From being the envy of the world, the British armed forces are in danger of becoming merely average: a cut-price, camouflaged UNICEF…
My sources tell me that this is an accurate account of what’s going on in the British Army at the moment. Or more precisely, how the New Labour government has been undermining one of the most respected and professional British institutions:
The British military and New Labour are politically and philosophically polar opposites. The government has made these differences even more acute by spending much of the last few years forcing soldiers to adopt a work ethic more in line with commerce than with combat. Who Dares Wins has been replaced by Health and Safety. The government believes that it has a duty to look after soldiers by protecting their ‘rights’, but this approach to soldiering seriously undermines the ability of the men and women of the armed forces to get on with a difficult and dangerous job.
The government’s obsession with political correctness has been applied to the military with such relish that at times it seems almost insane. I have lost count of the number of forms I have had to fill in giving details of my ethnic origin. These forms used to be anonymous, but the last one I had to complete carried my name, rank and service number. Perhaps this was a reaction to an earlier (anonymous) form, which had revealed that in our all-male unit there was a huge number of Bangladeshi single mothers!
Health-and-safety inspectors are blamed for recommending that chlorine be introduced into the underwater tunnel, in case some poor Commando picks up a bit of dysentery or a sore throat as a result of wading through dirty water. The steep ravines worn into the slopes that recruits had to run up and down at various points on the seven-mile course were also contrary to all sorts of well-meaning legislation. The recommendation was for proper steps and handrails to be installed — just like the ones you find in the mountains of Afghanistan or the wadis of Iraq.
The armed forces in the UK are currently so over-streched that their management amounts to a permanent crisis-management. The professionalism and high quality of the British army currently rests on the dedication of its officers. Let’s face it, they are not there for the money and they don’t get to shoot much these days either. The British military doesn’t lobby, speak out, point out the ignorance of the current government of military matters (which has no limits as this is the first government where nobody has a direct military experience) or do anything that would undermine its strong ethos as a ‘civilian’ army. Her Majesty the Queen, a civilian, is head of the Navy, Army and Air Force of Britain.
Perhaps they should.