This week, the House of Commons Defence Select committee published a damning report on the government’s defence and security review, exposing the flaws in the plan and the complacency in the Ministry of Defence.
Previously, I have written about the dire equipment programme (Ajax tank, etc.), lack of training, capability gaps and money siphoned from soldiers to spies, but this is the first official report that reveals the extent of the problem in the light of Putin’s war in Ukraine. Perhaps the most damning comment is the way the armed forces are being used to backfill civilian tasks because Whitehall departments are seemingly incapable of “responding to crises”.
This report provides a tremendous opportunity for the two aspiring Prime Ministers to stake a claim with the large military and former military community, who are part of their electorate. However, not for the first time, Defence has been relegated by politicians (and the media) to a side-show.
General Brian Horrocks provides an amusing vignette about the British Army of the 1930s, which “had been reduced largely to a flag basis” and lance corporals hung boards around their necks bearing the words “this represents a section”. We have a similar system now for our tanks, but it is hard to see the next government following the advice of the Select Committee and reversing the decline of the past 12 years…unless Putin wins in Ukraine.