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Where we lead they follow

Posted by Helen Friday, April 15, 2005

Otherwise: it was the blog wot done it. Or so we would like to think. But several days after we raised the hue and cry and sent out messages to various people, a number of our daily papers have picked up the cause of the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, who had been denied their vote by MoD inefficiency (or skulduggery).

The Daily Telegraph’s Catriona Davies produced a factual account of the scandal under the title Most soldiers will not be able to vote. The Daily Mail had Colonel Tim Collins thundering imprecations, the Independent put is slightly differently : MoD error denies thousands of troops the vote, said they primly. Even Index on Censorship has woken up to the facts.

But, let’s face it, apart from the Herald, you read it here first.

And now, just to show that there are some political speeches we do approve of, and some events we find reasonably interesting, we publish the words spoken by the one London boy at the rally to save the Scottish regiments last Saturday in Trafalgar Square.

This is what Gerard Batten UKIP MEP and spokesman on defence said:

“I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to you today. I can assure you that the Save the Regiments Campaign has the full support of the UK Independence Party.

Time and time again the British armed forces have been called upon to defend Britain, and they have never failed to do so. The great and historic regiments represented here today have played a key role on every one of those occasions. We are extremely grateful to them.

Most recently these regiments have carried out some of the most dangerous missions in Iraq, only to find an ungrateful Labour government repays them with disbandment or abolition.

Every organisation has to face changes sometime, but there should always be a clear understanding of how any change serves the fundamental strategy of the organisation in question. This has not happened with regard to the regiments.

There has been no public debate about the planned reductions in manpower and the amalgamation of the regiments. There has been no debate in Parliament. There has been no Government White Paper laying out a coherent and reasoned case.

These changes represent not only fundamental changes to the structure of the army but fundamental changes in defence strategy itself. They envisage a change from the historic, tried and tested regimental model to a new model based on a so-called super unit, and fighting groups, which have yet to be tried or tested.

What then are the driving forces behind these proposed changes? A proper assessment of Britain’s defence needs may well have come to similar conclusions, but it did not happen. Why not? In my view it is because the driving force behind the decision is not a military one but a political one. The political reason is that the Labour government has already taken the decision that Britain’s military forces should be merged and integrated into the planned military capability of the European Union.

I am a member of the European Parliament’s Security and Defence Committee. I have only sat on it for a short time but I can tell you that it has some very big plans. It intends that the European Union should have its own military capability that is capable of implementing the planned European Union Common Security & Defence Policy.

They already speak of their wish to be able to take pre-emptive military action in Europe, the Balkans and indeed Africa. And who knows how much farther afield their martial ambitions may take them if they have the means.

The military dreams of the European Union can only be realised by the integration of the existing armed forces of its member states into a pan-European military force. The best armed forces in Europe, of course, belong to Great Britain.

The military plans of the European Union undermine the existence of NATO. And it is NATO that has kept the peace in Europe since 1949 not the European Union as some would have you believe, and Britain’s regiments have played a key role in NATO. These plans are dangerous not only to the Britain’s defences but to the very stability of Europe itself.

The proposed changes could undermine Britain’s very ability to defend herself. They are being taken for political rather than military or defence reasons. They are not being taken in Britain’s national interest. These changes take no account of the affect they will have on the communities from which the regiments draw their recruits.

An earlier speaker said that in the coming general election you should vote for any party other than the Labour party. I would like to help you narrow down your choices. The UK Independence Party gives its full support to the Save the Regiments Campaign and if you get rid of Tony Blair on 5th May then you have a good chance of saving the regiments!”

This blog remains resolutely neutral in party politics (we are not all that keen on any of them), so we do not endorse the last paragraph. But as for the rest of it: we could not have put it better ourselves.