Wednesday, November 11, 2009

“That Letter” Was Just a Distraction

There’s no need for another blog about THAT letter... so, I thought I’d write one... Well, actually this won’t be about hand writing, spelling or administrative incompetence at No 10 that allowed such a letter to be sent, but what all the fuss should have be about.

For me the whole “Letter/Spelling/Handwriting*...gate” *delete as per personal preference, is completely irrelevant and, mostly, blown out of all proportion by the Sun and many (mainly Labour supporting) individuals, especially on Twitter yesterday.

The furore, and subsequent attempt by Labourites to spin this as a personal attack on Gordon Brown’s disabilities and/or a party political issue, is in danger of overshadowing the real failure of the man and his government while actually generating sympathy for him.

The real issues are not to do with his handwriting or spelling or eyesight. They are about real worry and growing anger that has been building up under the surface for a long time now. That poor mother, who is grieving for her son, is understandably angry and looking for an outlet to vent that anger. She has heard all the horror stories from the front line about lack of equipment and resources; the doubts about the government’s commitment to the campaign in Afghanistan and now her son is dead and she receives a shoddy looking letter from the man many people blame for the situation. It was the last straw for her and the catalyst for an emotional outburst I can completely understand and have lots of sympathy for. The Sun has seized on it and is giving national exposure to it, some say exploiting her for increased newspaper sales.

But when you listen to the telephone conversation between her and Brown, it is not only the letter that she refers to, it is these other underlying concerns, held by many in the Forces and their families that she has heard about time and time again and always hoped would never affect her son:

  • Shortages of equipment and troops.
  • Not enough helicopters to support our operations (watch Lord Guthrie’s demand for helicopters).
  • A lack of commitment from the Government and dithering in important decision making.

If these concerns were only coming from the grieving parents of killed soldiers or a group of worried families with loved ones still out in the battle fields, perhaps we could put these concerns down to raw emotion and a desire to “just blame” someone when thing go wrong. But it’s not. These concerns have been expressed for a very long time now by many different people. The most recent and damning for the government was Criticism from three former chiefs of the defence staff in the House of Lords.

Lord Boyce, Chief of the Defence Staff between 2001 and 2003 said:
"It is too much to hope that the present government will provide the necessary cash to allow its aspirations to be realised properly or honourably... Government does not realise we are at war."
And he points to the fact that defence spending is falling as a share of national income at a time when our commitments are great.

To pick up on the point Mrs Janes made to Brown during their telephone conversation - the government can find billions to bail out the banks but will not adequately fund the armed forces to execute their duties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sadly, the focus on whether or not Brown is to blame for the shoddiness of the letter considering his disabilities is overshadowing the real and shameful neglect of British fighting troops for which Brown should be roundly condemned and really should be apologising for. 

For other views see the following...

Oxford Spring
The Guardian
Dungeekin’s Brilliant Rudyard Kipling’s “If...” Rewrite
BBC’s The Daily Politics
Constantly Furious

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