Friday, January 05, 2007

Grown-up politics

The Daily Telegraph today runs a front page story about cuts in the Royal Navy, reducing it, as some would aver, to the status of a coastal defence force. Yet the commentary is as puerile and superficial as ever.

The Daily Mail, on its front page, launches a crusade against waste recyling, warning of a plague of rats as Councils cut back on collection frequencies in order to pay the extra costs of meeting recyling targets. The Times gives its front page news of a proposed ban on rabbit-human embryos but also devotes two whole pages (as does the Mail) to the "crisis" over the "squalid homes" provided for our armed forces.

The Guardian choses to climate change as its lead issue, with "environment minister" Ian Pearson (who he?) complaining that airlines aren't taking it seriously enough. On the other hand, The Independent offers, "for the first time", a real blueprint for peace in Iraq, by Ali Allawi, the former Iraqi Defence Minister. He starts off saying:

The Iraqi state that was formed in the aftermath of the First World War has come to an end. Its successor state is struggling to be born in an environment of crises and chaos. The collapse of the entire order in the Middle East now threatens as the Iraq imbroglio unleashes forces in the area that have been gathering in virulence over the past decades.
Amongst other things, he is suggesting a preparatory conference on a "Middle-Eastern Confederation of States" that will examine proposals on economic, trade and investment union. That seems like an Arab version of the European Union, which does not seem a terribly bright idea.

And The Sun, when you get past the "killer bus" front page story, is running an "exclusive" headed, "Infantry crisis as troops quit". Defence editor Tom Newton Dunn is claiming that the Army is facing a massive crisis "as troops in frontline fighting battalions quit in droves over poor pay and slum homes." All but one of "39 bayonet battalions" are undermanned, he claims, and overall they have only three-quarters of the men they need. Yet some of the worst-hit units are STILL being sent on dangerous operations to do the job expected of a full-strength battalion.

Somewhere in all the verbiage today, therefore, it is fair to say that - amongst other things - we have a defence crisis. But it is having to compete with many other issues, and there is no clear line on which people (or journalists) can focus.

So, what's the Tory rat pack concerned about? Well, they did defence yesterday, and that's it for this millenium. Today, its something about conference arrangements, while the official website is fronting a manifesto for Armed Forces families.

What makes you think the Tories have opted out of grown-up politics? And who cares? Look at the unofficial Army forum and you will find that they are totally at sea - to coin a phrase. The one thing they do not seem to be able to cope with is any discussion on how to fight a war, yet they still delude themselves that British armed forces are the best in the world - I suppose, just like the NHS is the best health service in the world.

It does make you wonder why you bother. More to the point, it makes you wonder how anyone can possibily make a difference. With the Tory party retreating into its second childhood and thereby failing to make any impression on a corrupt and terminally inept government, just what is one supposed to do?

As a friend of mine once said, "It's a hard life being a grown up!" But does it have to be this hard?

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