGIS type ships. They are not supposed to be the primary means of defence, they are the final, or 2nd to last line of POINT defence or LOCAL area defence. The BEST defence is a fighter shooting the bastard down before he can even launch. This is ideal because a single enemy plane can spawn multiple AShMs, more than doubling your number of threats that need to be shot down. This was the thinking behind the AIM-54/F-14 missile platform idea.

    “If you move close in you can generate a whole lot more sorties than the declared 3-4 at 450nm radius. So parked 150nm”

    I wasn’t aware of any “Littorial Aircraft Carrier” program. Watch out for their ballistic anti-ship missiles if you want to get that close.

  63. Challenger says

    @Simon

    ‘Don’t need CAP – I have a T45 to protect the fleet’

    I really wouldn’t place that kind of faith in the T45, much rather pair them with some Lightnings overhead…just in case!

  64. Challenger says

    A lot of talk about TLAM.

    I agree that they are a better option for an initial strike, but only in decent numbers. 1 Astute firing a handful at an enemy is of questionable use.

  65. Observer says

    @Simon

    I was checking on sortie rates for the Americans. Their surge is 220 max off their Nimitz for a full war load ~4 squadrons. Since you are using only one squadron, 220/4 = 55. Which puts it in the bracket of my estimates of 48-64 per.

    I agree with Challenger. Whole package or forget about it. Carriers are even more about systems intergration than any other ship, as without planes, a carrier is just a floating cargo ship. And an inefficient one at that.

    “100 F35: Oh! Good move.”

    Results pending. No point buying if it turns out to be a lemon. Then you’ll end up with 100 lemons. Results, then an order, not order and wait 10 more years for results or a Sopwith Camel. You heard of “show me the money”? Well, we’re waiting for “show me the plane”.

    If not for the Arms Control Act, I’m so tempted to suggets luring Northtrope away from the US. If we can’t get F-22 and F-35 is a failure, I’d be seriously thinking of kidnaping the designers of the YF-23. At least it’s SOMETHING. Congress will flip it’s lid though. :) Isn’t that a bad thing… right…

  66. Chris.B. says

    @ Simon
    “Wouldn’t use TLAM from Astute because I want to get my first wave in without them knowing (stealth).”
    — That’s why you fire the TLAM at the main radar sites, all of this assuming that it’s a Brit only/Largely Brit op. You’ll have a better chance thwacking the radars and then going in with F-35 vs just going straight in with F-35.

    @ Observer,
    “And I really think you misunderstood the roles of AEGIS type ships. They are not supposed to be the primary means of defence, they are the final, or 2nd to last line of POINT defence or LOCAL area defence”
    — Generally yes, but it depends. Who are we fighting and how do we rate their airpower? Type 45 is supposed to be this all singing, all dancing area defence toy, and by all accounts it has so far lived up to a lot of the hype. With a limited air group (not sure why the carrier hasn’t waited for reinforcement, but it’s not my hypothetical) I’d imagine the thought would at least be tabled of using a Type 45 as the primary forward air defence, to free up the aviation capacity for air attack. Otherwise 12 aircraft is just about enough to mount a 24 hour CAP and not really a lot else.

    Going back to range, again I think it would be target dependent. I’d imagine you want to keep the Carrier as far back as is reasonable, and certainly we (the Royal Navy) have demonstrated a proclivity for keeping the Carriers well away from hostile shorelines.

    @ Challenger,
    “1 Astute firing a handful [of TLAM’s] at an enemy is of questionable use”
    — Depends what you fire them at. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of mix the Astute carries, not that we’ll know until it’s probably gone out of service. The blurb says space for a mixed load of 38 weapons but we routinely only ever seem to fire 8 or so weapons ourselves, so would Astute carry say 10 TLAM and 28 Spearfish or perhaps 18 TLAM and 20 Spearfish?

    10 well placed TLAM could make the F-35’s lives a heck of a lot easier.

  67. Repulse says

    Chris B: ” You’d be surprised just how many paralells exist between Greece now and Germany in the 1920′s-30′s. All they need is for a few more years of economic hardship followed by a far right party winning power and they’ll be well on their way to creating a mirror image. It’s actually a little quietly unsettling (though still unlikely at this stage) just how closely the conditions are matched.”

    Maybe the economic hardships are similar and so is the resentment, but to compare Greece today with the relative power of Germany in the 30’s is way off. Plus, any try of emulating Germany would see Greece severely slapped by Turkey in less than 48 hrs.

  68. Simon says

    Observer,

    I’m being a bit feisty today (I think it’s the heat). You’re right, of course, but my point was always that even a dozen F35 is a step change in capability… assuming LO actually works.

    As for the F35 being only as good as Silent Eagle – I doubt it. I don’t think you’re looking at the angles. It’s way more “deflective”… doesn’t have vertical sides for a start!

    T45 would be my 2nd and 3rd layer of air defence after CIWS (working outwards). Yes, it would be great to have CAP overhead but my main threat axis is actually in the same direction as my offensive so effectively I do. In addition, you may remember I’ve taken out (well, tried ;-)) the most local airfield.

    Also, I think you’ll find all the Harrier Carriers (CVL, CVS, LHD, LHA, etc) are “littoral aircraft carriers” designed to work frighteningly close to shore defences. Harrier never had the legs and paired too well with copter assault ranges so got pigeon holed as CAS.

    It’s all a bit academic really as my “Asian Offensive” above was a bit of a prod and joke. I hope it hasn’t offended. I’m not really a megalomaniac :-)

  69. Simon says

    Observer,

    Four sorties per CATOBAR jet is double their published expected figure.

    F35B STOVL jets have much less strain on their airframes and combined with shorter ranges are already giving 5.5 sorties a day sustained (6.1 for surge).

    I’m simply suggesting that they’ll “push” 8 a day if the need arises and the operating demand is reduced.

  70. x says

    @ Chris B

    When I say stuff like that some think I am some looney white supremacy. (Ok perhaps the looney bit is spot on.) But I know how much the Muslim has become a fold devil to many in the, um, under class. I know there are real tensions. And I think it Europe wide.

    For what it is worth I think the US will be at “war” on her southern border before the decade out.

  71. Observer says

    “Four sorties per CATOBAR jet is double their published expected figure.”

    And you want 8… that’s quintuple. And you were suggesting ~10 sorties per earlier on? Slave driver much? :)

    Anyway, it was never about the airframes. It was about pilot fatigue. When Israel hotloaded their planes, they swapped out their pilots as well. Assuming a triple shift roll, can your pilots do 3-4 sorties per day without flying their planes into the ground through sheer exhaustion?

    Anyway, we are way off the original topic. You want to show the flag, do it right, not try to show off a carrier with 3/4 bays empty. People are not stupid, they’ll know you couldn’t afford the other 36 planes.

  72. Chris.B. says

    @ Repulse,
    Germany of the late 20’s, (which is more where I’m equating modern Greece) had no air force, a severely restricted Navy and a capped army. Over the course of the next decade it trained and equipped it’s army, air force and navy to levels not really thought possible, all while adapting to a completely new style of warfare. If Greece tried it on today then maybe Turkey would slap them down (48 hours is bloody optimistic to say the least) but a decade of investment and planning down the line?

    Never say never. Not saying it’s especially likely, no more than the hundreds of other scenarios that “could” happen, just that the paralells are there mate and they’re very paralell. Turkey need not even be the target. Macedonia anyone?

    @ Simon,
    The only time we’ve had to use Carriers recently in an aggressive, indepedent operation against strong enemy air threats the Carriers were parked well back out of harms way.

    @ X,
    I’d expect ethnic and cultural tempers to flair a little as the decade progresses, with London certainly having quite the potential, but the scale of such riots is up for debate? I’d imagine if things got too out of hand then you’d see a police crack down sooner rather than later.

  73. Repulse says

    Chris B: Similarities are there I agree, but Greece is well and truely f*d as they have far from the industrial capacity that Germany had to build a military machine. The other thing is that they would be fighting primarily a land war with Germany their main “foe”.

    Italy or Spain could go pear shaped, the latter possibly trying it on by an attempt to grab Gibraltar which would be interesting. However, if we increase the military footprint their as it furthers our global aims it kills two birds with one stone.

    Basically if anything kicks off within Europe they will be fighting each other or internal civil wars. Can’t see the scenario when we would want to send another BEF over the channel…

  74. x says

    @ Chris B

    It isn’t so much the scale more what will it says about our national out look.

  75. Challenger says

    @Chris B

    If an Astute went into action and fired a dozen or more TLAM then id call that a worthwhile effort.

    It’s disappointing that often British subs seem to fire a couple whilst the Americans fire hundreds.

  76. Challenger says

    I very much agree that Harrier carriers the world over are primarily designed for littoral operations. Enough CAP to provide one part of a multi layered defence, plus enough CAS for landing a battalion on the beach, that’s all these types of carriers and aircraft are really designed for.

    The Americans like huge air-groups to provide very long range strike, but hey that’s them! We aren’t the Americans and so don’t need and also can’t afford those kind of fireworks.

  77. All Politicians are the Same says

    Observer, dissapointed with you comaped to the Thai Carrier point, As we all kinow the Thai carrier no longer files jets and is effectively a mini 11k ton LPH

  78. Observer says

    lol APATs

    On the phone I take it :)

    Anyway, the situation for the two really are very similar. The Thai carrier can still operate jets, it’s just that the carrier capable jets cost a bit too much when the Asian Financial Crisis hit.

    Sounds familiar?

    From the proposed loadout of the QE, the only differences I see between the 2 are, 1) tonnage and 2) 1 fighter squadron.

    Take away the fighter squadron and the only difference would be… the tonnage. Oh and the cost, don’t forget the cost. :)

    What goes around, comes around. Hardly a unique situation.

  79. Simon says

    Observer,

    I suggested 12 STOVL airframes could deliver 100 sorties (at a push) from about 150nm for 2-3 days. I make that 8.3 per jet – similar to what some SHAR managed in the Falklands.

    Slave driver? Yup. Although there’s space for 1000 aircrew on CVF even if we only have a few jets – just cycle the pilots! However, each pilot will only have to do 8 x 1-hour sorties rather than 3 x 2.5-hour sorties ‘cos I’ve reduced the range. That would be muchmore exciting for them… take off, get up to speed, “hey, we’re here already”, drop bombs, go home for a cuppa… in the cockpit… and then do it all again ;-)

    I’m going to give up now as I’m being reminded that 150nm is not far enough which is one of my arguments for why CVF + Albion is such a stupid fleet design :-(

  80. badrobot says

    The question is do we need to deploy east of Suez…if we’re honest we only have the resources to do be a regional+ power. We should focus on improving the stadning European commitment so that we’re able to take care of anything like Libya and Kosovo without the yanks. The European theatre is not settled, Bosnia / Kosovo / Libya, not to mention the Russian ‘invasion’ of Georgia and recent threats over countries like Finland joining NATO. Throw in the economic shocks and European NATO is going to need to develop stronger capabilites.

    The “+” bit is for when we are forced to operate out of area by a crisis that threatens our vital interests = Falklands, oil out of the Gulf, theat to commonwealth members like Aust and NZ, taking part in coalition or UN actions. Flying the flag, defence diplomacy and police actions are a waste of scarce resources, watering down the effectiveness of task forces and have little impact on any foreign power. Would we even notice if the Japanese deployed a frigate or RFA type vessel to European waters? Would we consult a UK-based Indian defence attache when making any decision? I think not.

    We need to concentrate critical mass in our region. Let the USA corset a Pacific naval alliance with the aussies and japanese. We could be the lead European nation, focus on bulding up European NATO task forces and exert real influence with the zone that has half our trade and whose decisions directly affect how we live, everyday.

  81. Repulse says

    @Badrobot: “Would we even notice if the Japanese deployed a frigate or RFA type vessel to European waters?”

    No, but we would if they had offered a SSN (with TLAM) or a CVF (even with just 12 F35Bs :)) to assist in the Libyia conflict.

  82. Chris.B. says

    @ Repulse,

    A hallmark of Hitlers Germany was socialist spending on projects perceived as being in the national interest. For Greece that would equate to investing in their domestic manufacturing. What better way to kick start your nations manufacturing capacity than by developing domestic military kit?

    I’d imagine the UK would get roped into any engagement, either through involvement in Cyprus or as part of a NATO/UN force. If we’re not going to intervene in Europe then we might as well give up full stop and just go back to a UK defence force. Can’t let wars wage unchecked on the continent and then worry about pretending to influence Asia.

  83. Chris.B. says

    “No, but we would if they had offered a SSN (with TLAM) or a CVF (even with just 12 F35Bs ) to assist in the Libyia conflict,”

    — Would we? Or would we have said ‘sorry chaps, but you’re going to be a pain in the arse to integrate into our operations for such a small contribution. Thanks for the thought, but not this time,’

    @ Badrobot,

    Everything you just said gets a thumbs up from me.

  84. Gareth Jones says

    @ badrobot – I agree with your region plus idea but I’m afraid I disagree with that meaning no show the flag, DA’s, etc. We are a security council permanent member and as such we have a say on global issues; having some influence and first hand knowledge of the area/issue is never a bad thing. That doesn’t mean we need to make any other region our centre of attention.

    As the US pivots towards the Pacific we (that’s us and hopefully NATO in Europe) might have to take up its “System Administration” roles in certain areas. The question then is do we also develop security and stability forces or concentrate on being Europe’s big stick.

  85. Observer says

    GJ, to be fair, Russia and China tend to do less of these things than the west, but that didn’t threaten their seat on the UNSC, why should it threaten the UK’s seat?

  86. Repulse says

    @ChrisB: “I’d imagine the UK would get roped into any engagement, either through involvement in Cyprus or as part of a NATO/UN force. If we’re not going to intervene in Europe then we might as well give up full stop and just go back to a UK defence force. Can’t let wars wage unchecked on the continent and then worry about pretending to influence Asia.”

    Defending the sovereign areas on Cyprus maybe, but again Turkey will be on them like long before we got the BEF on the easy jet at Luton.

    I am not excluding UK intervention in Europe, we could easily participate in naval blockades and no fly zones if we wanted, but to gear our defences to performance major offensive ground action in an unlikely European war is bonkers – especially as the importance of Europe is diminishing.

    The world is now our backyard, trying to pretend that Europe is all we need to care about is both dangerous and a self fufilling prophecy to a minor player part in world affairs.

    Even now, what would have the biggest impact on the world economy and the UK’s prosperity – Greece invading Macedonia or China invading Vietnam?

  87. Repulse says

    @ChrisB: ” Or would we have said ‘sorry chaps, but you’re going to be a pain in the arse to integrate into our operations for such a small contribution. Thanks for the thought, but not this time,’”

    No, if Japan had conducted regular exercises to build a common understanding and way of working together. Remember Canada was involved in Libyia, surely they should just stick to North America?

    Japan is an interesting case as it is only just opening up to working with international partners. Australia and NZ are much more likely partners and we have a lot in common in how we train and fight.

  88. Aussie Johnno says

    ACC, I tossed up including the Norwegian ships in the total but for reasons I don’t quite understand they appear to be equipped with only an 8 cell VLS which is loaded with 32 Evolved Sea Sparrow (4 packs).

    Seemed to be a bit light weight when you have paid for AGEIS.
    My total only included ships equipped with Standard or the French one, Aster?.

  89. jedibeeftrix says

    @ Badrobot – “The question is do we need to deploy east of Suez…if we’re honest we only have the resources to do be a regional+ power. We should focus on improving the stadning European commitment so that we’re able to take care of anything like Libya and Kosovo without the yanks.”

    My (personal) understanding of Regional+ as mentioned by Lindley-French to the DSC (anywhere else this term has cropped up?), is that the “regional” involves britain (and thus europe) taking care of europe, and africa, whereas the “+” bit refers to strategic interests outside of this such as global chokepoints in trade.

    So, east of suez will continue via the FPDA if only as our commitment to keeping the Straits of Malacca open for business.

    Likewise, we’ll continue to man Hormuz and its neighbour in the ME.

    You could even argue that our continued interest in the falklands and the windies slot is due to Cape Horn* and the Panama canal!

    * by 2014 post-Panamax vessels will comprise 48 percent of the global container fleet.

  90. ArmChairCivvy says

    Hi Johnno,

    I never realised that the Nansen’s actually have the pocket-model of AEGIS and they are officially classed as ASW (not AWDs that your count was about)
    – the bids came in such that for the budget it was either 3 full-fat AEGIS, or 5 frigates with the smaller F-model of the radar
    “The 133 meter long Fridtjof Nansen Class will be the smallest AEGIS vessel built to date. They are manned by a crew of only 120”

  91. McZ says

    @observer
    “Why can’t they [..the US…] “diplomatic gesture” in the Philipines?”

    I was @Manila three weeks ago.

    The newspapers in the Philippines are full of comments of giving the USN access to Subic Bay and offer them a site for building a new airbase (Clark is used as a commercial airport). This would not only add some impetus to the philipine GDP, this would also solve the Okinawa-Problem and easen eventual support of Taiwan.

    I agree with Repulse, that we should concentrate on the FPDA. But we should probably not stop there. Indonesia, Brunei and Sri Lanka are logical expansions, as well as Mauritius and maybe the Seychelles. The wider question behind this is the still open matter on where India is heading, pro-west or aggressive wannabe-superpower.

  92. Observer says

    ” The wider question behind this is the still open matter on where India is heading, pro-west or aggressive wannabe-superpower.”

    My bet is on pro-west aggressive superpower with a side helping of Russian. :)

    And parking the LCS in the Philipines would make a lot more sense than tying our Min. Foreign Affairs into contortions that would make them a shoo-in for Circ De Sol.

    As for the rest (Indonesia, Sri Lanka), I’d say not for now. Wait for the economy and by extension your military to recover, then consider. Right now, the UK is overstretched.

  93. Chris.B. says

    @ Repulse,

    “Defending the sovereign areas on Cyprus maybe, but again Turkey will be on them like long before we got the BEF on the easy jet at Luton.”
    — They’re quite closely matched as it is. Additional expansion by Greece of its military would create a more protracted situation. Any war between Greece and Turkey would have to be considered an international emergency, at the very least for Europe.

    “I am not excluding UK intervention in Europe, we could easily participate in naval blockades and no fly zones if we wanted, but to gear our defences to performance major offensive ground action in an unlikely European war is bonkers – especially as the importance of Europe is diminishing.”
    — I’m not saying we should gear our defence around a ground campaign in Europe. But given the choice between that and building a force that can go to war with China, I’d take the Euro-centric one because I consider it to be more likely.

    “The world is now our backyard, trying to pretend that Europe is all we need to care about is both dangerous and a self fufilling prophecy to a minor player part in world affairs.”
    — The world is and it isn’t it. How much of the world we actually rely on is open for significant debate. We can’t police the world in the same way that America can. What we can do is posture ourselves to provide some stability in Europe and Africa, while contirbuting to the Middle East.

    I would also suggest that we already are a relatively minor player in world affairs.

    “Even now, what would have the biggest impact on the world economy and the UK’s prosperity – Greece invading Macedonia or China invading Vietnam?”
    — Which is more likely in the next 20 years? Neither is especially likely, but if I was a betting man I’d take the Greece bet. Why? Because I consider it more likely for a local heavy weight to invade it’s far inferior neighbour that few people care about in the hope that nobody will intervene, than for a Super Heavyweight to invade its inferior neighbour that people do care about and risk the major confrontation that is guaranteed to follow with another local Super Heavyweight.

    “No, if Japan had conducted regular exercises to build a common understanding and way of working together. Remember Canada was involved in Libyia, surely they should just stick to North America?”
    — Canada is a fully integrated NATO member with over 20 years of experience fighting alongside countries like the US and UK. Japan is not.

  94. Opinion3 says

    @Challenger

    “I do agree however with the sad truth that the carrier project has been so regularly underfunded and appallingly mismanaged that any substantial deployment will look hollow to the point of national embarrassment”

    This seems a bit sweeping to me, is this comment fair? The politicians delayed it by 3 years (funding) and reviewed the design (EMALS CATOBAR wasn’t an option initially, they considered it before it was too late and changed their mind before it was too late – based on ridiculous figures).

    Carrier Alliance seem to be doing OK.

  95. Challenger says

    @Opinion3

    I was trying to make a wider point about disjointed policy.

    Taking aside so many other examples of the RN being underfunded and stretched to breaking point, I look at the carrier project as a whole and really feel their is a wide gap between intention and the materialising reality.

    I totally agree that the carrier alliance is doing a grand job of constructing the ships. Once they were finally ordered the pace was pretty rapid, I have no doubt that they will be delivered on time and to a high standard.

    My argument was that a carrier capability is so much more than the ship. You need enough aircraft, the pilots, support staff, munitions, spare parts, and of course a whole host of other ships that will slot in-to a task group.

    It’s not good enough either to have a bare minimum of resources that can achieve temporary results. Getting either QE or POW out for a few weeks with all the assorted components is pretty hollow if I can’t be called upon regularly and efficiently.

    I can imagine a situation where a crises erupts and a carrier is requested, with conversations revealing that their aren’t enough JCA or personnel because a load are off on an RAF exercise, that no frigates, destroyers or auxiliaries are around because they are all either in dry dock or off on standing commitments, or that their isn’t a sufficient stock of Paveway, Brimstone etc for more than a couple of days of intense activity.

    My scepticism was over whether the intention will be met across the board, or whether we will end up with gigantic ships that embark a pitiful air group and struggle to make even a fairly limited peacetime deployment without a substantial stretch of resources.

    I hope things are done properly, the way they should be, but sadly I remain sceptical.

  96. Simon says

    Perhaps we should abort the tranch 3 purchase of Typhoon just to make sure we get enough F35B to actually have any effect at all (both land-based or on CVF)?

    I still think the best way to make sure we have a credible force in the near/medium future is to scrap Trident. Worry about rekindling that technology rather than rekindling the basics of strike sorties from land and sea???

  97. repulse says

    ChrisB: We will probably need to agree to disagree. Just in the avoidance of doubt:

    – “We can’t police the world in the same way that America can.” – I agree and that is not what I am proposing, we just need, in my view, to be engaged world wide supporting our allies and interests. In fact a small amount of distance between us and the US may not be a bad thing.

    – “I would also suggest that we already are a relatively minor player in world affairs.” – I agree here also. We have made it that way by withdrawing from the world and focusing on Europe.

    – “Canada is a fully integrated NATO member with over 20 years of experience fighting alongside countries like the US and UK. Japan is not.” – True, but what you are saying is that Canada is relevant because it has engaged with Europe (even though it is a North American country) hence can offer support and influence (without any attempt at being a world policeman).

  98. Phil says

    We abdicated our position in the Far East in 1945 when all we could send was a 4 carrier fleet that was nothing more than a US task force and for the invasion of Japan, one division was promised (which would have been Commonwealth and equipped to US scales) and a bomber force that was scaled further and further back.

    Once we beat Germany we really had no interest in making any large effort to finally defeat Japan. We did not attempt to transfer 2nd Army to the Far East nor Bomber Command en masse.

  99. Chris.B. says

    @ Repulse,

    “True, but what you are saying is that Canada is relevant because it has engaged with Europe (even though it is a North American country) hence can offer support and influence (without any attempt at being a world policeman).”

    — No. What I’m saying is that due to its extensive experience of training with NATO and its standardisation to NATO levels, if Canada offers 6 aircraft to something like Libya then the leading nations say “ahh thank you”, with a polite nod that acknowledges the contribution even if it is only 6 jets. Japan probably wouldn’t be able to slot in that easily.

    Now, offering six jets to an operation like that is beneficial and doubtless much appreciated, but again this goes back to that whole damned notion of influence; the curse of modern defence discussions. Providing six jets is not influence. Maybe on a very low level, maybe with the commanders involved etc.

    But the influence gained is absolutely minimal on a level that really matters and makes a difference.

    Think about how much “influence” we’ve gained with the US after all these years? So much influence that they call the Falklands Islands “Las Malvinas”. The reality is that people are motivated and influenced by what you can actually do for them, tangibly, in the long term. Not because you wave an aircraft carrier in their face or do a fly past with a flight of Typhoons.

    We have the chance to throw some political, economic, and perhaps military weight around in Europe, Africa, and to a degree the Middle East. We really have no business in the far east and little to gain from it. Those countries know that the US offers them ten times the kind of benefits that we could even dream of offering them. You have no chance to compete against that.

    What you can do, with the US shifting posture to the Pacific region, is fill some of the void left behind closer to home. That’s where the money is to be made, and that’s where the greater energy and food security is to be found. Not in Singapore (no offence to Observer) or Malaysia, but right here on our own doorstep and near abroad.

  100. Observer says

    No offence taken Chris, militarily, I feel the same way. Economically though, you need to expand. Eggs in one basket and all. If you had diversified, even if Europe dropped the ball (and the looks of it is that it’s a steel wrecking ball, and the dropped location is on the toes), your investments in India and China would have helped prop up your position. ~50% of your trade partners in recession would still hurt, but it beats 80+%, and gives a source of funding for rebuilding/recapitalization without resorting to the banks.

    I’m actually a very strong avocate of government controlled companies, provided they are run as COMPANIES, not as welfare. Right now, investors are risk adverse, hence low company startups -> low employment. A country has a massively less risk starting a company than an individual, and it would help employment and hence social problems. I’m starting to feel that all these austerity programs may be going in the wrong direction income wise. What is wrong with a government starting companies, stabilizing their economy and social systems, then privatizing it after the crisis to get money back?

  101. Chris.B. says

    “What is wrong with a government starting companies, stabilizing their economy and social systems, then privatizing it after the crisis to get money back?”

    — Our governments track record on managing things for a start ;)

    Economic diversification yes, but it has its limits. Distance being one of them. Most of the goods purchased from Asia are low quality, bulk products, the kind of thing Mexico is starting to get a foot back into the door of what with rising wage costs in China.

    Our exports tend to be quite high value products that not many nations can afford in bulk. In SE Asia, what with America slowly getting more comfortable, it’s probably more likely (and certainly more in their interest) for nations of the region to buy American.

    There’s a lot of nations that make up Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Still plenty of demand for our products. Rolls Royce engines. Lots of defence sales to the Arabs. Trainers to Africa. BAE South Africa, or whatever the hell its called now, has quite the potential market for selling MRAP designs to on that continent.

    And with Europe trying to push for greater consolidation of its defence market, separate, independent British suppliers could offer competition for the Euro nationals.

    Fact is that most nations do most of their business locally. We export almost as much (pound wise) to the combination of Holland and Belgium as we do to the US. It’s only natural and not something we can really drift too far from.

  102. All Politicians are the Same says

    A couple of points of order.

    1. Phil the RN/Commonwealth fleet in the Pacific consisted of 15 Carriers 4 Battle Ships and escorts.
    2. Chris B an offer of an extra TLAM firer or a Carrier with 12 F35B from someone like Japan would have been snapped up. We integrated aircraft from several Gulf states. The Carrier would have helped a lot in the CSAR role which at one stage almost did not meet requirements.

  103. Aussie Johnno says

    Thanks, ACC, the Nansen’s are good looking vessels and they clearly have the capability to take more VLS tubes.
    Budgets do funny things.

  104. Chris.B. says

    “Chris B an offer of an extra TLAM firer or a Carrier with 12 F35B from someone like Japan would have been snapped up. We integrated aircraft from several Gulf states. The Carrier would have helped a lot in the CSAR role which at one stage almost did not meet requirements.”

    Fair enough, but I was under the impression the Gulf states didn’t exactly do a lot because of the difficulty with trying to blend them into NATO procedures.

    Still, it’s only a minor amount of influence. The way some people talk you’d think that a small contribution like that was worth billions in fresh trade deals.

  105. Observer says

    I agree that Japan offering would have their equipment snapped up in short order. Their military equipment has the same standards as their civilian export stuff, and it has a very good reputation for reliability.

    I have this feeling that you seem to seriously underestimate stuff from the East Chris.

  106. Observer says

    “I was under the impression the Gulf states didn’t exactly do a lot because of the difficulty with trying to blend them into NATO procedures.”

    More like trying to explain to their population why they allied with “The Great Satan”.

    And actually Chris, it’s not billions, only millions. But hey, every bit counts. A million here, a million there, soon you’d get a pretty decent piggy bank.

  107. All Politicians are the Same says

    Chris B the extra flat deck capable of hosting both rotary wing recovery assets and the required fixed fixed wing overhead cover would have ensured we could have had the force3 assets overhead a downed pilot 90 mins quicker than we did at one stage. CDG, Kearsage and Garibaldi did sterling work but you never refuse an extra deck. For 2 weeks the CSAR assets staged out of a ground base.

  108. Repulse says

    @ChrisB:” Still, it’s only a minor amount of influence. The way some people talk you’d think that a small contribution like that was worth billions in fresh trade deals.” – I am not one of these, it’s is fundamentally a difference between raising the drawbridge of a “small Europe” or engaging globally (as equals).

  109. Chris.B. says

    @ Observer,

    I’m not underestimating Eastern equipment or its personnel. Just a matter of wondering how easy it is to integrate them into NATO procedures, tasking, conlficted air space etc? Given how much time we spend working with allies to achieve the required level of smooth operation, I was cautious over just how easily you could slot a completely new force into the wider group. The Americans certainly have plenty of experience operating alongside Japan, but what about the rest of NATO?

    As for the millions? From what? So they turn up with a few jets or we turn up with a few for an exercise. How much trade talk gets done during the exercise? How much real value does it bring in terms of non-military benefits?

    People often talk about the influence of visiting ships and aircraft and while it has its place, perhaps in strengthening ties a little from a military perspective, people seem to think that a port visit or an air to air exercise is worth this sudden huge boost to the UK economy and regional influence.

    I would hasten to suggest that it takes more than one visit to do that kind of work, and that historically the foreign office has played a much greater role in this kind of thing.

    I just think people grossly over value the benefits of “defence diplomacy” versus how people actually do deals in the real world.

    @ APATS,

    Fair play. Again, my concern was over how easily we could slot a Japanese vessel into the system. Wondering if they had offered a carrier with fast jets, how easy or not would it have been to work them into the airspace and get them hitting ground targets, especially if you’re relying somewhat on NATO ground personnel to provide target information for CAS?

    @ Repulse,

    I’m still talking about going beyond Europe, just sticking to what is more productive, such as African and Middle Eastern markets. There seems to be a lot of people, not necessarily yourself, who believe that we can have some major impact on the far east. I would suggest that our impact in that region is actually very minimal on a level that really matters.

    It’s nice that we can work with nations of the pacific region and maintain ties with places like Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia etc, but our ability in the long run to have any meaningful impact in this region is limited.

    By comparison we provide a lot of tools and a lot of legitimate interest in the African and Middle Eastern theatres, as well as here in Europe. If Somalia is in the hot insurgency news this year then next year, possibly even by the end of the 2012, Western Africa will be the next hot story.

    It’s just around the corner from us, with much shorter transits and we have a sovereign base off the coast, as well as deep ties to many of the nations in the region.

    If we really want to make a difference to our economy and our energy security, it’ll happen there. Algeria and Nigeria are prime sources of energy. There’s cheap coal on the continent to diversify away from Russia. Investement in agriculture on the west and south west coasts, plus better trade agreements could ease some of the issues we have with food prices. Mineral resources and other energy sources are also their for the active parties.

    The long term value of closer cooperation and stronger ties in Africa far out weighs the value of South East Asia, at least from a British perspective.

  110. badrobot says

    I think many are missing mine and Chris’ point. Any military contribution is welcome and has influence on the operation. But that contribution would have to be enormous to translate into tangible influence. On the scale of the US strategic umbrella.

    If the Japanese (or any other far east nation) contributed a small to modest capbility for a one off intervention (Libya) or made a standing contribution in augmentation of a NATO standing group (say a frigate), would that translate into any advantage for Japan in the UK? Would we prioritise Japanese defence exports (if they revoked their export ban), would we lower tariffs on Japanese exports (we can’t cos of the EU common external tariff), would we support Japan to overturn the whaling restrictions (nope) or would we come to Japan’s aid when it has to fight North Korea or China (hardly bloody likey would we).

    Now reverse the equation. No far eastern country is going to disadvantage its national interests because we train our CBG in the far east for a couple of months every other year, or becuase we have a single vessel standing commitment out of Singapore. It’s a complete waste, pure and simple.

  111. Chris.B. says

    “Now reverse the equation. No far eastern country is going to disadvantage its national interests because we train our CBG in the far east for a couple of months every other year, or becuase we have a single vessel standing commitment out of Singapore. It’s a complete waste, pure and simple.”

    Seconded.

  112. Opinion3 says

    This is the second article which has had me wondering about the cost of operations and the cost of no operations.

    Surely the additional cost of a tour in the Far East is not that great and training/exercises can be completed which need to be done anyway to get our forces up to the desired standard. I was thinking the same thing when the idea for smaller ships to patrol the pirates was discussed. We need the Bay class, overkill for pirate patrols but the crew would be at sea anyway.

    Any comments?

  113. Chris.B. says

    @ Op3

    Why bother though? What benefit justifys the increased cost?

  114. McZ says

    @observer
    “What is wrong with a government starting companies, stabilizing their economy and social systems, then privatizing it after the crisis to get money back?”

    Starting nationalized companies has three problems:
    – if operating in legacy sectors, they compete with private companies, the difference is easy access to government money and hence no need to get competitive
    – if operating in innovation sectors, it would disencourage private initiative
    – in both cases it doesn’t help to avoid competition from abroad

    Btw, the negative input the austerity measures have shown on wages are due to the fact that relatively well payed governement jobs have folded.

    The reason for ever increasing debt is due to ever decreasing COMPARABLE productivity in western countries. So, the real question should be: how do we expect to compete in a globalized world?

    First, western europe as a whole has big problems with their education policies, largely due to the fact that nobody needs to struggle. We need to restrict the negative impetus of the welfare state on peoples will to advance economically.

    Second, when looking @Germany: they have the ‘Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau’. It’s a government internal development bank, which invests in high-risk, innovatings sectors no private bank is interested in (at least not, if the produce is not put together by asian wage-slaves).

    Third, how do we expect to make money through exports, and how do we make our companies ready for export? Once again Germany: every company can take ‘Hermes Bürgschaften’ (guarantees for the exporter on the outstanding payment).

    Fourth, the government needs to end practice to sell capital imports as ‘investment’. Required is national capital accumulation through savings.

    Fifth, to achieve this, we have to balance the trade deficit. Which means: fewer energy imports.

    Sixth, why does it happen that british scientists are leading almost any industrial innovation wave and the UK as a nation gaining so few economical advantage out of it? My take: because the once greatest nation of practitioners became a nation of unconfident hesitators.

    Any of those points can be achieved, but any of them would require the politicians to aspire LESS state.

  115. Observer says

    @McZ

    I did mention in the start of the paragraph

    “I’m actually a very strong avocate of government controlled companies, provided they are run as COMPANIES, not as welfare”

    Continually feeding money into a company after startup and not staying competitive fits into a broad definition of welfare, only this time for civil servants.

    – if operating in innovation sectors, it would disencourage private initiative
    – in both cases it doesn’t help to avoid competition from abroad

    This part is true, but it would be a better solution to unemployment than Parliment getting on their knees and praying for divine intervention. And it was suggested as a temporary measure for the economy, to be released as a company in its’ own right later.

    “My take: because the once greatest nation of practitioners became a nation of unconfident hesitators.”

    This is one of the reasons why I suggested the government make the 1st move, with investors being scared off from starting new businesses in the current climes, there is less work for people, hence increased unemployment -> gloomy economic outlook -> less startup companies -> less jobs. A vicious cycle.

    Income direct to government coffers isn’t such a bad idea too, less pain from austerity measures and less social unrest as the public is less affected.

    It’s a real mess out there…

  116. Chris.B. says

    Part of the problem is the new requirements for capital holdings vs loans that banks are allowed to have. This kind of safeguard on keeping a certain amount of capital tied up would have been ideal in the financial environment of 2006, when money was plentiful and growth was pretty solid.

    Right now it’s just compounding the problem.

    The great irony of the situation that we find ourselves in is that loose bank regulation helped caused the crisis, and now everyone wants the banks to be more heavily regulated, but right now what we need is deregulation and greater liquidity.

    Once things get back on their feet, then we can start to clamp down a bit more. But right now we need the fluid movement of money to help spark growth.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a supporter of democracy, but sometimes the voting public can be such a hinderance to good governance.

  117. x says

    @ Chris B said “voting public can be such a hinderance to good governance”

    With fewer and fewer voting we will soon be over that problem. :)

  118. Phil says

    @x

    Sorting out Britain is easy.

    Overhaul education, and overhaul Welfare (more so, keep going Cameroon).

    Of course it isn’t easy really though as there’s so many vested interests.

    For example in education there’s teachers unions to resist any overhaul of their qualification and work structure. And there’s the fact our education system is based on an industrial model with all the inate snobbery towards certain subjects which means a lot of pupils who have a talent don’t get the encouragement or support to achieve their potential. The country can only be a better place with more variety and with more people reaching their potential, if its in a creative industry so what as long as it isn’t being subsidised, it doesn’t hurt anyone.

    And then there’s the Welfare system. Change social housing letting policy to make it comparable to private letting arrangements and structure the system to ensure that anyone on benefit is subject to the same economic factors impinging on their decisions as everyone who works does, so for example, sure have a another baby but you’re paying. Of course then there’s all the crying lefties and chattering classes who like to feel smug and happy about themselves because they support the poor getting their daily bread, doesn’t matter if its poison and will kill them 20 years down the line, just as long as the bread is doled out to the “needy”.

    The debate over 25 years old not getting Housing Benefit is an example. ON WHAT FUCKING PLANET are we when we think a 25 year old has a right to a free house and free money. 30 years ago you stayed at home until you got married or had enough money to move out! 80% of under 25s are relatively speaking poorer because they don’t have the skills or experience not to be. That’s life sunshine. Unbelievable!

    Anyway, change those two things and everything else will follow. Also, make voting in local elections compulsory and make people do community service by offering them discounts on their council tax bill equivalent to a days labour. That way people will start to have a physical stake in their community.

  119. Chris.B. says

    If you make voting compulsory though, that defeats the point. A lot of people would just spoil their ballots anyway or vote in protest for unsuitable candidates such as the raving loons.

  120. x says

    @ Phil

    Thank you.

    I have just been dipping in. I don’t think I have really read much of what has been said.

    So I am not sure why I am the beneficiary of your wisdom.

    Saying that I am not sure what,

    “And there’s the fact our education system is based on an industrial model with all the inate snobbery towards certain subjects which means a lot of pupils who have a talent don’t get the encouragement or support to achieve their potential.”

    is supposed to mean. All our competitors are producing mathematicians, scientists, IT bods, engineers, and students who can actually speak and write English hand over fist. These are traditional subjects of an industrial based education system. We have colleges filled with students studying sociology, psychology, media studies, and “art”. Students who only interested in writing essays on equal rights. Our competitors only let their brightest and best go on to tertiary education. We let 50% go onto tertiary education and that has soaked up budget and destroyed the fabric of the tertiary system. We had an efficient vocational tertiary system and destroyed it. No need to explain. Just sayin’.

  121. ArmChairCivvy says

    Hi Chris B, I think we have discussed this before (but while waiting for what Thursday will bring with it, here we go):
    “we find [ourselves in is] that loose bank regulation helped caused the crisis, and now everyone wants the banks to be more heavily regulated, but right now what we need is deregulation and greater liquidity.”
    – capital adequacy (buffer) rules are just a part in the overall regulation
    – if you want to loosen up the rest of the framework (deregulate), you could argue that you can only do it safely when bigger buffers are in place; Now is hardly the time to do it, as liquidity would be directly constrained

  122. Phil says

    @x

    You posted a link. Yeah they do, but these competitors also produce great philosophers, musicians, poets, sportsmen, thinkers and artists all of whom add to our human culture if there can be said to be such a thing. I’m not advocating abandoning teaching the basics, comprehension, writing and mathematics are basic tools needed. Teach these things. But encourage pupils to follow what they are good at no matter what. It’s a philosophy espoused by the Headmaster of Eton and I’d bet a lot if not all the better schools. You can’t make kids learn stuff they find uninteresting. Broaden the education system. And there’s nothing wrong with media studies.

    Chris B

    Maybe but the point is more to make people participate and have some stake in the locality. It barely matters who they vote for or not. I’m a fan of localism.

  123. x says

    @ Phil

    Oh I see. I post lots of links. :)

  124. x says

    Phil said “Yeah they do, but these competitors also produce great philosophers, musicians, poets, sportsmen, thinkers and artists all of whom add to our human culture if there can be said to be such a thing. ”

    Yes they do……….

    I had to say it. I can’t believe you of all who visit here would write such utter twaddle. I thought it was my job here to drag down standards. But that was just utter rhubarb. I thought you would have been one of those who had pushed against New Labour’s assault on the minds of the UK’s young. But I was wrong. I am so embarrassed for you right now. Sorry.

  125. Phil says

    Had a Cameron Sunday lunch x? You crack on in your narrow view. I’ll stick to mine. Its smirking snobbery like yours that holds kids back from potential. Funny that the headmaster of Eton agrees. But then what can he know about education

  126. Chris.B. says

    To be fair Phil, the headmaster at Eton has buckets of cash to spend and most of his pupils have university places lined up for them before they even sit their final exams and then most of them have jobs lined up for them before they even sit their final exams at University. It’s a different world up there.

    As for local government, I’m the opposite. Take the twats at the local sailing club, one of whom sits on the local council. Somehow they believe it is fine to block off a major access road to the local port along with cutting off the lower access route to three long residential streets, just so that they can have some stalls put up for their f**kng regatta. Never mind all the people and businesses that need to use that road, after all, the sailing club takes priority.

    Local elected government is a scourge on society and local business that should be stamped out at every possible turn with the maximum force possible.

    ACC,
    I’d be interested to know why you think loosening the regulations on bank capital holdings would cause a decrease in liquidity?

  127. Phil says

    I’m not arguing for an educational utopia. I am just stating that we have to cut the snobbery surrounding certain subjects and career paths. He does have bucketloads of cash but so what it’s obvious people do better at things they enjoy doing and he recognises that in his philosophy. Its then a difference in scale, he can afford to indulge an interest in 9th century Persian dancing but that doesnt alter the fact that the biggest thing holding this process back are closed minds not resources. The constant berating of media studies annoys me too. What kind of first class fool doesn’t see the value in studying a phenomena that pervades our western existence at every single level?! Same with RE.

    As for councillors. You won’t find many people with a lower opinion of them than me. But if you live in a locality I think you should contribute even if it’s just voting for one jumped up little twat who thinks they are in the West Wing over another.

  128. Chris.B. says

    I’d prefer not to give any kind of meaningful power to any of them, with perhaps the exception of a small annual grant that has to be spent on projects of the community good, with vested interests not permitted to be considered. As for the community members themselves, forcing people to interact with their local society only serves to make them resent it. Community gathering and community has to be spontaneous, or it is self defeating.

    Media Stuides.

    The problem I personally have with it, having opted to try it when I was a young lad (back when VHS was still the norm) and then left the course (along with all the others) is that it was essentially, as a life preparing subject, utterly pointless.

    It’s entirely focused on the technical aspects of directing, lighting, sound and editing. Very little attention is paid to the cultural significance of the artwork itself, and frankly I have to agree that I see little in that that will make a huge difference to someones future career.

    That’s what I see Education as. At that age people are not really adequately mature enough for the most part to make serious decisions about their future, so we must prepare them the best we possibly can with a solid grounding in english, maths and the sciences. Just because somebody is disinterested in a subject does not mean that we should allow them to make a choice – the implications of which they have no idea about – because it will involve a bit of hard work to get them through it.

    As someone who screwed up in college and as a result missed out on University, I can confidently tell you that I wish I had been forced to stay in higher education for two years and then been incentivised to take a science in University, something which I was quite good at but not especially interested in. It would have served me much better.

    I fully appreciate the angle you’re coming from with regards to certain subjects that teach people a broad range of non-academic skills. God only knows I have a friend who is starting his doctorate this coming autumn who only learned to iron his own shirts last year, but this country already has a very rich cultural background.

    Art, history, language, music, drama. Our society is steeped in it. We produce some of the finest and most well known modern artists, singers, guitar players, actors and historians the world knows of, and we do so by the bucket load.

    We’re struggling comparitively with the rest of the world to produce more people who are engineers and technical innovators.

  129. ArmChairCivvy says

    Hi Chris B,

    I said the exact opposite to your latest interpretation (which I quote at the end of this),as I was responding to your pairing of deregulating banks and *at the same time* decreasing capital rules to increase lending/ liquidity
    – that’s exactly the origins of the (by now double) crash of 2008. But it goes back to the 90’s with 1. by repeated steadying of the markets by hosing them with (central bank) liquidity, 2. then the capital requirement for US Investment Banks was relaxed from 12.5 times gearing to 20, as it was universally thought that they were the informed ones who could best recycle the extra capital to productive projects, 3. then others (seeing the profits) joined in, often using special purpose vehicles to thwart the capital rules that *for them* had not been relaxed…and we know where the merry-go-round ended
    – what I was saying was that if you deregulate (regulate with a less hands-on approach), you need to increase the buffers for error by individual institutions (that’s capital).It’s like when you take the extra wheels off the toddlers bike, you don’t continue to hold him up, but give a cycling helmet to wear?

    However, if you do that now when there is already a credit crunch, gearing goes down which automatically drags lending down (in relative terms; if supply of capital is unlimited, then of course lending can go up, but that is hardly the case as the perception of the riskiness of banks as an investment has fundamentally changed)
    – in short, you are promoting the approach that got it all wrong in the first place
    – but there might be ideology here in play as per below latest quote, where the same “blunt instrument” is seen to work for any sector of the society

    RE “Local elected government is a scourge on society and local business that should be stamped out at every possible turn with the maximum force possible.

    ACC,
    I’d be interested to know why you think loosening the regulations on bank capital holdings would cause a decrease in liquidity?”

  130. ArmChairCivvy says

    Phil, me too
    “The constant berating of media studies annoys me too.”
    – I thoroughly enjoyed those studies at The Open University at the age of 16 (when school curriculum was boring/ not wide enough)
    – most will have picked up that I have switched since

  131. Phil says

    “As for the community members themselves, forcing people to interact with their local society only serves to make them resent it.”

    I disagree. In times gone past where there was no council to do things the community self organised and did things – roads and ditches and fences and drainage would be done by the community itself. I am not advocating going back to that but advocating giving people money off their local rates if they contribute labour or skill. There are plenty of communities that do do a lot of self organisation and it would take some of the emphasis off councils. I believe there are an awful lot of people who would like to contribute in this manner but as they don’t work for the Council and don’t have a leaning on spade NVQ or Lead Outreach Framework competencies they can’t get near it. And forcing people to vote in them might just mean that some of the idiots who virtually automatically get returned might just get recognised for the copper-bottomed, ocean going throbbers they really are.

    Media:

    Well if that was what used to be taught then I can see now where the prejudice comes from. The course I took was sociological in nature, I never learned a thing about how to actually produce any media. What I learned about was how it interacts with society and how it was constructed and how to undertake research into it. That’s a very different beast. I agree learning how to produce media is not anywhere near as useful as trying to understand how it works.

    I am not advocating not teaching kids basic things. Everyone needs a solid grounding in science, maths, english and I believe a modern language. These are basic tools, but children should be able to begin to focus, breadth rather than depth is pretty useless and you simply cannot make a horse drink the water if they are bored rigid. Yes, as a kid you might not know any better which is why I think “second chance” courses should be offered to all adults in certain subjects so they can correct their mistakes. Also, by improving the quality of teachers these subjects can be taught better and maybe more kids will stay interested in them. It is amazing that a teacher only needs a third in their degree. They should have to have a Masters at least and be competent in a foreign language at primary school level.

    Also, a lot of the more diverse aspects I think are necessary can be done as extra curricular activities. The sign of a strong school is having teachers motivated enough to organise all sorts of things like sports clubs, chess clubs, photography clubs, modelling clubs, maths clubs, etc etc etc etc None of those take an enormous amount of money if any to run if there are teachers willing to put in an hour a week after their horrific 6 hour work days.

    As for struggling to produce technicians etc, I see no evidence for that other than industry bosses like Alan Sugar moaning that kids these days don’t learn properly and don’t have the kind of education they never bothered with either. If we have problems in business it is I believe down to how those businesses are run, not the technical competency pool based in this country. We have scientists and engineers who are world leading, with world leading engineering and science research universities. The media acts as an amplifier in these matters, which is something I know from my useless media studies course.

    As for kids making mistakes, yeah I went to University with no clue. I regret it. But it was simply expected that we went to Uni once you did 6th Form, the whole culture of university education does indeed need changing. And we also need to accept that degrees have been debased, just like we now have officers patrolling the streets who aren’t coppers and people wiping arses in hospitals who aren’t nurses we as a society just seem to add ever more complexity.

  132. Chris.B. says

    @ ACC,
    There is no ideology. Comparing bank regulation to the petty whims of some local tosspot who is not intelligent/charismatic enough to stand for general election is not what is happening here.

    Now, forcing banks to hold a certain percentage of capital in relation to their lending and investment is a form of regulation. That’s what I meant by deregulation; relaxing the restrictions on capital holdings.

    And yes, I pointed out earlier that it was one of the problems with the financial crisis (not really a cause, more a multiplier of the symptoms). But that was at a time when the global economy was roaring away and headed towards an inevitable dip. At that point in time would have been the moment to tighten the rules on capital holding.

    Now is not the time.

    Right now we need money. We need banks to give their money to people. We need to let banks lend, and lend as much as they need (within reason) in order to stimulate growth again. Once the economy is up and running again, then you can start re-regulating them. But for now we need to loosen the shackles.

    @ Phil,
    Incentivising people to do community work would probably prove just as costly, when admin was considered into it, as just hiring people to come in and do the jobs. What if half the local community volunteers for some project? You can just pick and choose who gets the reduced rates, after all, they all volunteered and I’m sure it had nothing to do with a cut in their rates.

    As for the councillors, it’s like picking between a bad apple and a rotten pear. They’re both rotten to the core and are good for nothing but the scrap heap. Forcing people to do something they don’t want to do is never generally a good idea. Forcing them to pick between a list of lousy, petty, largely corrupt and ultimately pointless politicians that most people would rather have shot of completely is a good way to inspire mass protests against interfering government busy bodies. And I’ll be at the front of the march, pitchfork and flaming torch in hand.

    re; Media Studies,

    I’m afraid that’s the nature of those courses, and why they get such a bad rap. Coupled with things like degrees in hair dressing and all that business, it doesn’t make for a good image of modern education.

    “It is amazing that a teacher only needs a third in their degree. They should have to have a Masters at least and be competent in a foreign language at primary school level.”
    — Then you would have no primary school teachers. A Masters plus competency in a foreign language? You’d have to add at least 50% to the current salary for teachers. The simple fact is that teaching is not a job that tends to attract the brightest and best.

    ” if there are teachers willing to put in an hour a week after their horrific 6 hour work days,”
    — At the risk of standing up for teachers, they actually work typically 8 hours at school + homework (the irony). Most arrive at around 8 to 8:15, and are still usually there till after 4 clearing up their classrooms, addressing their basic paper work etc, then many have to do all their marking at home which takes several additional hours. I do have a modest respect for teachers in that regard.

    As for young people taking technical courses, we do have many very bright young individuals in our society. But engineering and design companies are constantly bemoaning the loss of skilled individuals into sectors like banking. A larger pool would aid them.

    We also fall short in a number of areas such as consistent under production of young doctors, hence why we have to tempt many here from abroad.

    “The media acts as an amplifier in these matters, which is something I know from my useless media studies course,”
    — You don’t need a media course to learn that. That’s one of the few pieces of truly common knowledge.

    “just like we now have officers patrolling the streets who aren’t coppers and people wiping arses in hospitals who aren’t nurses we as a society just seem to add ever more complexity.”
    — I’d agree that PCSO’s are widely considered (and from my past interactions with some I would concur) to be complete wastes of the uniform that they wear. Part time police officers, paid for their work and properly trained etc would at least be of some use.

    But every person in a hospital who isn’t a nurse and is wiping a patients arse is saving a qualified nurse from having to do this task. I’d equate this to the backroom support staff used by the police who, despite their bad reputation among tabloids, actually free up fully trained officers to continue serving in roles that are more worthy of their training.

  133. Simon says

    Wow! How political is this?

    My two-peneth is that we’re in this mess because of the natural boom and bust cycle caused by banks taking excessive risks. Without regulation it’s always the tax-payer than ends up baling the banks out.

    The old capital reserve ratio of 10% seemed to work and this generates ten times as much debt/money in the system as there is actual equity to back it. Scares me silly to be honest. When it goes completely wrong it’s actually impossible to fix. You may as well have one year with 1000% inflation and be done with! The current ethos of quantitive easing only exacerbates the inflation problem.

    Nationalise the banks (properly) for a period of time?

  134. Phil says

    “Incentivising people to do community work would probably prove just as costly”

    The idea of reduced rates is just one incentive I was thinking about. The objective is for people to have a stake in their local community. Because then they tend to look after it better. How to do that is of course open to debate. Of course there are lots of practical issues but a lot of them could be addressed with some effort and a more open mind from Councils. I don’t need an NVQ in gardening to cut the grass and I don’t need a CRB check to paint a fence. The advantages could be having some very competent people do some very competent work, so perhaps an excellent and skilled carpenter could fashion something that a poorly paid and frankly mediocre council employee would otherwise do. There are no great insurmountable practical problems. Frankly I think it should be compulsory that everyone does a days work for free, like a sort of national service. The objective is simply to get people to have ownership of their locality.

    As for councillors, I haven’t met one or seen one yet that isn’t mediocre at best. It’s quite frightening that a job demanding technical competence and intelligence can go to someone with no qualifications and no training and who are often returned effectively unopposed because they are part of a political party. I’d like to see political parties have their candidates cut in favour of more independents but Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas. If you introduce educational and competency based criteria to apply to be a Councillor then you run the risk of an even more well developed old boys network running things. We all do things we don’t want to do but societal norms demand it (Mr Carr and his tax for example). And there is compulsory national voting in some democratic countries. I don’t support compulsory national voting but local election voting so people start to realise the idiots that tend to get voted in. IMHO the overall quality of councillor is so low that even if there is a small increase in common sensical decent people getting in standards could improve.

    “Then you would have no primary school teachers. A Masters plus competency in a foreign language?”

    Easy, recruit foreign teachers they come ready loaded with a language package. But seriously, bilingualism is an excellent asset, it would make us more competitive, there is evidence it improves cognitive function and it is best delivered at primary school level. I learned my second language in primary school with no effort whatsoever because I was still at the age where the brain can effortlessly learn sounds and words. So every primary school needs to teach and immerse kids in a foreign language immediately, which means they will need teachers, not all but some, who can speak a modern language.

    “At the risk of standing up for teachers, they actually work typically 8 hours at school + homework (the irony).”

    I was being provocative. I used to date a teacher and she indeed worked very hard. And she did things like I mention, the clubs and debating societies and her pupils would perform well in exams and go on to do well in university. And she had a great rack.

    “The simple fact is that teaching is not a job that tends to attract the brightest and best.”

    Precisely! We trust our most precious natural resource, our human capital, to a large chunk of barely educated teachers. Standards must rise and they can. We must focus on education and spend money on training excellent teachers. And once standards rise schools will perform better, and once schools perform better teaching will be less stressful and more esteemed, which means that teaching gets easier and attracts more people and better people. There are plenty of people who would teach their passion but are put off by the thought of working in some dump of a comprehensive to a deterministic and ordained curriculum they have no control over. Empower teachers, trust them and let them get to work.

    “A larger pool would aid them.”

    Raise the quality of these teachers and more kids will choose these paths. I was put off maths by a poor teacher and to this day and to my shame I am poor at maths.

    “But every person in a hospital who isn’t a nurse and is wiping a patients arse is saving a qualified nurse from having to do this task.”

    But that is what nurses are supposed to do. They were supposed to perform these basic caring tasks but now they often don’t, they have specialisms, nurse practitioners and nurse management streams which means you now have Healthcare Assistants doing what nurses used to do. You don’t need a degree to be able to care for a patient but the nursing governing body wanted one, so it could be like the doctors, and then the emergency technicians did so now you have paramedics and you have to do a diploma to be one with no job guaranteed at the end. Just like you now have PCSOs doing what coppers used to do. And why a degree is common and it is a masters that defines you.

  135. ArmChairCivvy says

    Hi Chris B,

    We seem to agree then, after all:
    ” At that point in time would have been the moment to tighten the rules on capital holding.

    Now is not the time.

    Right now we need money.”
    – on this last point, take a look at the first piccie in this one http://blogs.reuters.com/macroscope/2012/04/12/central-bank-balance-sheets-battle-of-the-bulge/
    – after the “more money” coordinated response in 2008, UK & EU are into the second round, whereas the other majors are not
    – China is not showing in the graph as they don’t have the same monetary channels available; instead had to use local gvmnts (your favorites!) excessively to get the fresh money into circulation, and them being amateurs in it, a lot of that spending has by now turned into bad loans… but as a nation, they can afford it (others are struggling with the external balance constraint, as it has to be funded and that’s where the rest of the world gets a vote)
    – why is it that we are tightening the “defence belt”? To reign in public borrowing (and keep the vote with ourselves, rather than handing it out to others. That, at least, affords us the luxury to argue over police choices)

    Simon’s opening paragraph is on the right track (before he then, in my view, goes off the track with solutions – they are tongue in the cheek, of course)

  136. x says

    @ Phil

    Actually I have studied humanities, a political science, and IT at a tertiary level.

    I started my secondary education at a time when comprehensives became universal replacing grammars and secondary modern’s. I was one of the last to sit O-Levels at a school that also sat trials for GCSE’s. I saw the end of corporal punishment in schools. This was a period when only 5% went on to uni’.

    For over 10 years spanning the period before Labour took office and just up to when Blair sodded off I was a youth worker dealing with teens. I have seen the confusion wrought about by a national curriculum that had too many compulsory subjects. I have seen the discipline and respect in teens dwindle away. During that period I was an active participant in the local uni’s adult education programme and even sat on a few committees.

    5 years ago I went on a college course 90% of whose members were aged 22 to 32 and who had only known GCSEs. For fun I did GCSE maths and came with an A*. Unlike my day there was no calculus on the paper that’s A-Levels these day. The trigonometry question, not questions, was roughly set at the same level as my first year at secondary school. None of those 90% could construct a sentence let a lone a paragraph. Completely ignorant of history beyond “armband politics.”

    4 years ago I went back to uni’. I was with a generation of 18 year old who expected to go to uni’; we now send nearly 1 in 2 on a tertiary course. They were ignorant of history. Had poor geographical knowledge. And many did not know books have an index. The written English was poor. I have seen campuses that were clean, tidy, and comfortable buckle under a huge increase in students, many of whom had no place being at such establishments.

    So don’t you dare tell me I know nothing about education. I have had about as much exposure to the UK’s education system as you can without actually working in the sector. What you say stinks of socialist statist thinking. Everybody’s a winner. Dumb it down. Everybody deserves a white collar job. Everybody deserves a job in management.

    Just as you tell us civilians we know nothing about soldiering with your experience of 2 to 3 years perhaps you can give somebody else the same latitude who has been around the UK’s education longer than you have been a live….?

  137. Phil says

    Another chippy reply x. Surprise surprise.

    “I have seen the confusion wrought about by a national curriculum that had too many compulsory subjects”

    I don’t believe in having a deterministic national curriculum. I say so in my post above.

    “None of those 90% could construct a sentence let a lone a paragraph. Completely ignorant of history beyond “armband politics.””

    You’re just ranting, where have I said that I think the education system is working?!

    “They were ignorant of history. Had poor geographical knowledge. And many did not know books have an index. The written English was poor. I have seen campuses that were clean, tidy, and comfortable buckle under a huge increase in students, many of whom had no place being at such establishments.”

    Again I defend the status quo when and how?

    “So don’t you dare tell me I know nothing about education.”

    That bit is in your head mate, I never said any such thing. I presented an argument and an idea. Pardon me for being so insolent.

    “What you say stinks of socialist statist thinking. Everybody’s a winner. Dumb it down. Everybody deserves a white collar job. Everybody deserves a job in management.”

    I say that absolutely nowhere. I just say that people should be able to follow their talents and passions. Your world view is not the only one, not everyone subscribes to the humans are an economic unit representing x amount of latent economic potential. If people want to follow their interests who are you to tell them otherwise? Do you have the monopoly on wisdom? I’m no hippy, I see mediocrity everywhere because people are wage slaves and go through the motions. Every-time you see a successful small business or enterprise its because someone is following their passion or their interest and thus they make a good job of it.

    I am not advocating some dumbing down, in fact, I have advocated precisely the opposite. But you’ve got a massive chip on your shoulder and you’ve imagined several arguments that I have no made. There is no reason on planet Earth that people can’t follow their passions and interests and still do so in a rigorous manner. Nobody has any right to tell anyone what to learn or do especially at University level when thank you very fucking much I am paying for it myself.

    I quite agree that the University model needs over-hauling. So again I don’t see what you’re going on about.

    “Just as you tell us civilians we know nothing about soldiering with your experience of 2 to 3 years perhaps you can give somebody else the same latitude who has been around the UK’s education longer than you have been a live….?”

    Love it. You want to be a winner too x? Then don’t expect a freebie from me just like I don’t expect everything I say about my experiences to be swallowed unquestionably by you.

  138. Simon says

    x,

    Do you remember the Tachyon Funnel?

    I was the second year to do GCSEs. My parents still haven’t stopped going on about how easy they were :-(. Just as well I filled up later on some vector calculus with a dash of numerical methods as garnish.

  139. x says

    @ Simon re the funnel

    Yes! :)

  140. Observer says
  141. Simon says

    Observer,

    Oh I love the quote…

    “…reverse a “historic mistake” by the Tories in the 1980s when he believes the creation of GCSEs led to a collapse in academic standards through grade inflation and a proliferation of ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses.”

    And we wonder why this once great nation is in the mire. We have 30 years of undereducated people to fix – they’re the ones that will soon be running the show… god help us :-(

  142. Phil says

    “We have 30 years of undereducated people to fix – they’re the ones that will soon be running the show… god help us”

    Because the ones in charge now are doing such a magnificent job!

  143. ArmChairCivvy says

    Is that why the leadership had to be drafted from Eton?
    – just joking…hmmm, am I?

  144. Simon says

    Phil,

    No offence (my jibe includes myself) but my point is that it’s only going to get worse… espeically when I get in power :-)

    Hopefully, however, we’re all a “well rounded bunch” that can think “outside the box” with a “can do” attitude.

  145. Phil says

    I’m already horizon scanning.

  146. Chris.B. says

    What you boys need is a bit of blue sky thinking.

    Anyway, Phil, I saw the word compulsory and immediately hesitated before reading. I accept that certain things are compulsory, like taxes, but forcing people to contribute one of their days off is not really my cup of tea and I don’t think it would go down well. You take a fella who’s been sweating away all week and then tell him he has to come to the community centre on Saturday to put up shelves as part of the governments penny pinching, forced labour program, sorry, the “community action and involvement initiative” and I don’t think he’s going to be too pleased.

    I cant subscribe to any idea that forces people to work or vote against their own free will. You’ll turn the community against the very thing that you’re trying to create. It has to be free will, a spontaneous coming together of the community in order for it to work, else it is just doomed to fail.

    As for the voting, problem is easily solved by removing the need for local councils. They contribute nothing anyway, so they shan’t be missed.

    Now education.

    The problem with recruiting people with Masters degrees is that very few people that smart would even dream of becoming a teacher, not when they can earn significantly more in the private sector. You’d have to massively overhaul the wage scales to entice those kind of people into the job. The budget wouldn’t hold it I don’t think. To stick an extra £10k on every primary and secondary school teachers salary you’re talking about an extra £4bn per year.

    The recruitment of foreign national teachers has been on the decline for years.

    And just to bring X’s debate about a lack of students being able to do certain things into it, I actually think this is an argument for a more perscriptive curriculum, tied to one examination body for the whole of the UK, not pick and choose exam bodies. Put together a true National curriculum which is centred around the core subjects of english, maths, science, I.T., geography, history (mainly british), and true physical education (they made us do modern dance for a whole half term in one of our PE classes. You can probably guess how well that went down).

    Teachers then use their creativity to figure out the best way of sharing that knowledge with the students. But the goal of education should fundamentally be to prepare these youngsters for their life ahead, equipping them with the tools needed to get by and that means trying to give them a basic level of knowledge. A national curriculum.

    On Hospitals,
    If I had my own way as supreme ruler of the UK I would wipe the nursing slate clean. Nurses would be carers and little more. Their job would be to clean the wards, feed the patients, look after them, make sure they took the right medicines and occassionally take temperatures, or other readings. That would be the sum of their job.

    However governments have figured out that nurses can do some doctors work cheaper than the doctors can, so now we have a sub-class of doctors known as nurses that are starting to cost more than they’re worth. On that note, a third class of cheap assistants could help to minimise the sub-class of doctors. Until the cycle starts again.

    With regard to the police, it’s jobs like the custody sergeant and the people manning the phones in emergency centres. These do not need to be full time officers. These jobs could be done by civilians.

    @ ACC and Simon,
    I fully concur that the lack of Banking regulations during the happy times was like taking a six foot grave and adding another ten feet to it.

    But now we need cash. We have small businesses that want to get up and running, or want to epxand, but they need cash. They need liquidity. We need to loosen the reins and let the banks spend. Once the economy is back on its feet, then you can start enforcing the rules again and tightening things up.

    But right now the government doesn’t have the cash to be propping up society. The banks do. Let them do it, and then gradually put the brakes on the economy at a later date to stop it exploding.

  147. Observer says

    Chris, screw happy, as long as they do it. :)

    They may not be happy with the hours, but if it gets them interacting, especially if it breaks up the ethnic cliques, it’s worthwhile doing for that alone.

    Of course, there is also the problem of what disincentives you could possibly leevy on them to make sure they don’t simply skip out.

    As for education, I do see the point on both sides of the argument. You need practical, technical based skills to earn a living (and not drag the government down through welfare), on the other hand, having nothing but technical courses can get wearying really fast. Split the baby? A core of 4 subjects with 1-2 elective humanities? English, 1-2 sciences, 1-2 maths and electives? And honestly, as much as I want to be “happy” studying, truth is it never was a joy. Did it have to be done? Yes. Just like work. Some days, you just feel like decapitating your customers.

    And also, it isn’t really fair to say it was “cheap doctors” that drove the classifications up. As technical medical staff, I’ve seen more and more tech tools and medicine being used in a hospital. This necessitates the ground staff being more educated and trained. In the past, diagnosis was visually by symptoms by the doctor. Nowadays? No PCR/Antibody detection, no confirmation. And ask a nurse in the 50s what is NMR. Tech moves forward. Skills must advance too.

    This isn’t even taking into account patient’s expectations. They ask the nurse a technical question, they expect an immediate answer or you’d get a complaint letter on your desk the next day.

  148. Chris.B. says

    The patients can stuff the complaint letters up their arse if they want free healthcare.

    Back to communities, you cant force people together. They either come together naturally or they don’t forcing them to do labour alongside each other is likely to spark more riots than it stops. You simply cannot, in a modern democracy like ours, force people to do community work. You’d be out on your ear in no time, if not as a result of a failed election then through mass protests. People work hard. The last thing they need is to be made to work harder. It simply wont fly.

  149. x says

    @ Chris B

    Don’t bring me into matey. I have already been told I know fuck all about one area. Not saying that you have told me I being even more wrong somewhere else. Thanks. :)

  150. Phil says

    Chris B

    Yeah of course it wouldn’t happen. It used to happen. And it has been shown that having a stake in a community means you look after it better. Humans are naturally social. So if people tend to look after their communities better if they have a stake in them, and Councils provide a poor service in several areas, surely there is some scope here to improve matters. Ideally I’d love to force everyone to do a days local labour but the concept is too alien to an urban society now. Hence my idea of effectively being paid to do it by having a local tax rebate. And also make community work compulsory for long term unemployed persons.

    Education, you miss the mark I think. Teachers pay is very good, if you haven’t seen how they are paid please take a look it’s quite an intelligent system. But rewards are often a small motivating factor and they can attract the wrong sort. Kids are absolutely our most previous resource and we must harvest their tiny little minds. So if it costs more to have teachers with a Masters then it costs more. Finland does it. And as teaching quality improves you would save money in crime, health and welfare. The details are negotiable but the quality of teachers must improve dramatically overall. Then better folk will be attracted to it. Teaching has a poor reputation for stress and working conditions, this simply must change to attract the right people.

    As for nurses. Yes indeed you’re right. But it’s also the professional bodies, they get lives of their own and want to be seen as equals to other professions so a degree qualification is the first step. You will see nurses become more and more specialised as time goes on. Paramedics are a nightmare too as their professional body is very jealous of the other healthcare workers status. They are only up to diploma level now but it will be a degree soon. It is all costing a fucking fortune

  151. Chris.B. says

    The trouble with teacher pay is that it may be good, but it’s not masters good. If you want to attract masters then you need to pay masters salaries. That’s simply not viable without serious education and financial reform (like not subsidising degrees in media studies or English).

    My goal for education, were it me wielding the supreme power, would be to churn out generations of young people with a solid basic level of education. I’m not especially bothered whether they can speak foreign languages or know poetry off by heart, as long as they understand how to communicate on correctly in English, both verbally and in writing, to a reasonable level, that they understand and have a basic knowledge of maths, have a solid understanding of the three sciences, are in reasonable physical shape, know a reasonable amount about the history of the United Kingdom and how it has shaped the world that we live in today (they should all understand the fundamental issue of crown vs parliament that took place in the civil war for example), and who understand about geography and how it affects the world around them.

    Then A-levels take over for dipping deeper into subjects of interest to them. Psychology, which I foolishly took as an optional GCSE, should be an A-level only subject for example.

  152. Phil says

    Then that is the level of reform needed. It is completely vital to do so. And personally I think there are many people who would teach despite the current wage packet with a masters if the conditions were improved. Education is the one thing that our civilisation simply cannot survive without. It is barmy beyond words that the issues aren’t tackled at a fundamental level.

    I don’t disagree with a solid education. I think however that natural talents should be nurtured and opportunities offered outside the solid education. History needs to go as a subject and be replaced with a multi disciplinary model like the Swedes have since history as a stand alone one thing after another is an irrelevance especially when the latest historical research is multi disciplinary.

    The other problem is as you have pointed out is that as kids a good deal of us don’t know what we want. Which is why I also advocate second chance schemes whereby adults can gain qualifications in subjects they wish they had at the time for free. Now unlike for kids I would restrict this to qualifications of a basic or professional relevance. I even want to go so far as to make gap years compulsory so kids can have a think, is uni, is this course, right for me or can I do something different or work and gain a degree part time which costs me and the state far less.

  153. Chris.B. says

    Well, you’re gonna have a fight on your hands trying to find 4bn quid, especially in an age where many people believe teachers are already over paid for the actual end results they produce (ignore grades, I mean the actual quality of the young individuals).

    Personally I think history is a vital subject that would help young people to understand the fabric of modern society and how we arrived where we are today, and what happened in the past. The Romans, the Saxons, 1066, the Magna Carta, the war of the roses, the Tudors, the Stuarts, The civil war, the massive expansion of the empire in the 1700’s and 1800’s, the two world wars, the cold war etc. I can’t think of a subject that would better help young people understand why the world of today is shaped the way it is.

    Oh, and ban homework.

  154. Phil says

    Well you wont get better results without better teachers.

    I agree history is an amazing and excellent subject. But it is taught in a boring way and covers boring things. History needs to be multi disciplinary as its impossible to truly understand the past without trying to understand the whole context. So history can introduce pupils to sociology, economics, geography, psychology, international relations and religious history. And if pupils find a fancy well they can pursue it. Also history needs to be taught in terms of questions not periods of time. Pupils should explore for example, why did the Roman Empire fall, why is Europe comparatively richer than Africa or China, why did countries go to war in 1914 or why did the Labour Party come about and then flourish. Boring old one thing after another history doesn’t teach kids much. It should be a vehicle to wider interests and an open mind.

  155. Simon257 says

    To many people in this country have a Wish Bone not a Back Bone. Where people blame their problems on everyone else. Are not prepared to help themselves. or are not interested in helping others.

    We have People young and old, who think life should be like the X-Factor. Everything handed to them on a plate. Whilst not prepared to put the time and effort to get anywhere in life.

    We have graduates from Uni who think they a god given right to a job, as long as that job suits their status as graduates. If you tell them go get a job at McDonalds or Tescos, starting on the shop floor, they look at you as if you are a Martian.

    We have groups of so-called professional people, whether they are Bus Drivers in London threatening to strike during The Olympics just so they get a bonus just to do their day to day jobs. Or well paid GP’s striking just because they are being asked to work Saturday Mornings. Or Bankers and Business men who think they can do what they like and get away it.

    We have politicians, whatever there political leanings whether a Councillor, AM, MSP, MP or Lord, who are either clueless, corrupt or just naive. Any good ones just give up pissing in the wind and sadly go with the flow or are just ignored.

    I could go on but i’m depressing myself. Unfortunately the United Kingdom is Morally Bankrupt and Corrupt. I have two small children, unless their is a drastic sea-change in the direction we are going. I will tell them they are better off emigrating to Canada, new Zealand or Australia and never come back.

  156. Simon257 says

    My Apologies, I meant to say in paragraph 4: “have a god given right to a job”.
    Simon

  157. Phil says

    The UK is no worse in a lot of respects than other countries. I don’t buy into the social doom paradigm yet.

  158. Chris.B. says

    “The UK is no worse in a lot of respects than other countries. I don’t buy into the social doom paradigm yet.”

    I’d agree. There are a number of bad spots, but society as a whole is not some depraved and corrupted organism waiting to be shot for its own good.

    I think history taught in a periodic sense makes for easier understanding as one set of events and times flows into the next and helps to shape the environment (political, economic, religious, cultural, military) that the next series of events take place in, as opposed to ad hoc treatments of selective areas. I’d like to see history taught in – forgive me for this – a “joined up manner” over the course of a pupils secondary school life.

    Maybe part of the problem is because we mix up the curriculum so much and expect teachers to take a broad subject and figure it out on their own. Maybe if it was more structured then teachers could focus on the modules a bit more and perhaps over time it would become almost second nature as they went through modules that they knew a lot about and were quite well informed about having taught them time and again in the past.

    To give you an example, at our primary school we had to do “Australia” one term. It was sort of a reoccuring topic that teachers had to bring up every now and again. Now to me that seems foolish, to just jump a teacher and say “right, this year you have to come up with a whole terms worth of materials and exercises about some arbitrarily selected country”. I think in the next year we did St. Lucia and found out all about that.

    Imagine the teachers perspective on that, being suddenly thrust into the position of having to become a font of all knowledge about a relatively obscure Island in the Carribean? How in the hell are teachers supposed to prepare for that and develop any kind of consistency when they have that kind of thing jumped on them?

    I’d prefer a system whereby each “year” of pupils was taught to a set standard, a set collection of subjects that logically progressed from one to the next and remained the same with only slight variations over time. A true national curriculum. How that subject was to be communicated and taught to pupils would be down to the individual teachers.

    I don’t think we need masters teaching the courses. We just need to make the courses more uniform and make the teachers subject matter experts par excellence on the areas we seek to teach kids.

  159. Phil says

    “I think history taught in a periodic sense makes for easier understanding as one set of events and times flows into the next and helps to shape the environment (political, economic, religious, cultural, military) that the next series of events take place in, as opposed to ad hoc treatments of selective areas”

    I hope nobody minds me indulging this thread further.

    I think at primary school level then yes history can be taught in such a manner, and at lower secondary school too. But to seriously develop critical thinking skills, and to make it interesting and to develop inter-disciplinary skills (vital in natural sciences as well as the arts and social sciences) teaching it in themes is better. It stretches the student, encourages them to research rather than learn by heart, introduces them to historiography and different theories and the questions can encompass stretches of time and geography so that change and continuity can be seen. I think the syllabus should stretch from pre-history to roughly the modern day and should be global as well as UK in scope. I think if it can be squeezed in then local history should be taught as well to teach research skills and to show the change in how we have lived and indeed, how we have not changed.

    “I don’t think we need masters teaching the courses”

    I don’t think we’re going to agree!

    Overall I like you would want to see a pupil emerge from the secondary education system with a solid grounding in English, Maths, the natural sciences and a modern language. I also think that my new history subject should be taught as it represents a multi-disciplinary subject that teaches research skills in the social sciences and history and critical thinking. In addition sport should be greatly encouraged and taught. Above that though, and on to Uni children should be able to indulge interests and passions because all work and no play make Johnny a bored, disinterested little bastard. Thereafter a gap year is enforced for all those not wishing to take certain subjects like medicine, architecture and anything else that takes longer than usual to complete training in. And I would then further encourage students to study part time with work experience or to live at home and attend local universities. This way it would be much cheaper. The Open University should be a model.

    In adult life, if you realised you had made a mistake there can be a register of subjects and qualifications of national importance or of basic standards (maths, english etc) that you can re-do up to a certain credit limit for free or have so many credits toward an MA or MSc. This way you can correct the mistakes people like me made whereby a young, arrogant man decides he wants to do a history degree because its interesting but then realises he’d have much rather done something else.

    Adult education is so important. My mum left school with nothing and then spent a long time doing small jobs, then raised us, then looked after grandad until he passed on. And then one day a friend wanted her to go to an open day with her at the Uni, she ended up doing a small access course, and then another, and then she got enough credits to do a foundation degree, that turned into a part time BA and then a full time BA and then she got funding to do an MSc and is now working in a school back to work and contributing. I know a Post man that for 26 years delivered letters and then got sucked into a Physics degree, got a First, won the prize for best student and within 2 years was head of his department in school.

    Honestly, I think education is so important. I realised it in Afghan when I saw these people live almost precisely as they have done for millenia because they can’t read or write and all their knowledge is handed down from one old man to another. I remember looking at one blokes and wondering if he knew the world was round! And then I realised it was a dumb thing to wonder since I doubt he had even given it a thought because his life was just not structured like that. Very depressing. I came back with a new found interest in it. I’d love to teach history but no a syllabus I have no control over and not to little bastard kids who I spend more time controlling than teaching.

  160. Chris.B. says

    “But to seriously develop critical thinking skills, and to make it interesting and to develop inter-disciplinary skills (vital in natural sciences as well as the arts and social sciences) teaching it in themes is better. It stretches the student, encourages them to research rather than learn by heart, introduces them to historiography and different theories and the questions can encompass stretches of time and geography so that change and continuity can be seen”

    — While admirable, I feel that’s not a perscription for the teaching of large volumes of young people. Can you really expect a class of thirty 14 year olds to do research and learn themes etc? Structure works because it builds from one block to the next in a manner that suits an environment where one person is teaching a large number of students. I think your system would work for some of the brighter students but would exclude the majority from the class.

    They don’t necessarily have to learn by rote memorisation anyway. The teacher still has flexibility in teaching. But we need a system that is consistent across the nation and from year to year. I feel putting things in a fixed order would help students to follow the historical thread. Learning about the civil war without learning about the prior struggles over things like the Magna Carta is a waste. Putting things in order would speed up the process and allow the teachers to spend more time on the meat and bones of the lessons than having to spend a whole term putting things into their correct historical context.

    Critical thinking is something that people develop over time. I’m not sure you can really teach it to them in a history lesson. History needs to be about teaching history, not trying to teach kids a fairly abstract concept.

  161. x says

    My last law lecturer built single handed a property business, owns a pub, and is a single mum. She didn’t start her law degree until she was 36. One day she had to take a longish trip by taxi and started talking to the driver who happened to be doing a law degree. When she got home she announced she was going to do a law degree and about 5 years later she was an academic barrister. She still waits tables in her pub at weekend. Frightening woman in a good way.

    To be honest education like youth is wasted on the young. :)

  162. Phil says

    “Can you really expect a class of thirty 14 year olds to do research and learn themes etc?”

    Yes. In the same way we expect them to analyse English literature for themes and to do quadratic equations and to write small research projects in the natural sciences. The concept is about setting a question and then exploring the answers to it, which is what history is really useful for, finding out why not what. What is easy, why is hard. I think some students would struggle, so they’ll get lower marks just like I did in maths for example – like I have said students have strengths and weaknesses.

    “But we need a system that is consistent across the nation and from year to year.”

    I don’t agree, research in the Chicago school system where power and curriculum were devolved radically in recent years shows that schools have a far better scope for improvement the more freedom they have. I think a very light touch curriculum would be good. BUT, the problem are the exam boards who produce the exam papers, no point teaching what you want how you want if there is no accredited exam for it and hence no qualification.

    “Critical thinking is something that people develop over time.”

    I don’t agree, I think it is a very unnatural thing to have. As humans we are curious but we are also deferential to authority, although we are increasingly skeptical of certain types of authority, but nonetheless authority we sympathise with we tend to defer to.

    Critical thinking is a perishable skill that needs to be taught, people must learn to seek evidence, they must learn to evaluate that evidence and then they must learn to form an opinion and defend it. It’s almost exactly the same process as in the natural sciences except in this way it lends itself to the social sciences. You can’t teach it per se, but you can develop and train the faculties for it. We live in a world that most people cannot imagine could be any different, yet, we just live in one evolutionary cycle, there is probably nothing inevitable about democracy and capitalism or the social norms we have today in the liberal west. Yet we act as if they are timeless and will continue to be timeless. I think that is a closed mind, history can show how human society has changed, sometimes not for the better, and the sociological aspect can open the mind to interpreting social reality as just one possible one. It doesn’t really matter, the point is the mind is opened and people think. One look at the Daily Mail comments section on line should let you know just how many critical thinking retards there are.

  163. Chris.B. says

    Phil,

    Equations are mainly about following a series of steps. As for English literature, that’s a perfect example of how only the good students excel and everyone else tends to fall by the wayside. That is not a model that lends itself to future success.

    I accept that some students will get lower grades than others and this is just the natural order of the world, but we need to be doing everything we can to try and produce generation after generation of broadly capable young individuals, not a system that promotes only success for the very brightest. That is where A-levels and degrees come into play, syphoning off the brightest and promoting them to a higher level.

    I agree that we need a coherent, national examining body, but I believe is should not be a pick and choose system for schools, so that all students are truly tested to a common standard. I can’t agree at all with allowing schools to develop their own curriculums. It defeats the point of testing entirely. What use is a GCSE if a college, university or employer can’t trust that all the students sat an equal exam? It becomes a massive, self serving waste.

    As for critical thinking, I agree in a sense that you learn it, but I believe it evolves more over time than anything. I think it’s extremely difficult to cultivate critical thinking in a classroom and will simply interrupt the true purpose of the classroom, that being to embue young people with the required knowledge for them to function as a member of society.

  164. Phil says

    “As for English literature, that’s a perfect example of how only the good students excel and everyone else tends to fall by the wayside.”

    No it’s not.

    You make an assertion and then pick text to prove your point. There’s no magic involved and no need to be sensitive or cultured. It is teaching you to analyse text, and use that text to form an argument or answer a question. Or at least this is how it should be taught. It is how I was taught.

    “not a system that promotes only success for the very brightest.”

    But that is not at all what I am advocating. I am advocating a system that allows children to play to their natural talents. I have core subjects that must be taught, perhaps the student performs badly in them but such is life, but they excel at something else. I want to see a system that can then nurture that excellence and allow the student to contribute and be somebody. Good teachers would see that as many as possible did well in the core subjects but as you say some will just not take to them that well, just as I struggled terribly with maths and physics. It’s about a solid kernal of knowledge to equip a child to live in an industrial and post industrial world and then nurturing anything else as best as can be done.

    “It defeats the point of testing entirely. What use is a GCSE if a college, university or employer can’t trust that all the students sat an equal exam?”

    This is another fundamental problem. Standards do not equate to higher outputs. This has been proven in several fields and we read it daily in the paper that GCSE standard is not as it once was. Fine. The objective is to develop well rounded individuals able to go to work or pursue their talents or business interests, not human beings shat out in a conveyor belt process with periodic quality assurance that they are hitting some arbitrary and ever changing and frankly subjective standard. Too many teachers are teaching to the exam and the lowest common denominator. Give them more freedom to teach within a more light touch curriculum.

    As for university etc, they must select their own candidates. Any organisation that doesn’t see the value in doing its own selection process and relying heavily on lowest common denominator standards deserves to die. They will have to take a more holistic approach to selection which is what the best universities do now anyway because they don’t trust the outputs. We have standards that nobody trusts, the standards take up a lot of time and effort and overall actually lower standards as they do in almost any industry. What are they there for? I will tell you why, its simple lazyness. We want a nice rational quantitative analysis of a human beings potential because we are too lazy to do a proper qualitative and holistic assessment which organisations end up having to try and do anyway.

    The Army, you need basic levels in core subjects, this is fine, but otherwise another selection process is used entirely and perfectly able people are recruited who end up with responsibility and knowledge because they were given a chance, it doesn’t matter if you have a U in history or an E in Woodwork.

    I’m very conservative when it comes to military matters so my radicalism has to go somewhere and it goes in education reform, welfare reform and localism.

  165. Chris.B. says

    “I’m very conservative when it comes to military matters so my radicalism has to go somewhere and it goes in education reform, welfare reform and localism.”
    — I’d never guess ;)

    “You make an assertion and then pick text to prove your point. There’s no magic involved and no need to be sensitive or cultured. It is teaching you to analyse text, and use that text to form an argument or answer a question”
    — You’re asking kids to make assertions in front of their classmates and pick texts to prove their points. Not only will the possibility of group humiliation hold them back, but it also takes a considerable amount of time that could be better spent giving them a) the answer and then b) the reason why that answer is valid,

    Some of the worst teachers I ever had were English teachers, who tried to impose precisely this kind of abstract thought concept onto a room full of teenagers who had no clue what the hell the teacher was talking about, compounded by the fact that different teachers would interpret different works with their own kooky theories. A much more basic assessment of each work would have been ten times as useful and permitted the class to breeze through a far greater number of works, which if selected correctly, would have provided a suitable breadth to compensate for the lack of inane, mind numbingly deep level analysis that many individual works were subjected to, the majority of which went over the students heads because they were insufficiently mature and knowledgable to be able to break down the complex theories and ideals being presented.

    “I am advocating a system that allows children to play to their natural talents. I have core subjects that must be taught, perhaps the student performs badly in them but such is life, but they excel at something else”
    — There simply isn’t time to indulge in every last facet of the childrens life and interest. Students today often lack solid basics because so much time is spent being frittered away on courses and subjects that don’t have a meaningful impact on their future lives. Education must achieve focus if it is to stand a chance of working correctly. Art, music, languages and drama for example, are passions that people should indulge outside of school hours, not a pivotal exercise in framing their future selves. The majority of students learn very little useful skills in art, drama or music lessons, and most rarely call on their language skills either because most allow them to atrophy through disuse.

    “Any organisation that doesn’t see the value in doing its own selection process and relying heavily on lowest common denominator standards deserves to die. They will have to take a more holistic approach to selection which is what the best universities do now anyway because they don’t trust the outputs”
    — To a degree, yes, but there has to be a baseline. If you do not have standard assessments then it means the complete assessment has to be done by the end organisation. That means that if you’re a college head, you might get 1000 applications in a given year. How are you supposed to narrow this group down to say 300, without a standard assessment to start with?

    An employer can whittle down candidates based on prior work history etc, but a college recruiter has no such advantage. Standard tests are just that; a method for establishing a baseline from which you can eliminate clearly unsuitable candidates and then pick from a remaining core group who you will assess in greater depth personally.

    We also do not trust current standards precisely because they are not universal enough, or not stringent enough. GCSE’s vary depending on the qualifying board, which defeats the point of having them. The army conversely has standard tests that are the same no matter where you take them, so individual results can be compared much more realistically and reliably across a broad spectrum of candidates.

    I want young people to do the best they can and achieve their goals. Fundamentally I believe that the best thing we can do for them is to build a rock, rock solid foundation that applies to the greatest number of situations that they will encounter in life, and allow passing interests to be seen to outside of school (maybe after school music, art, drama and language lessons?) or in later stages such as A-levels and degrees.

    Robots it may produce, but these will be robots that can spell, talk proper like what me and you do, add, subtract, multiply, do long division and multiplication on paper (like what neither me or you can do) will understand the basics of science that govern the world around them, will understand about the world and why cultures develop the way they do through geography, and will understand how our country developed through time from the Roman age to the modern age, how it came to be the way it is, how economics, politics, religion and war shaped our nation and the nations around us. And they’ll be in good physical shape. And they’ll be shit hot on computers.

  166. Phil says

    “You’re asking kids to make assertions in front of their classmates and pick texts to prove their points.”

    I’m expecting kids to take data and use it in an argument. The data happens to be English text but fundamentally it is just data to back up an argument. This is one of the key skills in English literature and you don’t need to do it in front of class but anyway I don’t see a problem with that as confidence, character and operating in a social group are part of being a growed up.

    “precisely this kind of abstract thought concept”

    But it isn’t abstract, you have an idea, and you use data to back it up. You think Hamlet is a self-pitying idiot, you are then expected to use text to back this argument up. Yes I know there can be some horrendous and far too kooky arguments in English literature but that can be encouraged by the teacher if the student is gifted in that area, otherwise it teaches a valuable key skill and it teaches comprehension (understanding the text or data). Both vital skills to being a growed up.

    “a) the answer and then b) the reason why that answer is valid”

    *GASP!* This is what happens, they are taught the test, and thus the test is simply a test of memory not understanding. You can’t expect a student to learn like this and then sit an exam that asks them to make their own argument. Reciting model answers off is a poor substitute for being able to form your own argument. It is all about the argument, not the answer, there is no right or wrong answer in this matter just like there isn’t in history as long as the data fits the hypothesis.

    “There simply isn’t time to indulge in every last facet of the childrens life and interest.”

    I’m not advocating that. I am advocating good teachers knowing their pupils and steering them in the right direction and nurturing their talent. It can be done outside school, it can be done in after school clubs or youth organisations, but you need a good teacher that bothers with that. And it can be done because I know teachers that could give you pen portraits of all their pupils even in classes of 30 because they are inspired, motivated and care.

    “Art, music, languages and drama for example, are passions that people should indulge outside of school hours, not a pivotal exercise in framing their future selves.”

    I can’t agree. I’m no hippy but we lead our own lives and make our own choices and lots of people make very happy lives out of the arts and music and drama even if it doesn’t make them rich. Education is about being well rounded and having solid core knowledge. There is time to take these lessons, there is no way any students are going to sit through solid days of English, Maths and Science especially if they have a passion for music. The problem is not time spent on subjects but the quality of teaching, we spent loads of time on Maths, but the teacher was poor and so I could not grasp it. If I had sat through more of the same I’d have been just as stupid and one hundred times more bored and disinterested in school. It has to be interesting and quality teaching.

    “The majority of students learn very little useful skills in art, drama or music lessons, and most rarely call on their language skills either because most allow them to atrophy through disuse.”

    The ones that are interested do. I have no interest in them so I dropped them all, but others did and some of my classmates are now quite successful in them. I think in primary school and lower secondary time must be given to allow students to explore what interests them and what doesn’t. And there is the time because solid triple English most days is going to destroy students who aren’t interested in it.

    “If you do not have standard assessments then it means the complete assessment has to be done by the end organisation.”

    I agree there has to be some framework. I am pointing out that standards often lower outputs as people stop once they meet the standard whereas before they might have excelled. I have read research into safety standards etc that show how standards actually drop amongst a lot of organisations because they no longer go that extra mile because they don’t need to to get that certificate or that logo on their letterheaded paper and if anything happens they can say, hey, we met the standard. No that’s not good enough for our most precious resource. More effort must go into finding holistic ways of evaluating students and not relying on simple standards.

    “but a college recruiter has no such advantage”

    I had three interviews for Oxford and two for Kings College London. This is what good universities do, they select properly.

    “but these will be robots that can spell, talk proper like what me and you do, add, subtract, multiply, do long division and multiplication on paper (like what neither me or you can do) will understand the basics of science that govern the world around them, will understand about the world and why cultures develop the way they do through geography, and will understand how our country developed through time from the Roman age to the modern age, how it came to be the way it is, how economics, politics, religion and war shaped our nation and the nations around us. And they’ll be in good physical shape. And they’ll be shit hot on computers.”

    They’ll be none of that without good teachers.

    Neither of our ideas would work at all.

    Start with them, the rest will follow. Good people make bad institutions work.

  167. Phil says

    Oh and incase I seem a snob for name dropping Universities I didn’t get into Oxford (thank God!) and I dropped out of Kings after my first year of War Studies to go do History at the local Uni!

  168. x says

    “I dropped out of Kings after my first year of War Studies to go do History at the local Uni!”

    May one ask why?

  169. Phil says

    Course good but a country boy like me whose first trip to London ever was for the interviews really didn’t get on there. I also had very little in common with the other, rather well off students. I did fancy a lovely German with ‘Von’ in her name though. I just hated it there. And so young arrogant me learned one of life’s lessons that you should look at the bigger picture. One day when I’m rich I’ll go back and do an MA in it. It’s not every day your lecture on the Falklands is delivered by Jeremy Thompson. We had some very emminent guest speakers.

  170. Chris.B. says

    Phil,

    To most kids, the kind of stuff you’re talking about is abstract. We had a teacher once, one of the other English staff filling in for our absent mistress, who tried to get the class to view a certain poem about the first world war through the lens of the five senses; touch, taste, sound, sight and smell. We then had to explain to the class why we felt this was so.

    Nobody had the first bloody clue what she was talking about.

    You could sit there for an hour and get a bunch of absolutely useless answers. Or, you could just give the kids the answer and explain why it is so. Does this become a test of memory? In a way yes. I memorised that the reason temperatures drop at night is because there is no cloud and thus heat is radiated away from the surface of the earth into the upper atmosphere, whereas on a cloudy night heat will become trapped under the cloud layer and radiated back to the Earth’s surface. At the same time a half intelligent kid can extrapolate that the same would be true for example of covering the skin with clothes.

    You can give kids the answer, as long as you explain to them how that answer came about. Instead of forcing them to guess and fumble around the process of evidence based solutions, you can simply bombard them with a volley of examples which eventually they will absorb, which also permits a more rapid coverage of a greater volume of materials.

    “I can’t agree. I’m no hippy but we lead our own lives and make our own choices and lots of people make very happy lives out of the arts and music and drama even if it doesn’t make them rich”

    But very few of them in schools actually have any real interest in any of these subjects and they are not key components of their future. Its patently unfair on the 29 out of 30 kids who have to sit through a music lesson just so little Johnny who has a keyboard at home can indulge his passion for piano playing.

    To bastardise something once said by Churchill; Never in the field of human education have so many, wasted so much, for the benefit of so few. Music is one of the great scourges of modern education, an emminently useless subject on a par with art and drama that should be dealt with outside of school hours where pupils can receive the specialist attention that it requires.

    The school time table without such lessons would permit physical activity to be incorporated for an hour into every single day, along with the spread of English, Maths, Science, History, Geography, ICT, an optional technology course (materials/cooking/textiles) and one RE lesson a week. A more than adequate spread.

    “I had three interviews for Oxford and two for Kings College London. This is what good universities do, they select properly”

    Now don’t tell me that they didn’t whittle you down from a much larger body of candidates? Consider this for a moment; if there were no formal entry requirements how many people would apply annually to Oxford and Cambridge. How would Oxford and Cambridge know – other than background – who to interview as viable candidates? They can’t interview every single one of the thousands upon thousands of applications they would receive. ‘If only’ they would say ‘if only there were some form of standardised test that we could give all of these applicants, so we could weed out the less intelligent and narrow the list down to only those who scored the highest marks’.

    And thus Oxford and Cambridge would reinvent the A-level. And the colleges below them would reinvent O-levels/GCSE’s. And all the other universities and colleges would say ‘hmm, that seems like a good idea, why don’t we all pitch in and call for a national testing standard’.

    The concerns you have over testing I would agree with if GCSE’s and A-levels were pass/fail, like a driving test. But they’re not. They’re graded, with higher grades increasing the likelyhood of being accepted to the next level of education, which provides greater individual choice for the candidate and thus incentive to not just “pass” but pass with flying colours.

    (On a quick tangent, graded driving tests anyone? Attracting discounts from insurers?)

    “They’ll be none of that without good teachers. Neither of our ideas would work at all”

    I think mine could just pass with current teachers. The curriculum being fixed and being very much teacher led, ‘here’s the answer, this is why this answer is correct’ type stuff that would remain almost constant year to year would provide an easy framework for teachers to follow and to get very good at over the course of several years because the curriculum and indeed its order would not significantly change.

    This kind of thing already happens in the Sciences and science has a good reputation for grades.

  171. Ali says

    Phil

    How was War Studies at KCL as it is one of my choices?

    Ali

  172. Simon says

    Chris B,

    Just picking this bit out (sorry)…

    “To bastardise something once said by Churchill; Never in the field of human education have so many, wasted so much, for the benefit of so few. Music is one of the great scourges of modern education, an emminently useless subject on a par with art and drama that should be dealt with outside of school hours where pupils can receive the specialist attention that it requires.”.

    …although I’d usually agree I think it’s very easy to forget what base education really is… to learn “nothing about everything” actually a “little of everything”. We then end up like (probably) you and I, experts in our fields, knowing “everything about nothing”. i.e. specialist in something so infinitesimally narrow that it is next to nothing in other people’s minds.

    Without art and music this world would be very monotone… someone has to do it… someone therefore needs to have the “springboard” opportunity to pursue it… base education.

    I guess we just have to get the balance right as to how much time is devoted to exposing our children to art, music, language, history, geography, physics, maths, etc.

    PS: Just for your info… music is very good at teaching maths and maths is very good at teaching music. Music is one of the few areas that convincingly demonstrates the principle of superposition (chords and ultimately Fourier) and powers of two (octaves).

  173. Chris.B. says

    @ Simon,

    I remember three kids in our original form class of a musical persuasion. One was forced to learn the piano from an early age but gave up on it as soon as he had the opportunity. Another had learnt the guitar, privately, and now plays in a band that does some minor touring and festivals. The other was privately tutored on the saxophone and I believe still plays for fun but not for money.

    For the rest of the class it was an utter waste of three hours every week for three solid years.

    Music, art and drama are things that surround us daily. We take them in, either knowingly or unknowingly on a daily basis. There are plentfiul opportunities to seek these passions outside of school. You can buy a cheap guitar, an electronic tuner and a basic book for less than £50. Art, blimey, where do we begin, let alone end. Drama is covered by a multitude of amateur socieities.

    All of these would be better covered by after school clubs where the teachers could focus on the interested students more intently. Music and Art in particular do not lend themselves well to mass education. I’d have absolutely no problem with schools subsidising these kind of after school clubs, along with foreign languages, for those students who take an interest in them.

    As part of the core education though? I believe they are a waste.

  174. Simon says

    Chris.B.,

    I’m one of those that thought history was a complete waste of my time. I wrote my name on the exam paper and walked out I thought it was so pointless. Never done that before, never done it since. It was the most dull and depressing subject I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter. I put it down to the way it was taught.

    Some subjects light the spark in some people.

    To me, any subject that is “knowledge based” is pointless – just read a book. Intelligence is the application of knowledge to solve problems, it’s this that needs to be taught at schools. Music is a skill and requires intelligence, not simply a retentive memory.

    Found an interesting link about my Music and Maths statement:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_and_mathematics

    I speak the “music and maths “bit from personal, through-life, hobby and career experience. Any person with a technical, scientific or mathematical mind that doesn’t find music very, very clever indeed has never been taught the basics.

  175. Chris.B. says

    I find music interesting and admire those who can play, but I have no desire to learn how to play music on a keyboard or any other instrument than perhaps the guitar, which will probably become a hobby at a later point in life.

    History is probably the most important subject we can teach outside of English, Maths and Science. It encapsulates our entire nation, how its laws were formed, its racial composition, how it rose to power and then fell from grace. It describes the very fabric that binds us all to this Island.

    I think your link between Music and Maths is more aimed at those who take a great deal of interest in complex calculations and algorithms, as opposed to the broader definiton of “smart” individuals.

    “To me, any subject that is “knowledge based” is pointless – ”

    Knowledge can be very powerful. From knowledge, wisdom flows. Most kids wouldn’t read the books and wouldn’t understand them even if they did. That’s the teachers job, to provide context.

  176. Simon says

    Chris B,

    I won’t get into a subject slagging match – I didn’t like history, you didn’t like music. Fair enough. I bet there are more professional musicians than historians in this country though?

    Many believe maths is a pointless subject. How many people do algebra in their everyday lives? Fewer need calculus! Just because you don’t use it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taught in order to “light the fire” in those that it excites and challenges.

    It’s intelligence that makes wisdom of use – without intelligence wisdom is just a sad man, with a beard, sitting in a dark cave, alone.

  177. Phil says

    Tag Simon!

  178. Phil says

    @Ali

    My experience is ten years out of date now mate. But the course, its interesting but I would definitely think long and hard about what you want to do with it since its a BA. The content was good, the lecturers were frankly mixed (one or two were awful) and I never saw the then head of it the school once, not even on day one week one which was disappointing as I had read a lot of his books.

    It’s a solid course, mixes international relations, politics and history, has some good guest speakers but you will spend most of your time interacting with teaching assistants and not the lecturers who write all the books. I never had a single seminar with anyone but a teaching assistant and there’s one to this day I have not forgiven for correcting my spelling of Welch Regiment to Welsh Regiment.

    As long as you’re sure what you want to do with it, go for it you’ll probably enjoy it, its a very cosmopolitan course. I started on 18 Sep 2001 so the classrooms were half empty until all the US students could fly in.

  179. Chris.B. says

    @ Simon,

    Maths is something that we all do on practically a daily basis and is a key component of our lifes. Algebra is something that a lot of people do often in their lives without really realising it. It also plays a key component in aiding the sciences. History is something we all encounter on a daily basis as well. Just because top historians don’t earn as much as some of the top rock and pop acts – most of whom learnt music outside of school – does not devalue history as a subject in schools, that is a critical component of our national identity, while also serving as a ready made lesson in politics, economics, religion and geopolitics. There are more professional historians or those who rely on their history background to earn a living than professional musicians.

  180. wf says

    @Simon: I suspect that the man in the cave might have company, even if his application of his intelligence is confined to saying “ug”, chasing mammoths and scratching his arse :-)

  181. Simon says

    Chris B,

    As I said I don’t want to slag off history because it’s only my perception of the subject. The point being that if you (a historian, say) and me (a musician, say) are in the same school class we’d need a history lesson and a music lesson in order to both excel.

    “…most of whom learnt music outside of school…”

    Oh, you’re an expert in the field of music are you? How do you know? How old are most pop/rock stars when they hit the limelight? School or university leavers I’d wager – probably using school or university music equipment, stages and/or performance opportunities. Probably produced, recorded and/or mixed by the music teacher/professor.

  182. Chris.B. says

    “Oh, you’re an expert in the field of music are you? How do you know?”

    — Because most musicians who’ve achieved any sort of level of competence have biographies, and the vast majority of them began playing their insturments before they even attended school, had instruments outside of any provided at schools, and most hit the limelight (excluding winners of TV talent shows) later in their careers when they were doing regular gigs. The phenomenon of music teachers with the required equipment to mix professional records and albums for their students is relatively new.

    Career musicians are seldom people who just pick up a guitar in a class one day and three years later are jamming like pros.

    Anyway, this is not about the extremes, because the extremes will often sort their own ends out (musicians will buy instruments, historians will buy history books). This is about the broad knowledge base and utility provided to your average pupil.

  183. Simon says

    Chris B,

    “…the vast majority of them…”.

    I see, you’ve read the vast majority of these autobiographies too have you? Interesting that you’re so anti-music at school.

    It’s about BREADTH of knowledge. You build your career and life like a pyramid. You have to start with strong foundations.

  184. Phil says

    Exactly Simon. Agreed completely.

    Teachers need to be paternal, they need to look after the emotional and intellectual needs of their students. This is what the best teachers in the best schools do. They are motivated to go the extra mile, to assist struggling students and help them find their way and encourage them in their talents. All of this is instinctive to the good teachers, we must train and select them better and get rid of the dross. I don’t want instructors, I want to see teachers – in my mind they are very different things.

    And I want to see students have a broad education with a solid kernel of training in the three R’s, slightly more specialisation in further education, an enforced gap year for most and then a University education that specialises further as it must do.

    I think and wonder if it would be practicable to have what is essentially a life long learning professional development portfolio for people, tailored to their desires and needs and who are not part of a professional organisation or body that has these anyway.

  185. x says

    Teachers are constantly training. I think you mean putting them in a framework similar to that of doctors don’t you? Doctors seem to being in a training regime until they become consultants.

  186. Phil says

    Doctors are indeed in training until they become Consultants.

    I don’t think teachers need that much training, I think they need to have high academic standards and frankly need a social worker element to their training too, but mostly, you need to select the right people and attract the right people. You can’t train leaders and you can’t train good teachers in my view. You can get something akin to an instructor who can employ the deficit model of communication and pretend they are teachers just like you can get a manager and pretend they are a leader, but real teachers and real leaders have to be selected and attracted.

    I think a masters is a perfectly acceptable level of qualification needed, Finland manages it.

  187. Simon says

    Phil,

    Oddly I agree with your enforced gap year idea. I say oddly because I didn’t, and whilst not quite regretting it, I think that a year in the industry I was going to study would have been very, very valuable.

  188. x says

    Phil said “frankly need a social worker element to their training too”

    Pastoral care is important. And that is a better term than “social worker”.

  189. Chris.B. says

    “I think a masters is a perfectly acceptable level of qualification needed, Finland manages it.”

    — Finland doesn’t have to recruit and pay almost half a million staff just for the Primary and Secondary schools, while maintaining a sizable defence force, a national health service the size of ours, DfID, etc. We can’t afford to compete with the private sector for Masters salaries. There is a reason why we pay teachers what we do and accept the standard of candidate that we do, because it’s all we can afford and because these are the people applying.

    “I see, you’ve read the vast majority of these autobiographies too have you? Interesting that you’re so anti-music at school”

    — One can be interested in Music without being interested in the slightest in how music is written or formed. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is two fold; 1) find me just one major music star who went to school, learned to play an instrument while at school, and then went on to make a successful career out of it, 2) find me ten more on top, just the same.

    Music is not something you just pick up and start playing to a good standard. If you don’t realise that then you were the kid in the music class who already knew how to play before you got there. For 99% of the students music is the most phenominal waste of their school time possible.

    We cannot tailor our educational system to cater to the few sods who are already lucky enough to own instruments and probably receive private tutition as it is. Or to the odd bod who happens to be the rebirth of Constable.

    Music taught me nothing. Art taught me nothing. French langauages taught me nothing. Most people I know can say bonjour and au revoir and that’s about the limit. They don’t paint and they don’t play instruments. They do speak English and are often called upon to write in it. They do maths.

    Diversity of subjects is just an excuse not to concentrate on the core lessons needed. It’s letting the kids fart about until they find something they fancy and then drop a year later when they realise it wasn’t what they thought it was, then find themselves in later life caught short because they don’t have the basics down.

    Education is not about pandering to every last bloody whim of the kids. It’s supposed to be about preparing them for life, not tarting about learning chords on a Piano that they’ll have forgotten within the year.

  190. x says
  191. Phil says

    “Finland doesn’t have to recruit and pay almost half a million staff just for the Primary and Secondary schools, while maintaining a sizable defence force, a national health service the size of ours, DfID, etc.”

    Relatively speaking though I would be surprised if it doesn’t. I believe they have socialised medicine and they maintain a large conscript force. I will have a look. Anyway, I believe you overstate the role of reward in teaching – reward is a low motivator according to a lot of research and if teachers were so concerned about reward then they’d have left in droves putting up with some of the conditions they have to. There are plenty of people who would teach their interests for the sake of it and for a comfortable wage, we do not have to compete with the private sector in wage terms. And if the teacher wants more money well there’s always the 10-15 years of slavery they can endure to become a University Academic.

    “It’s supposed to be about preparing them for life”

    Your life though is not everyone’s life. If you look at well rounded people they tend to have had a well rounded education, often only for a few hours a day too. Exposing children to a breadth of experience and knowledge and then helping choose their path in a pastoral manner is a positive thing. As Simon has pointed out, different students excel in different things. Who are we to decide which things are more valuable than others? Using music as an example, there are music teachers, people who play in bands and orchestra’s and a whole industry associated with music and performance that contributes to the economy. Should these adults have been stifled as children when their passions clearly did not lie in algebra?

    It is about being an active participant in life, not a passive one and your model is passive. It was activity in the natural sciences, in engineering, in the creative arts, and in the humanities that gives this country such a rich, well rounded tradition of achievement.

    In order to be active then certain pathways should be available for kids. The deficit model of learning is a dead end to intellectual stimulation and achievement. We can all tread water and be mediocre in something and work in an office like a goon, but give us all enough options and we can excel and be active and thrive and contribute in many different ways all of which enriches the country.

    Poverty of the mind through poor teaching and a lack of opportunity leads to lack of aspiration and it is lack of real aspirations that differentiates the have and the have nots.

  192. John Hartley says

    Which show had that competition to see how long a union leader could talk without using the word “aspiration”?

  193. Simon says

    Chris.B.,

    I’ll duck out of your challenge because I guess most pop/rock stars went to school and I’m not sure learning an instrument whilst there has much to do with the simple exposure to music education since there’s more to music education than just playing an instrument – singing, writing, recording and producing spring to mind.

    Most people experience music/instruments before they go to school and may choose to “master” them throughout their entire lives.

    A little like kids and computers nowadays. The formal education of IT at school helps them realise there’s more than just games and the Internet. They may even one day “master” an application or language. The opportunity within this countries education system is what helps them find direction and discover their own capabilities.

    They may be “fluffy” subjects but they still have a benefit to society and mankind as a whole.

  194. Phil says

    Interestingly in 2010 Finland spent 6.6% of GDP on education to get what is often considered one of the best education systems in the world.

    In 2010 we spent 6% of GDP to get what we have.

    Defence, Finland spent 1.6% of GDP, we spent 2.97% of GDP in 2010.

    Health, Finland spent 7.9% we spent 8.13% of GDP in 2010.

    Sources:

    http://www.stat.fi/til/jmete/2010/jmete_2010_2012-01-31_tie_001_en.html

    http://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/spending_chart_1998_2015UKb_11s1li111mcn_10f

    I made sure that the UK figures were % of GDP and not % of spending using the maths I learned at school. ;)

  195. Anixtu says

    Chris.B.

    “-Finland doesn’t have to recruit and pay almost half a million staff just for the Primary and Secondary schools, while maintaining a sizable defence force, a national health service the size of ours, DfID, etc.”

    Finnish Defence Force larger than ours per-capita and with reservists mobilised larger overall (for a country with a population equivalent to Scotland’s)! Education budget twice England’s per-capita, slightly greater per-capita public funding of healthcare, international aid given about the same per-capita as UK.

    etc. ;-)

  196. Anixtu says

    Phil beat me to it and his figures are probably better than mine…

  197. Chris.B. says

    So you’ve proved my point for me?

    We spend more as a percentage of GDP on health than Finland, and almost double on defence. When you consider how much larger our GDP is, that’s not an insignifcant sum. For comparison, to add just £10,000 to all of our teachers salaries would be the equivalent to a rise of nearly 2.5% of Finnish GDP.

    And you say it’s not cash motivated, so where are all the people with Masters degrees lining up to become teachers then? Why isn’t our Education system flooded with Masters in Primary and Secondary schools? Why, because the world is not as altruistic as you would like to believe. The fact is that people with Masters degrees can earn more money for less hours and less work in the private sector. You can just tempt these people in off the street with the carrot of telling them they can make up their own education system.

    “Education budget twice England’s per-capita, slightly greater per-capita public funding of healthcare, international aid given about the same per-capita as UK.”

    Irrelevant. The fact is they make more money per capita than we do (about $10,000) so naturally can afford to spend more on each person. Per Capita spending is a poor selection of measure in this case.

    “Your life though is not everyone’s life”

    I didn’t say it was. However most people around here live a vaguely similar life to me, average Joe’s you might call us.

    “If you look at well rounded people they tend to have had a well rounded education”

    Depends what you describe as “well rounded”. What makes a person fit your definition of well rounded?

    “Who are we to decide which things are more valuable than others? Using music as an example, there are music teachers, people who play in bands and orchestra’s and a whole industry associated with music and performance that contributes to the economy. Should these adults have been stifled as children when their passions clearly did not lie in algebra?”

    And where did most of these children learn their instruments? Or to pick up Simons thread, about reading music and writing it? Funnily enough, schools don’t teach classes in writing and producing music. People who learn to play instruments also learn to read music at the same time, as one without the other is almost impossible.

    This is what is getting on my tits about this argument. You know full bloody well (or should do) that people don’t go to school as an untrained novice and then attend an hour long music class each week for three years and come out the other side as a competent musician able to read, write and play music. They learn outside of school, and in most cases the music lessons are boring to them because its rudimentary “abc” type stuff that they’ve already progressed well beyond.

    All this guff about broadening horizons and all that is precisely that; it’s a pile of guff, and has sod all to do with what actually happens in schools. Now that may be fine for Eton or all those other snob schools with money to piss on, and good on them, but your regular secondary doesn’t have wads of cash to be teaching its kids latin and the history of art.

    And if that’s the kind of broad horizons that lead to people like our current crop of politicians then that’s probably the finest argument in the world not to do it.

  198. Simon says

    Chris B,

    This is getting silly.

    “…people don’t go to school as an untrained novice and then attend an hour long music class each week for three years and come out the other side as a competent musician able to read, write and play music…”

    People don’t go to school as an untrained novice in most disciplines, attend class and emerge three years later as competent physicists, chemists, historians or anything. It’s the pursuit of excellence that creates a professional and it can take a lifetime to achieve some of the highest levels.

    The level of schooling you’re talking about is broad base education. Dabble in as much as possible: metalwork, painting, pottery, optics, electronics, ancient history, geology, needlework, cooking, religion, dance, I.T.

  199. Phil says

    “So you’ve proved my point for me?”

    No I haven’t. Finland spends a slither more of her money on education relatively speaking and gets a world class education system whilst spending broadly the same amount on health. Yeah we spend more on defence but they have a conscript force.

    “And you say it’s not cash motivated, so where are all the people with Masters degrees lining up to become teachers then?”

    Erm, put off by the appalling conditions in schools and why would you self fund a Masters when you don’t have to because you’re already in the job?

    “Why, because the world is not as altruistic as you would like to believe”

    It has got nothing to do with altruism and nothing to do with what I believe. There is plenty of research which shows that monetary reward is not the motivating factor people think it is and it certainly on its own does not improve performance in complex tasks. Explain why there are teachers now, on comparatively low pay smashing out hours and hours of overtime a week, marking in their own time, running after and pre school clubs and putting up with a stifling curriculum and far to often terrible pupils and physical violence and abuse? If they were all so motivated by money they’d have chinned the profession off a long time ago. There are clearly other factors and motivators at work. This isn’t some Communist utopia I am imagining, there are already thousands and thousands of teachers going the extra mile for no more money at all.

    “I didn’t say it was. However most people around here live a vaguely similar life to me, average Joe’s you might call us.”

    Maybe they do live a similar life, bet you’d find a wide range of interests and passions and talents. My sister can do photography, Dad is engineer minded, my Mum has an MSc and my brother is excellent at music and poetry and I’m interested in other things. Don’t tell me that everyone has anything like the same way of thinking as you do.

    “What makes a person fit your definition of well rounded?”

    Exactly, what makes them well rounded. Who knows. So why do you get to impose your dreary industrial world view on other people?

    “Funnily enough, schools don’t teach classes in writing and producing music. ”

    Funny because I had endure it in my comprehensive school in music classes. Despised it, I was always the retard with the Glockenspiel with a few notes missing.

    “All this guff about broadening horizons and all that is precisely that; it’s a pile of guff”

    Then you have a narrow mind. My dead beat run of the mill state comprehensive school has music programmes, school programmes, after school clubs, performances and drama’s, science clubs, several sports teams. Not all of these were taught during lessons, a lot of it was after school, you’ve ignored this detail the whole way through the argument. My sister at 17 is making money from photography because she went to photography club at the same school, she has discovered a talent for it and with a loan from Dad has virtually set up her own business from networking with mates etc An opportunity you’re dreary, industrial, prescriptive model would have denied and discouraged and instead she could have ended school on mediocre marks feeling like a failure when in fact she’s getting very successful at something. THAT is broadening horizons. You’re imagining I am arguing for some sort of Grim Up North London middle class load of bollocks but I am arguing for practical kids to have an opportunity at something, for sporty kids to have a go at something and for academic kids to have a go at something – I am not saying they all have to be good at it, but they can indulge in it and pursue it.

    “Now that may be fine for Eton or all those other snob schools with money to piss on, and good on them, but your regular secondary doesn’t have wads of cash to be teaching its kids latin and the history of art.”

    Utter bollocks. It has got nothing to do with the money and everything to do with effort. As I said my school was and is a comprehensive, sports kits were from sponsors or fundraising, after school clubs were run off teacher enthusiasm and time and a small sub from the kids and that’s it. You want a chess club, all you bloody need is a few cheap chess boards.

    Money is no excuse and anyone who blames that for lack of variety and opportunities in schools is a fool. Good teachers make this effort, they coach the debating society, they take after school woodworking classes, they run sports teams and take them on tours and rock up to Saturday games and they organise activities. Shit teachers, shit education and shit human beings populating this country.

  200. Think Defence says

    can we get back to ranting about the MoD now please :)

  201. x says

    There is a difference between recognising wasted potential, and there is an awful lot of wasted potential when it comes to British youth, and thinking, as some do, that council estates are full of Einstein’s and Picasso’s because they aren’t. The education system isn’t good but those with potential do rise whatever their background.

  202. Chris.B. says

    @ Simon,

    Pottery? Are you just taking the piss now?

    You were trying to claim that students go to school, learn about music and all of a sudden become musicians. They don’t. Most musicians have been playing their instruments before they even got into secondary school, and as primary schools don’t regularly invest in electric guitars and drum kits, it’s plausible to assume that they learn outside of the school environment. I know about 13-14 people who play instruments. All of them were taught either by their parents (like my Dad was taught by his) or they were given private tuition.

    @ Phil,

    Finland spends a slither more, but relatively speaking they have about 25% more cash per person to spend. If you want to increase the education budget by 25% then you can have your Finland like education system, but you’re going to have to find about £25 billion from somewhere.

    Now as for the Masters, if they’re not gonna fund it then who is? So now not only do you want to find 400,000 people with Masters degrees who also happen to be idealistic individuals that want to teach, but you also want to pay for their masters education? Someone had better call the Queen because we’re going to need to sell all her estates to pay for this. And then some.

    We have teachers who work hard for low wages, but clearly that’s not enough because earlier you were bashing them with a club for not being masters and criticising their low level of education. If people with Masters degrees wanted to become teachers, they would already be teachers. Clearly people with Masters degrees are motivated by something other than the desire to pass on their knowledge to others.

    Just because you snap your fingers and demand all teachers be Masters does not mean they’re suddenly going to flock from the hills to join the cause. Those who want to teach are already doing it or training to do it. That’s just the calibre of people the job attracts. They may not be the smartest, but at least they’re doing it.

    Now maybe not many people do have the same way of thinking as I do. But I know this much. Of all the people on my street 100+ houses I’d wager less than 5 of those houses contain musicians and painters, or even just people for whom Music or art is a key component of their jobs. I’d bet 90% of those people need good maths and English at the very least.

    “So why do you get to impose your dreary industrial world view on other people?”

    Because I’m sick and tired of seeing kids coming out of school who can’t read or write properly, who can’t do rudimentary maths, who have no idea about the history of our nation and how it was formed etc, and yet have had their time wasted pissing about playing with triangles and woodblocks. That’s why.

    I’m sick and tired of kids who spend 5-10 hours a week dicking about in music classes and art classes, learning nothing of use to their lives, when we could be giving them more productive lessons that would help them contribute to society and actually have a chance of getting jobs.

    So I wouldn’t have to pick up another CV from some unemployed 18 year old that reads; A-levels “Media Studies and Drama”. They would actually have skills of use to an employer so they could get jobs and not get stuck in a rut from day one of their lives in the real world. They may not be the smartest kids, they may not be the most cultured kids, they may not be “well rounded” but at least the f**kers would be employable.

    “Money is no excuse and anyone who blames that for lack of variety and opportunities in schools is a fool”

    Oh so French teachers and art teachers grow on trees now? It’s not like Schools have a budget. And of course paints and paper and brushes and guitars and drum kits and all that shit buys itself. Well I’m glad it doesn’t cost anything to set up and run these facilities.

    “Not all of these were taught during lessons, a lot of it was after school, you’ve ignored this detail the whole way through the argument”

    No, you’ve ignored the fact that I precisely and explicitly stated several times that if you wanted to run art classes, and drama clubs, and music sessions etc then you could do it after school when those who wanted to could go and it wouldn’t effect the other students.

    I was advocating taking that crap out of the main curriculum and turning it into after school clubs. Just because you didn’t read that part or chose to ignore it is your fault, not mine.

    I don’t give a shit about kids with broad horizons and pandering to a minority who want to indulge in specialist subjects when half of the rest don’t have any job prospects beyond McDonalds. I want every kid to come out of school with the chance of actually getting a job and not being a f**king mong. If people want to explore the arts in after school clubs and then later in A-levels, go right ahead.

    But don’t waste the precious time we have to work with the rest of them at trying to produce decent youngsters who a chance.

  203. Brian Black says

    Is this the education thread? Eleven years of free and compulsory education and half of British kids still leave school unable to read and write.

    A few years whitewashing coal and marching up and down the square would do them good!

  204. Ali says

    Phil

    Thank you for the information I just hope its changed since. I actually talked to a few people from there and someone did their dissertation of homosexuality and the US armed forces! Luckily I have seen Andrew Lambert in action at the First Sea Lord lecture and that was really interesting and now I have Corbett’s Principles of Maritime Strategy!

    I have to say speaking as someone who mucked up at school and college the first time around inspiration is something that helped me find direction to what I wanted to do. That’s what I think needs to be looked into.

    (The late night replies are due to being too drunk to go to sleep after a night out!)

    Ali

  205. Phil says

    Chris

    Methinks neither of us is even remotely convincing the other and whilst I am the worst person for walking away from an argument and for dragging threads off topic I don’t see much point in going on (in this post, not life in general…) and I now verbally shake hands with you for a fun debate and move on to moaning about something a bit more green, or light blue, or dark blue, or purple and decrying someone’s scandalously radical military ideas. Cheers mate.

  206. x says

    Ali said ” I actually talked to a few people from there and someone did their dissertation of homosexuality and the US armed forces!”

    Reminds me of a history module where everyone of the teens in my tutorial group chose persecution of minorities as their essay topic. The campus library isn’t that well stock and there were heated arguments over the few books that contained the necessary information. HoD had to step in. Not only is writing about such is safe ground for many of them. The meme of defining the other is throttling tertiary history……

  207. Chris.B. says

    @ Phil,

    “Methinks neither of us is even remotely convincing the other and whilst I am the worst person for walking away from an argument and for dragging threads off topic I don’t see much point in going on (in this post, not life in general…) and I now verbally shake hands with you for a fun debate and move on to moaning about something a bit more green, or light blue, or dark blue, or purple and decrying someone’s scandalously radical military ideas. Cheers mate.”

    — Aye. Probably for the best. And the same regards to you (and Simon) for a fiesty defence of your position.

    On to stopping the United Kingdom Marine Corps!

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