Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Mrs Rigby is angry.

Mrs Rigby wasn't going to say anything more about the horrible mess that's being made, or that is appearing to be made, of supplying our troops with the equipment they need, but she read something today that made her very angry.

General Sir Richard Dannatt has, it is reported in the Mail,
"Pleaded for more resources to defeat the Taliban and said British forces could not operate 24-hour surveillance in the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan"
This means, at least I think it means, that the Taliban can take their time to plant their explosive devices, which then blow our young men to smithereens.

The newspaper goes on to report that Lord Guthrie, former Chief of the Defence Staff, said,
"Bob Ainsworth appears to be a thoroughly decent man who is miscast as Secretary for Defence, particularly at a time when the nation is involved in war.'
Seems quite a polite way of putting it to me, nothing offensive there.

So what do our esteemed politicians do in return?

Do they rush off to do the decent thing and do their utmost to try to hurry along the equipment that might save some soldiers' lives?

Do they heck!

The newspaper tells us in glorious detail that,
"Senior Labour MPs have submitted a series of Freedom of Information requests - urged on by an MoD minister - hoping to expose wining and dining bills at the Army boss's home in Kensington, West London.
The minister behind the smear this week branded Sir Richard a 'complete b*****d', after repeated clashes with the Army boss, who has 20 days to answer the questions."
So, rather than searching for ways of ensuring that our troops get the gear they need, our senior government ministers have decided to expend time, manpower and effort to find out what General Dannatt eats and drinks, and what he gives to his guests, in the hope that they can use his shopping bills as a weapon against him!

They give him 20 days to answer their questions, or ... what? Will he be subjected to a stop and search by by a PCSO? Will he be given an on the spot fine? Maybe he'll be thrown in the Tower?

It took these same ministers months and months of obfuscation and legal challenges before grudgingly letting us taxpayers see how they spend our money on themselves, their homes and their families. But even then they crossed out the bits they wanted kept secret - they were too late, we'd already read it all in the Daily Telegraph!

Ooh look! Bob Ainsworth claimed almost £6k for getting his house done up. His second house that is, the one we pay for. He had some nice beams, a lovely new fireplace and got rid of some walls and some nasty artex. He should have asked the Army, they've got a really clever way of getting rid of artex, and walls too, something called explosives.

These poor, stressed-out, government ministers (who swear an oath of allegiance to the Crown - the same sort of thing soldiers do, aged 16) must have been really, really, badly bruised by having their own expenses - oh sorry, they're called "allowances" otherwise they're taxed - published in the newspapers.

They must have been so terribly traumatized by being criticized and made to look like scoundrels for milking the public purse - to buy bath plugs, fancy porches, packets of crisps and DVDs - if they think it would hurt the feelings of any General for us to know how much he spends on a few of bottles of wine and a chicken or two. More especially when he, and we, know that the MoD wasted £259million on buying a load of fancy helicopters that won't work because they forgot to pay for the important computer bits.

These unhappy politicians were put on suicide watch, and were given counselling - paid for by the taxpayer - when details of their expenses were published, so it's hardly surprising that they think somebody who is only a General will be equally emotionally scarred by such an terrifically frightening experience.

Maybe they'd like to be a General? It sounds good, and it takes longer to say it than "MP". Trouble is, the rank isn't just dished out to your chums like sweeties after a birthday party or a seat in the Lords.

Let's see how easy it is to be a General. Simple! First you have to get into Sandhurst, by doing a bit more than turning up at the gate. Then you get trained as an Officer. Trouble is, it isn't a case of just attending a lecture or two and getting a shiny badge. If you're not good enough you do the training again - or go home and do something else with your life. I have a sneaky suspicion it's all a bit more difficult, and a lot more complex, than being able to sit on a bus.

Let's see what General Sir Richard Dannatt KCB CBE MC ADC Gen, did after he left Sandhurst. First of all he joined the Green Howards in 1971. Two years later he was awarded the Military Cross, which is for:-
"an act or acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy on land to all members, of any rank in Our Armed Forces…"
There's more about him here, including details of his service in Cyprus, Bosnia, Kosovo etc.. He doesn't seem to have had a lot of spare time to sit on a yacht in the Mediterranean!

It also looks as if General Dannatt has had a bit more than mere words thrown at him as he worked his way from Lieutenant to General, using a combination of discipline and determination, along with a huge pinch of bravery. Real bravery that is, harder stuff than appearing on the X-Factor.

Have any of these high-ranking, money-grabbing, politicians any idea of what it's really like in the Army these days? Have they been near anything that makes more of a bang than a party popper?

Have they heard of horrid little bits of hard metal called bullets, or sharp, pointy stuff called shrapnel that can tear flesh apart? It's made worse if you aren't wearing body armour, or are in a vehicle that's badly designed and not fit for purpose.

Have our ministers heard of big explosive things that do more than go whoosh and make pretty patterns in the sky on bonfire night? They must, surely, have heard of bombs and rockets - and not just the big, posh, rockets that take men to the moon, or the little ones that come down to earth as an empty bit of cardboard on a stick and throw the Health and Safety brigade into such a panic.

There are bombs that are much, much bigger, and make much more noise - and they are being used against our young troops. These bombs make holes in the ground, holes so big that the Elfin Safety mob would have to have special meetings to formulate a strategy for dealing with them. These bombs make so much mess that fixed penalty fines for littering would generate enough cash to pay for the Olympics.

Our ministers should learn that while these bombs make their big, untidy, holes in the hard-packed ground they blow anybody unlucky enough to be nearby into lots of little pieces. Sometimes the little pieces have to be picked up, by people, and have to be carried back to the base and sent home in a box called a coffin.

Maybe our politicians should make a law against standing too close to an IED. That'd do the trick, it'd be cheaper than sending protective equipment and then they could fine the lawbreakers instead of having to pay compensation for injury.

Mrs R is truly astonished, and quite disgusted, to learn that the country is being run by individuals who will happily debase themselves by searching for what they think are dirty details, in an attempt to undermine the character of a General whose worst crime appears to be that of asking for more equipment for his men.

General Dannatt isn't somebody out of Oliver Twist, to be beaten by the Beadle for saying the wrong thing.

General Dannatt is trying to save lives, and he is also trying to get a job done properly because he's been told - by politicians - that it is important.

General Dannatt is, in fact, merely attempting to follow orders - something so alien to too many people these days, when doing as you're told seems to be an option, not a requirement, and behaving decently is something to be derided.

Mrs Rigby reckons the politicians should spare just four short minutes of their lives to see the impact their penny pinching policies and political posturing is having on the people they are paid to represent.

They should watch this short video, and afterwards they should take a moment to think that John Thornton had been doing the job he was being paid for - and doing it unquestioningly, without thought for himself, as have more than 200 other young men and women whose lives have been lost in Afghanistan.

I'm coming to realise that I should not be surprised that none of our government ministers have the courage to go to and stand alongside members of the British Legion at Wooton Bassett!

Hat tip for video: Jonathan Isaby

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