January 17, 2004

No Regrets

The Blair Government sinks lower and lower in the mire of its own importance and shocking disregard for all that is good and decent. On the Stateside of the Pond, readers will no doubt be oblivious to name, not to mention the behaviour, of our Defense Secretary, Geoff Hoon. But while Donald Rumsfeld may be of questionable vocabulary, Mr Hoon is of questionable character. If I had to chose between the two failings, surely the former is better than the latter.

The US may be all chuffed that the Brits went into Iraq with them, securing the southern part of the country. Unfortunately, the Brits may have showed up, but most of their equipment didn't. Tony couldn't let down George, but the press only notices men, not materiel. That is until someone goes and complains about how her husband died needlessly.

Seems Geoff's army couldn't afford supplies. Sergeant Steve Roberts had to go out an spend over 1000 of his own money before going to Iraq. He had to buy his own tent, torch, and other necessities. He expected to be supplied with body armour. He was supplied with a flak jacket briefly, until he was ordered to give it up because of a shortage. MoD reports into his death indicate it would have saved his life. It was 167 the Government couldn't afford to spend.

As the Daily Mail pointed out, it chose to spend the money instead on half a roll of wallpaper for the Lord Chancellor's private apartments, or was it six seconds of keeping the Millennium Dome open without visitors, or a cushion on an MP's 440 armchair, or one day's wages for either a "Five-a-Day" Executive (paid 28,000 to get people to eat more fruit and veg) or a Real Nappy Officer (paid 30,000 to get more parents to use cotton nappies instead of Huggies or Pampers). or one hour's wages for a solicitor on the Bloody Sunday Inquiry which has spent 113 million to find out why British soldiers fired upon unarmed protesters 32 years ago this month.

Hoon point blank refuses to take any ministerial responsibility for sending troops without any intention of providing them with proper equipment, and then once it was sent, not making sure it actually got to the front lines. He wouldn't be under such attack if it weren't for a pesky widow. Samantha Roberts is armed with weapons that Hoon should, or at least should have to, fear. She is intelligent, well-spoken, and has her husband's audio diary of his time in Iraq. Speaking from the grave, Sgt Roberts said the supplies were a joke, the shortages disgraceful, and very specifically that the lack of body armour filled him with "remorse".

Yet even his death doesn't fill, or even seem to twinge, Geoff Hoon with remorse.

Posted by david at January 17, 2004 11:13 PM | TrackBack

Sounds like "Yes, Minister" without the laughs - which makes it all the more sad.

Some of that money did, of course, go for that ill-fated mission to a lump of rock in space - and to the scientists who are still looking for it. It all ties in. The US is getting ready to enter the same money pit, at least on that last front.

Seems we need a pro-life rally all around.

Posted by: Huw Raphael at January 18, 2004 06:24 AM

I'm glad I get the British news in small doses from you, I think I'd be hysterical if I was actually reading the newspapers. This is like reading about Florence Nightingale in the Crimea and the deaths that occurred simply because of lack of equipment given to the men or to the hospitals.

Ironically my father was complaining about the cold the other day and trying to decide whether it was as bad as Russia or not. He told me that when he was in the merchant marine in the 1950s he was sent to Murmansk with only a "burberry", I think something like a donkey jacket, to supplement his uniform. If my grandmother, who spent time in Archangel as a girl, hadn't bought him a lot of extra stuff he'd have been in a bad way but that was the merchant navy half a century ago... it's appalling to think the same thing is expected of the army today.

Posted by: Havdala at January 18, 2004 08:09 PM


You know we differ on the value of space exploration. However, the Government investment in Beagle 2 was about 8 million. That's 7% of the cost of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry (so far), or 3% of the cost of the 250 million Portcullis House (the office building for MPs) or 1% of the 758 million Millennium Dome.

Posted by: David Holford at January 18, 2004 10:07 PM