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, 10 March 2010

Words as weapons.

From the Coffee House, on today's PMQs
[As] Cameron was calmly dissecting the prime minister’s underfunding of the Afghan war when he quoted two former defence chiefs who’d called Brown ‘disingenuous’ and ‘a dissembler’.
Yep, seems he was right to ask, especially if reports from defence chiefs, serving members of the military, Chilcot and Coroner's Inquests are believed.
Then someone shouted, ‘they’re Tories!’
This same 'shout' was picked out for comment during Guido's PMQ chat. Mrs Rigby didn't hear it, she can no longer bear to watch the charade that is Prime Minister's Questions.

The BBC reports thus:
1206 Tory leader Mr Cameron is up, paying tribute to soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Michael Foot. He asks the PM to apologise over comments by a minister after the deaths of service personnel in 2008, saying they were linked to the vehicles used. Mr Brown replies, promising to look at the details of their inquest. He says engineering and surveillance capabilities in dealing with roadside bombs was improving.

1209 Mr Cameron notes Mr Brown's apology and moves on, with angry scenes from Mr Cameron as Labour MPs shout that the former military personnel criticising the PM over funding are "Tories".

Mr Cameron asks Mr Brown to disassociate himself from the comments. Mr Brown says parties must find "common ground".

Mr Cameron says Labour MPs have sullied the names of the military personnel involved and repeats his call for the PM to disassociate himself from them.

1211 Mr Brown says he wants to applaud the patriotism of all serving the UK.

Mr Cameron says he has not got the character to tell off his own MPs.

1212 Mr Brown says he put the facts on military spending to the Iraq inquiry last Friday. He adds that the chief of the defence staff says UK forces are the best equipped they have ever been. The PM says he will take no lectures on character from the Tory leader, citing the Lord Ashcroft affair.
Edited slightly for spacing, because the BBC has a strange habit of trying to put "Mr Brown” at the beginning of every paragraph, even when he's replying, whilst "Mr Cameron” is tucked away in the middle, even if he's starting a discussion or asking a question.

It will be interesting to see what Hansard shows.

Anyhow, it looks as if Mr Brown was, as usual, sidestepping and ignoring the point, and then repeating something, as well as relying on what has been written down - as if being written down makes it true.

But Mrs Rigby wants to look at what happened today from a slightly different perspective. You see, she isn't linked with any political party, nor is anybody she knows - but, without exception, any conversation that turns to things military ends up discussing the underfunding, the budget cutting, the dissembling and the end result - which is the death of fine young men and women who are 'repatriated' via Wootton Bassett and, because they are laid to rest close to their home rather than in a national war cemetery, the increasing numbers pass unnoticed.

Whoever it was that heckled Mr Cameron clearly thinks it's fine to ignore, or dismiss, reports of military equipment shortages, failures in the military supply line, inadequate supplies of the right sort of kit (such as skis and forest camouflage for desert troops). The MP thinks it's reasonable to dismiss reports of the wrong vehicles, too few helicopters, inadequate training opportunities, in fact anything that disagrees with the party line, or contradicts what Mr Brown has said - and they can do this because the person, or people, who said it might, possibly, vote Tory.

Since when was a private individual's political preference a matter for public discussion. Provided they do not belong to a political party there is no reason to know an individual's vote. It is, and should always remain, a secret. Members of the armed forces, by the way, are not allowed to belong to a political party - it's a good sort of rule, it means they stay apolitical. But today's events suggest some believe otherwise.

Does that particular heckling MP think this country has sunk so low that only those who can be seen to overtly support the political party that's in government will benefit from appropriate and adequate taxpayer funding? If so, is this why the Met Office is still a major beneficiary of MoD cash? Are those who sold out to the religion of AGW and climate change proud of their new car, or their holiday abroad? Will they be as pleased when they realise that, collectively, their bonus money might have cost a soldier his life? Will they truly think it doesn't matter - if that dead soldier might have voted Tory - one less vote for the opposition?

It's odd how one little thing seems to tip the balance, and Mrs Rigby thinks that today was a terrible day for democracy if that, or those, MPs who shouted out escape censure - but she knows they will. The comment will either disappear or their chums will rally round them, we'll be told it was a joke, be told they can't see what the fuss is about , we'll be told to "move on", "put it behind you", "don't be boring" - or some such phrase we hear so often.

On a lighter note though, and exercising Mrs Rigby's over-vivid imagination, it would seem that that particular MP might have allowed themselves to have the mindset that, unless an individual can prove they support Labour, they must vote Tory. LibDems, Greens, UKIP - eat your hearts out, you don't count any more, you don't exist in the minds of Labour. There are only two schools of thought and opinion - Labour and Tory.

It made Mrs R chuckle, ever so slightly, when she though there might be MPs who have allowed themselves to become so indoctrinated, so brainwashed, so single-minded, so self-seeking, that they believe everybody else is the same, and these MPs could be really worried that all those powerful generals are themselves being controlled by the horrible, evil, Tories. If so - talk about paranoia! In the real world most people don't care about another's politics, until it comes the time to put an X on a piece of paper, and afterwards all they expect is that whoever is elected will do a decent job - and do it for the whole of the country, not just those who they think might have put their X in the "correct" box.

Let's also look at 'responsibility' though. It's a little-used word these days, we more often hear of 'rights', an individual's 'rights' - that somebody else has to ensure, although nobody really wants to.

The government, whatever their political colour, is meant to be responsible for proper funding of the military. It is government that allocates money and also guides the MoD regarding allocating, and sourcing, of equipment (otherwise how else could Mr Brown demand (reduced numbers of) landrovers?). Nobody else does it - and should be impartial, outside political pressure, but today's events suggests that it might not be - and that's a little disconcerting. It's worrying to think that somebody, somewhere, might have taken a dislike to a general and decided to make sure they don't have enough money to do their job, without fully realising that this decision can kill young soldiers.

"Responsible" members of the armed forces have spoken out against the MoD, criticized decisions – maybe the MP that shouted out reckons these high-up military people can't be impartial, they can't have complained because they take their position of responsibility seriously, they can't have done it because they actually care about those under their command (after all, who cares about underlings these days?) Perhaps that MP truly believes these generals, coroners and military experts have said any of these things because they, personally, will get something out of it, either that or they're plotting to unseat Mr Brown, and his wonderful government, so they all must be Tories. M.QED - Master's Degree in Logical Thinking.

Let's look at words now, which was where all this started - with some words that were said in Parliament.

We know all too well that being proud of your country, being patriotic, (even though Mr Brown uttered the word today) results in being termed xenophobic. If you're English you get called a "Little Englander" but the Scots don't get the same treatment, they're allowed to be proud of their heritage. We know that in New Labour's Britain letting somebody smoke a 'dirty, filthy, smelly' cigarette is more likely to lead to imprisonment than being a rapist and now, the lowest of the low, military funding is used as a politic football in the House of Commons, and challenging MoD is the same as being a Tory - a subject of derision.

So, if some MPs believe that criticism has political roots then, maybe, the new 'dirtiest word in the English language' is "Tory". It lets the BNP off the hook! Is "Tory" to be the new "racist"? Imagine the phrase "Dirty Tory smoker"! Will "Tory" become the next "paedophile"? Is "Tory" to be the new "Marxist" - ah, probably not, but hey, you never know!

All the military wants, all the military needs, is the right equipment to do their job, and to do it with the minimum loss of life. Is that too much to ask?

It wants paratroopers to be able to practice jumping out of real aeroplanes during their training - but they can't because there aren't enough spare aircraft. It wants TA soldiers to be properly trained before they're sent overseas - but there aren't enough bullets for regular live-fire exercises, and not enough money to pay them properly.

You know, sometimes Mrs R shouldn't have time to think, but the more she thinks about this, the more she realises that the 'good guys' (whoever they may be) simply haven't a clue what they're up against. Every time they try to ask a question it's bounced back and used against them. Every time a politician has a good idea it's mocked and derided, or stolen. Every time ordinary people try to speak out against some petty new rule or other, they're denounced as being old-fashioned, 'establishment', boring, out of touch. But, every time an 'establishment' cheat is unmasked they are protected, anybody else is mincemeat - and the media goes along with it, fuelling the flames, without truly realising what they're doing.

So it looks as if being in charge, these days, equates to using words as weapons. If so, our soldiers had better learn to shout really loud - because it looks increasingly as if all that's available is words, especially if our government equates being a soldier to being a Tory, and we know what they'd really like to do to the Tories, so our troops won't get any real weapons to use against the Taliban, just words and numbers written down in Hansard.


Cold Steel Rain said...

Our Dear Leader is now likening himself to a Soldier

It would be funny if it wasn't obscene.

Barman said...

Absolutely excellent piece of writing!

I have linked over at my place...

Mrs Rigby said...

TY both