How Political Correctness Is Putting Our Nationat Risk; as Soldiers Win the Right to Sue Their Officers

Daily Mail (London), February 28, 2000 | Go to article overview
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How Political Correctness Is Putting Our Nationat Risk; as Soldiers Win the Right to Sue Their Officers


IT IS ALMOST impossible to believe that this Government which constantly claims to hold the Armed Forces in high regard - has really decided to allow soldiers to sue their commanding officers for compensation if they are given orders which prove (with the comforting certainty of hindsight) to have been 'wrong'.

I can think of no decision which would do more to undermine the necessary self-confidence of junior officers and to damage morale and discipline in the Armed Forces.

How can you train men under your command for war if you are constantly looking over your shoulder to make certain that you are not about to be ambushed by a gaggle of lawyers?

How can you make snap decisions under rapidly changing circumstances when the threat of legal action is ever-present?

I know that the constant looming prospect of litigation would have made me an overcautious and less effective officer.

I am equally confident that senior officers will have warned ministers in no uncertain terms of the potentially disastrous consequences of their proposed action.

To put it bluntly, I suspect they will have argued like this: If you politicians casually subvert discipline and military morale in peacetime, training will become less realistic.

How political correctness is putting our nation at risk As a result, you will undermine our servicemen's renowned fighting spirit and create a fatal 'safety first' attitude in war. Ultimately, this could endanger the security of the realm and make it more likely that men may die as a result of dithering decisions.

So why has the Government once again ignored expert advice and taken the farcical decision to allow the fashionable compensation culture which has so disfigured civil society to enter the Armed Forces? Why are ministers so ignorant of, or dismissive of, Service opinion?

It is, I believe, a matter of generations. National Service was abolished more than 40 years ago. Previous Labour Cabinets included men such as Jim Callaghan, Denis Healey, Tony Crosland and Tony Benn, all of whom had distinguished war records.

Prime Minister Clement Attlee had held the rank of major in World War One and he never lost the sympathy he acquired for men facing the horrors of war.

Affronts In contrast, no member of this administration has, as far as I am aware, had any significant military experience. Some would say that this seismic shift explains the latest in a series of ill-considered affronts to

military dignity and morale.

For example, the present inquiry into the shootings in Londonderry on Bloody Sunday was offensive, retrospective and unnecessary - and was instigated despite a 15-volume inquiry carried out by the then Lord Chief Justice.

It was initially to have been held under conditions which would have endangered the lives of soldiers who had been on duty on that fateful day.

was, in truth, a public relations gimmick designed to appease Republicanism.

So was the more recent plan for a so-called National Day Reconciliation - in which British troops were to join the IRA in a symbolic gesture 'marking the end of conflict' which would inevitably have been seen as a way of equating terrorists with soldiers of the Queen.

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