Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Reward for Integrity....

....is the sack. General Sir Richard Dannatt has spent his time as army chief of staff defending the interests of his soldiers, telling the truth as he sees it about the undeniably difficult, even wretched, conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and challenging the government over its funding for the army, and especially its provision of appropriate medical care for wounded soldiers. All of which goes down a storm in Whitehall as I'm sure you can imagine. Dannatt is, you might say, a soldier's soldier. Too much so for Gordon Brown. Dannatt is to be passed over for the top job of chief of the defence staff - as are his supporters, the current heads of the Navy and RAF.

It is a salutary lesson on the exigencies of power. It is a rare politician indeed who can accept criticism and challenges, and Gordon Brown is not that rare. When the criticism strikes so close to home, because it reveals genuine weaknesses and inadequacies in British government policy, well the only solution, obviously, is for the harbinger of bad news to be passed over in favour if someone who can read the script a little more effectively.

Brown, of course, was the Chancellor who presided over so much of the Defence department's cuts. Not for nothing was he the recipient of a censure motion signed in the Lords by all the former defence chiefs. Brown may like continuing the wars begun by his predecessor, but he doesn't like funding them. What's a few dead soldiers compared to the pressing need for cutbacks in the army to try and make the Treasury's desperate books balance. Let's not give them body armour; let's make sure we send the cheapest, not the best, armoured land vehicles even if it does lead to a few deaths; let's not provide anything like the appropriate level of air cover; and while we're about it, let's burnish our tarnished defence credentials more cheaply by proposing more CCF's in schools, but not providing any money for the gimic. And finally, let's get rid of plain speaking trouble-makers who might be good at their job, and let's instead keep promoting the toadies and the talentless, men like the Head of Secret Intelligence, John Scarlett, who colluded in one of British Intelligence's most lamentable hours.

There are many reasons to look forward to the demise of New Labour, and to rejoice over the tombs of Blair and Brown, but not the least of them will be their wilful slaughter of the British armed forces.

6 comments:

D Carnell said...

Goodness, all that camo-cream must have done some damage to your brain, GM.

We've clashed over Labour defence spending before so I won't go over old ground (mainly because I secretly agree with you) but your points about Dannett are at best naive.

Imagine you had written to the local newspaper criticising the local LEA, the parent-governors and the DfES (or whatever it's called now) and then applied for the job of headmaster (stop laughing). For some reason they see you as unfit for the role. I wonder why?

Perhaps because Dannett's role is not to publicly bite the hand that feeds him. If he felt that strongly he could resing and earn 10x more in the private sector. Instead he snipes from the sidelines like a spolit child who's Xmas present was the wrong colour.

The man should have learned by now the way to get governments to listen to you and the opinions of your piers isn't by insulting them in national newspapers. If he's that dim I'd rather not have him as the head of the armed forces.

GM said...

Obviously I disagree (and I don't wear cam-cream - strictly for cadets!). Dannett was defending the interests of the armed service of which he was the head. Had some of his predecessors had a little more backbone, the armed services might not be in the dire state they are now. Dannett rightly realised that he was getting nowhere in private briefings, and - like countless cabinet ministers before him - made his points public in the hope of forcing change. To some extent he succeeded - it is not possible for Brown and Browne to claim everything is ok with the services and continue to ignore their problems. And frankly, almost the only way you will get as pig headed a government as this one to listen to you is in the national newspapers - it's where they do most of their own thinking after all!

D Carnell said...

The trouble is though that the CDS job is essentially a political one. He's not being promoted because he knows how to move a tank division around a map, he's being promoted to be the political sword for the armed forces.

Now how do you suppose his relationship with Brown, Browne and all the senior civil servants in the MoD is since his little outburst in the Daily Mail? Not great I would hazard a guess. And yet he presumes to continue effectively work alongside them for the next five years? A touch contemptuous don't you think?

Both our parties have managed to run the armed forces into the ground and procurement processes now seek to do nothing more than either provide British jobs or line the pockets of BAe - neither to be recommended.

And he wasn't defending anyone. He was massaging his own ego as he has probably known for 15 months (since his last incontinent outburst) that he was never going to get the top job. This was nothing more than a last hurrah - a stinging rebuke for a man who has served in the shadow of his predecessor, Jackson.

As an aside, you should read a book called Lions, Donkeys and Dinosaurs by Lewis Page for a fascinating insight into the world of defence procurement.

GM said...

The book sounds interesting - I'll look it out.

consultant said...

Giles

Casting my mind back to February, when I criticised Prince Harry's spineslessness for failing to use his media profile to expose the dramatic failings in execution of this government's foreign military adventures, you responded...

"As a serving soldier, Harry's reticence about the conduct of the war is professional recognition of the rules. Only ex-soldiers may express the discontent you are looking for..."

Quod licet Iovi non licet bovi? Or, as a serving soldier should Dannett shut up and get on with the job he is paid to do, just as his men are loyally doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, often with far graver outcomes than being passed over for promotion.

I'm sure his seat in the House of Lords and the lucrative defence consultancy positions he will pick up on retirement will be adequate compensation for never quite making it to the top of the tree.

GM said...

I think there is a difference between Harry's junior military role, and the role of the chief of the army. Dannett was using his legitimate position to further the interests of the army - it's what he is meant to do, whether his political superiors like it or not. And I think you're being over-cynical about what Dannatt is seeking from his role!