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)

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Number 10 closed for business?

From the Times, dated 6th December and reporting an event on 2nd September. Mrs R has no idea why it took them so long to publish the details, maybe all eyes are meant to be on Copenhagen and they thought nobody would notice.

Gordon Brown was snubbed by badly injured Afghan veterans when they closed curtains round their beds during a hospital visit and refused to speak to him.

More than half the soldiers being treated at the Selly Oak hospital ward in Birmingham either asked for the curtains to be closed or deliberately avoided the prime minister, according to several of those present.

The soldiers, who have sustained some of the worst injuries seen in Afghanistan, described his visit as “opportunistic” and a “waste of time”.

Furious about equipment shortages and poor compensation for their injuries, one soldier said: “It is almost as if we are the product of an unwanted affair ... he has done nothing for us.”

The article continues

Sapper Matthew Weston, 20, is one of the most seriously injured soldiers to have survived. He lost both legs and his right arm when a bomb exploded on a dirt track outside Sangin.

He said: “I didn’t want to speak to him, I didn’t want to waste my time talking to someone who was just trying to make themselves look good. I spent the day with my family instead.

“Half the lads didn’t want to speak to him and those that did pretty much blamed him for everything. Many of the lads just closed their curtains and hid themselves away.

“I met Prince Charles and Sir Richard Dannatt [when they visited Selly Oak]. I have respect for them. Prince Charles spoke to me for two hours. I really didn’t want to speak to Gordon Brown.”

More straight talking ...

Another soldier, who lost his right leg after being caught in a mine blast in Afghanistan, said that more than two-thirds of the 25 soldiers on the ward closed their curtains. He, however, decided to speak to Brown.

“I wanted to find out how the guy’s head worked,” he said. “I was interested in what he had made of his trip to Afghanistan and what he had learnt from it.

“I feel that even if someone is a moron, he should have the opportunity to defend his moronity. [His response] all seemed rather textbook and not from the heart.

“It is quite obvious to anyone that Brown is not concerned, it is almost as if we [the soldiers] are the product of an unwanted affair.

“The straight fact is this: we don’t like the man, he has done nothing for us and continues to kick us in the teeth over equipment and compensation.”

So what did Mr Brown say about his visit? Did he mention increased compensation? Did he heck!

Here you go!
Two days after his visit to Selly Oak, Brown paid tribute to injured soldiers during a speech in London. He said: “There is nothing more heartbreaking than, as I did this week, meeting a teenager who has lost a leg.”
So he didn't say he would throw money at the problem, didn't say government would provide either additional military resources or an urgent injection of cash to back up the charitable donations that Help for Heroes receives and spends on Headley Court. He said nothing about matching monies raised by limbless soldiers who do things like climb Kilimanjaro so their mates can get treatment if, and when, they're seriously injured. Nothing about pumping public finance to help fund the urgently needed extension.

Zero - zilch - just a, "Look what I've seen", a bit like a child talking about visiting Disneyland. Yet this same government can send millions overseas as an example of the country's largesse.

Maybe the soldiers' behaviour is rooted in the government's failure to acknowledge and act on the High Court ruling that said, as reported in the Guardian in April 2008

Sending British soldiers out on duty with defective equipment may breach their human rights, the high court ruled today.

In a potentially significant verdict for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Mr Justice Collins ruled that a soldier "does not lose all protection simply because he is in hostile territory carrying out dangerous operations".

In another blow to the government, he rejected an attempt by the defence secretary, Des Browne, to stop coroners using phrases such as "serious failure" in inquests concerning troops who died on active service. Browne had argued this might prejudice subsequent civil action.

The judgement – which the Ministry of Defence said it would appeal – raises the possibility that families of soldiers killed on active service could sue the government for compensation.

The MoD did, of course, appeal and lost, as reported in May 2009

Deploying British troops on battlefield operations with inadequate or defective equipment could breach their human rights, senior judges ruled today, opening the way for potentially huge compensation claims from bereaved families.

Dismissing arguments by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the court of appeal backed last year's high court ruling that sending a soldier out on patrol or into battle with defective equipment could constitute a breach of article 2 of the European convention on human rights, which enshrines the right to life.

and more

Three appeal judges, headed by the master of the rolls, Sir Anthony Clark, said the defence secretary had conceded before the hearing that soldiers who died on a UK base, such as Smith, were covered by human rights laws.

"It seems to us to make no sense to hold that there is a distinction between a person inside and outside of premises controlled by the UK," the judges said.

"If in a British base, why not in a British army vehicle? If in a vehicle, why not when a soldier gets out of the vehicle?"

The judges noted that soldiers were subject to British military, criminal and civil laws, no matter where they were.

"Soldiers serve abroad as a result of, and pursuant to, the exercise of UK jurisdiction over them.

"Thus the legality of their presence and of their actions depends on their being subject to UK jurisdiction and complying with UK law."

Mrs Rigby can understand why the soldiers in Selly Oak were reluctant to speak to their Prime Minister, because it would seem that it was his policies as Chancellor that led to serious cost cutting which now means that soldiers are expected to walk across an areas that are likely to have been mined because there is not enough equipment for them to travel in either wheeled transport or in helicopters.

And meanwhile some nasty little thugs are let loose because the Judge thought their 9 month sentence was too harsh, and an HBOS executive would like £600,000 compensation after being taken to a lap-dancing club.

Civilian MoD staff, who have already received whopping bonuses (whilst soldiers are short of equipment due to funding restrictions) are to be awarded the Operational Service Medal for duty in Afghanistan (interesting to note the ratings of comments left on this story) ... and a Falklands Veteran sells his MM after his security company employers refused to keep his job open while he had surgery to remove an Argentine bullet and pieces of shrapnel from his hip.

Today also marks a sad day because another soldier has died in Afghanistan. It is the hundredth death this year and brings the total of lives lost in that country to 247.

Maybe all this is why the Telegraph is showing a picture of the door of Number 10 with a notice that says

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