Tuesday, February 01, 2011
That diminishing band of us who celebrate having memories of slightly greater capacity than the proverbial goldfish in a bowl will recall what a big deal the Tories made out of the shortage of helicopters for our troops in Afghanistan – even though the need was vastly overstated.
Such was the political pressure, though, that the then Labour government allowed itself to be bounced into ordering a further 20 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters to augment operations – unwisely in my view. These were cut to 12 in the defence review, and that was thought to be the end of the matter.
How interesting it is, therefore, to learn from the left-leaning Daily Mirror that the self-same helicopters "promised to troops in Afghanistan" may be axed by the Tories. And if that is too partisan a source, then one should note that the Financial Times is also pointing out that there is a "question mark" over the order. The Guardian has also picked up the issue.
I said at the time that the Tories were playing politics and they were pushing the wrong debate, for the wrong reasons. So it turns out to be – a classic example of political opportunism.
It then becomes doubly interesting to see how quiet the media are being about this volte face, especially the gung-ho, Tory-supporting Sun, which thought nothing was too much for "Our Boys", as long as pointing this out embarrassed Labour.
When the account of the current Afghan campaign comes to be written, it might then be remarked how quick the media and the Tories were to make political capital out of the military problems in theatre, when it suited them, but how little they actually did care, and how quickly the Tories forgot their concerns once they were in what passes for power.