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Sunday 9 August 2009

Chopper Cropper – 4

The last week has not been a good one for the MoD: first, presentational material from the preliminary version of Bernard Gray’s report on spending ended up in the hands of the BBC, then another armoured vehicle got IEDd with the loss of three more lives. Moreover, it’s believed that the military are having to hire Russian built helicopters to do some of the fetching and carrying – as I noted previously, the UK has put its faith, and its money, into the AW159, which will not be available in numbers for some while.

So where is the forthright condemnation from Young Dave and his chaps? Andrew Lansley, who doesn’t usually have much trouble opening his mouth, was on the Not Andy Marr Show earlier today (Sophie Raworth in the chair this week) but was steering clear of the military. Are the Tories as absent as they like to suggest the Government is at this time of the year?

Well, no they’re not. And the lack of Tory condemnation may be down to a number of factors. It doesn’t take much mulling over the stuff from the Gray report to realise that the MoD as painted has been like that for decades. Equipment issued to participants in the first Gulf War was routinely lacking in fitness for purpose, and it becomes clearer as time passes that the Falklands conflict was a close run thing: had the French not been prevailed upon to stop the Argentines getting their hands on more air launched Exocet missiles, we could have been one victory and thousands of lives worse off.

Not only that, but an incoming Tory Government would, as I said recently, have to reckon with an increasingly media savvy military when pursuing spending cuts. They won’t be able to blame Pa Broon for long before media and opinion turn against them – especially if we’re still involved in Afghanistan. Outside of PMQs, and the ability it gives for Young Dave to score a few points, I suspect there is a realisation within Tory ranks that their problems in this area may become far worse than Labour’s.

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