‘DEFENCE IS NO LONGER A PRIORITY’

By Eleanor Doughty

i - Independent print - 12 January 2018

They say that things divide into cock-ups and conspiracy. This week, the British Army made a bit of a cock-up, releasing its new advert a few days early. This gave the general public its token day of the year to care about the military. At least now it's out of the way, eh? Though the advert doesn't quite hit the spot, several officers have commented to me that it is "not the worst in recent years". The reaction was furious – or, at least, as furious as public reaction ever gets about the Armed Forces these days.

One Tory MP notes a conspicuous silence from defence ministers – Secretary of State Gavin Williamson, veterans minister Tobias Ellwood and newly-appointed "FoG" (friend of Gavin) Guto Bebb – despite having being allegedly told to support the campaign by the Government.

Committed defence watchers will be more concerned by a statement made by Dr Julian Lewis, chairman of the Defence Select Committee.

Yesterday, Dr Lewis told MPs that

"one can now become Chief of Staff of any of the three Armed Services and yet have no direct input into the strategic planning process".

This, he said, is because civil servants run the department. As such,

"professional military advisers have become more like business managers serving as chief executives with an allocated budget".

In essence: the bosses are no longer the bosses.

Perhaps today's papers will prove me wrong, but last night there had been no reaction to this whatsoever. No outrage. No planned demonstrations in Whitehall. If the NHS was being attacked by MPs for being stuffed full of hopeless civil servants, a People's March would have been announced. Someone would be making placards.

It is true that the MoD is not a vote-winner. "MoD run by clueless civil servants" isn't front page news – nor is it a surprise to anyone with an interest in the topic. Nevertheless, we need to wake up to the fact that the Government no longer regards the military as a priority. This is neither conspiracy nor cock-up, but the result of a systematic destruction of the Armed Forces. The conspiracy is in convincing the public that it is perfectly acceptable.