It is fascinating how the same set of data can elicit different responses. To The Scotsman, the key points are that Britain's armed forces are "intolerably" undermanned and overstretched, while the Conservative Party highlights that "huge manpower shortages" are undermining the capability of Britain's overstretched Armed Forces.
The Guardian, on the other hand, finds: "Armed forces not over-stretched", conveying a Press Association report that the government has "played down fears that the armed forces are under pressure" and said they were stretched but not "over-stretched".
Thomas Harding of The Daily Telegraph tells us that the armed forces are experiencing "a severe shortfall" of more than 5,000 troops. Personnel are citing "the impact constant operations have on family life as the main reason for leaving," he tells us. The BBC, though, sticks to a more neutral, "UK armed forces are understaffed," but also tells us that rising numbers of personnel are quitting early.
All these are points from today’s National Audit Office’s report on "Recruitment and Retention in the Armed Forces", which also says that the number of those leaving the Services early has increased slightly in the past two years, with 9,200 leaving last year before their period of engagement was up.
To this blog though, what is really interesting are the reasons why people left early. A survey of those about to leave showed that 70 percent were doing so because of the "inability to plan life outside work" and just over 40 percent cited “dissatisfaction with pay” while just short of 50 percent blamed the poor quality of equipment. Of all the fourteen factors, this was the sixth most frequently cited.
That singular fact though was one which neither The Independent nor the BBC could bring themselves to point out, one which was totally ignored by The Times as well, and scarce mentioned by the Conservatives.
Recently, the media was waxing indignant about troops working for less than the minimum wage but, at the time, I wrote:
Put it to the average soldier [as] to whether they would prefer a wage rise, or decent kit that might keep them alive, and I have no doubt where their choice would lie.It now looks like this blog was more in touch with the situation than the MSM, in emphasising equipment defects – something which the bulk of the media, once again, seem to find it very difficult to focus on. Quite simply, when it comes to equipment, the media should hang its head in shame and admit, "Toys Яn't Us".