n response to Lieutenant General Jonathon Riley: How May’s defence deal sells us down the river – Part 2,
It is utterly depressing that one has to read such a clear and well-argued statement from a retired senior officer which expresses such obvious misgivings about government policy. I imagine that Lt Gen Riley thought a few times about making his views public and I applaud his decision to do so.
The peculiarly negligent attitude towards our armed forces which has characterised successive British governments, both Conservative and Labour, is a matter of record. We can enjoy a few laughs at the expense of the German Army, Airforce and Navy, all of which appear to be even more poorly equipped than our own. Setting our national standards as slightly less awful than another country’s army which has to paint broom sticks black to simulate rifles in exercises isn’t very clever. Seeing our Royal Navy as being incapable of protecting vessels in the Hormuz Straits is disturbing. Reading reports of Type 45 Destroyers being paralysed without propulsion and no aircon for the crew in some of the hottest parts of the world leaves me despondent. The patent inability of the armed forces to recruit staff in all three services to replenish even the meagre numbers which are now allowed is beyond depressing. The failure of successive governments to understand the crucial role of Britain’s membership of NATO and Five Eyes is another worry.
I’m all in favour of a Prime Minister who seeks to increase the numbers in the police, although I’d be happier if they recruited fewer graduates and looked instead to recruit ex-armed services people who might be looking for a job.
Spending £14billion a year through DfID on misdirected aid is remarkably stupid, yet a persistent government policy. Taxing poor people in Britain to enrich government officers in poor countries, consultants and NGO staff isn’t clever. Allocating half that budget to the armed forces would be sensible and would also help to ensure a state of readiness to assist in countries when and where natural disasters occur.
It’s time for another Defence Review. This time we need to look at spending more rather than cutting expenditure. We need to consider why we have more than 58,000 civil servants in the MoD and only 81,000 soldiers – the last number is falling whilst the first number rises inexorably.
I give up . . . if I write more the text will be moderated . . .