Army chief upsets New Labour by telling the truth

General Richard Dannatt was clever, principled, and spoke his mind. This made exactly the sort of man Gordon Brown could not stand. He stated what all servicemen knew to be true. The Iraq occupation had been a disaster. British troops had become part of the problem, rather than the solution and they should be withdrawn. Through the subsequent three years of his tenure as head of the Army, he has fought a public battle for his men in a fashion no other serving officer has attempted for decades. On TV he remarked that it is unsurprising it is hard to recruit infantrymen when they are paid less than traffic wardens. He has argued repeatedly that NATO needs more men in Afghanistan and British troops need better kit and more helicopters. He clearly perceives himself as custodian of soldiers who risk their lives for Queen and country and has embarrassed Brown’s floundering government again and again. His comments were the more dramatic because his predecessor, General Mike Jackson, was a huge disappointment and bitterly criticised for failing to speak out about the Government’s starvation of resources for the Iraq and Afghan campaigns. Of course, the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, had no interest in supporting Dannatt. He is more interested in Global Warming than servicemen and is seen by their families as a jobsworth serving out his time. The heads of the other two services keep their mouths shut, because their foremost concerns are their own absurd equipment programmes. The fact is that Dannatt has waged his campaign for the Army by simply telling the truth. To New Labour that is simply unforgivable. To Brown’s relief, the incoming man, David Richards is more in the Stirrup mold. With ill-concealed hopes for some sort of diplomatic posting after his service career is over, he is unlikely to rock many boats.

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