Thursday, 20 May 2010

Programme for Government

There's a band from Newport, Gwent called Goldie Lookin' Chain, who did a song once called "The Manifesto". David Cameron and Nick Clegg have formed a coalition government which appears to have published a manifesto after it was elected. Good trick chaps!

For those of us who are insomniacs, it can be read in full here. Be warned, however, it's 36 pages long and at the end of it you might - as I did - come away with a great deal of head-scratching and "WTF?"-ing.

As you're aware, CSR and I are both veterans of the Army and of conflict and thus I've copied out the section on defence and have made comments below each of the paragraphs within the document in italics. Feel free to counter-comment in the comments back.

Much love,


The Government believes that we need to take action to safeguard our national security at home and abroad. We also recognise that we need to do much more to ensure that our Armed Forces have the support they need, and that veterans and their families are treated with the dignity that they deserve.

Damn straight, and about bloody time.

We will maintain Britain’s nuclear deterrent, and have agreed that the renewal of Trident should be scrutinised to ensure value for money. Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case for alternatives. We will immediately play a strong role in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, and press for continued progress on multilateral disarmament.

Good idea scrutiny and ensuring value-for-money. It may be an area of disagreement between CSR and me (TRIDENT) but having scrutiny and / or possibly no requirement for constant on patrol presence (as suggested by RUSI) might work.

The nuclear NPT is a great idea but unfortunately with countries like Israel (are you listening in Dimona?), Iran, Pakistan and India all nuclear it looks like the next time CSR and I go to the Arabian desert instead of having to worry about sand there will have been such heat created we'll need only take window-cleaner with us (for the non-scientists: if you heat up sand, you get glass).

We will aim to reduce Ministry of Defence running costs by at least 25%.

Bloody right. MoD uncivil servants, time to start looking for a new job. PR department at MoD? Ditch it. That's what we've got CIMIC for and the Army has it's own journalists in uniform - use them.

We will work to rebuild the Military Covenant by:

– ensuring that Service personnel’s rest and recuperation leave can be maximised;

No more waiting for the airbridge at Bastion? Good.

– changing the rules so that Service personnel only have to register once on the Service register;

Good idea. Postal voting for all service personnel, no matter where in the world they are.

– exploring the potential for including Service children as part of our proposals for a pupil premium;

No "exploring the potential" - do it. I was a RAF brat and was at seven schools by the time I was sixteen: did it contribute to the ballsing up of my education? I'm not sure - but it certainly didn't help.

– providing university and further education scholarships for the children of Servicemen and women who have been killed on active duty since 1990;

Great idea. But hold on, are they going to be full scholarships? It should also be extended to those who have suffered life changing mental or physical injury, such as Captain Norton GC.

– providing support for ex-Service personnel to study at university,

Good one. But why not help service personnel get degrees in-service? At the moment only a small number of senior officers get them via DEFAC at Shrivenham: why not extend it to everyone and have an Army Education Corps officer scrutinised on the number of members of the regiment or battalion he's posted to achieving advanced levels of education: education that can be used when they come out.

Army education really gets my goat (sorry, all, this is going to be a rant). With the exception of prison, the Army is one of the few places where there's a captive audience - the AEC should be offering opportunities to soldiers to get GCSEs, AS/A2 levels and in-service degrees - all the way up to PhD.

– creating a new programme, ‘Troops for Teachers’, to recruit ex-Service personnel into the teaching profession;

See above on AEC - but it's a good idea. Some of the best teachers I've ever had in terms of their commitment to the cause and the imagination they put into their subject material were at RMAS and at regiment and battalion level: the indiscipline in some schools would also be improved dramatically if the kids misbehaviour was punished by the call "One squillion press-ups, exercise ... begin."

– providing extra support for veteran mental health needs; and

Absolutely, 100%, definitely YES. CSR and I've both needed the services of Combat Stress in the past and the disjoint that has required for 100 years that a charity (note: NOT the government) provide this service is appalling. Good work on the coalition that they are providing this, and shame on the past government for not noticing that despite 48 UK fatalities as a consequence of GRANBY, ~200 have committed suicide since.

– reviewing the rules governing the awarding of medals.

OK: I'm not sure what they mean by this but I suspect it's uncivil serpents earning campaign medals for sitting on a beach in Cyprus chilling out with a beer whilst the rest of us sweat our knackers off in the Saudi desert.

We will double the operational allowance for Armed Forces personnel serving in Afghanistan, and include Armed Forces pay in our plans for a fair pay review.

Good, and whilst we're about it:
  • why are there more Admirals than ships in the Royal Navy?
  • Why are there more Maj. and Lt. Generals together than regiments in the British Army?
  • Why are there more Air officers (Air Commodore and above) than fighter aircraft in the RAF?

We will ensure that injured personnel are treated in dedicated military wards.

About bloody time. Also: when it's affordable, reinstate Cambridge Military Hospital in Aldershot, where I did my first posting after GRANBY. Yes, it's a shithole, and yes it was difficult to manage but if soldiers wanted an easy life, they'd be civilians.

We will look at whether there is scope to refurbish Armed Forces’ accommodation from efficiencies within the Ministry of Defence.

True, and again, about time.

We will support defence jobs through exports that are used for legitimate purposes, not internal repression, and will work for a full international ban on cluster munitions.

Why not have a placement scheme for resettlement of service personnel within the defence industry?

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