When even this Conservative-led government is willing to degrade the military capacity of our nation, it has been understandable to despair of anyone in British politics other than Defence Secretary Philip Hammond continuing the argument for a strong, fully-capable armed forces.
Arguments against making experienced veteran soldiers redundant while flashy recruitment drives for new recruits clog the airwaves have fallen on deaf ears, as did the arguments against leaving Britain without full aircraft carrier capability until the new Queen Elizabeth class ships are commissioned. But now a new argument against further cuts to the military may succeed – and it is, of course, the least important or relevant of them all.
The Telegraph reports that additional cuts to the armed forces could impair their ability to carry out ceremonial functions such as Trooping the Colour or participating in state funerals:
Cuts to the armed forces are threatening to undermine the pageantry and pomp of Britain’s biggest ceremonial events, one of the Army’s most senior officers has warned.
Garrison Sergeant Bill Mott, who oversees all major ceremonial events, says he is now struggling to produce the “same spectacle” as the armed forces have shrunk.
His comments are likely to prove especially sensitive as Prince Harry is now a staff officer in the same district as Mr Mott, with a responsibility for helping to organise ceremonial events.
The Telegraph’s source is highly experienced and not prone to hyperbole:
Over the past 12 years Garrison Sergeant Major Bill Mott has overseen every major ceremonial event in London including the royal wedding, Baroness Thatcher’s funeral and the tradition of Trooping the Colour.
However, Mr Mott told Defence Focus, an internal Ministry of defence magazine, that soldiers are “gritting their teeth and getting on with it” in the face of the cuts.
I wonder if this approach might actually work. Since the memory of the Falklands conflict seems to have evaporated from the minds of most people, and a large segment of the population equates maintaining a strong national defence with a desire to embark upon new neo-conservative inspired nation-building jaunts abroad (when in fact there is no reason for the two to be linked), there has been no real attention-grabbing or compelling argument to make in favour of ring-fencing defence spending. Until now.
If this is what it takes to wrestle back the momentum and initiative in favour of protecting military spending, then I’ll take it. But it will not speak highly of the British people if we prove to be more concerned about our future ability to stage a Princess Diana-style funeral than we are our ability to protect ourselves and defend our interests.