Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Test balloon? Budget Mischief? Army politics?

Former Army officer and journalist Patrick Mercer has made another of his pronouncements this time it concerns the potential cuts to the Army.  Cuts increased by the decision to break with normal practice on paying for Trident.  Mercer declares:

"The first people to go will be the Brigade of Gurkhas, probably in their entirety. In the past, the Gurkhas' existence was guaranteed by the fact they are cheaper to run than British troops, and that there was a shortage of British troops.  Recent changes mean they are now just as expensive, and recruitment is extremely healthy at the moment. I am afraid the writing is on the wall."

Is this story a test balloon to gauge public reaction? Is this story part of the MoD Treasury fight?  Clegg and Cameron were falling over themselves to be the Gurkhas friends while in opposition.  Or is it Army politics?  Someone trying to push others up the pecking order for the chop before other potentially vulnerable units. 

Whichever one it is, the rationale offered is poor.  Arguing it's the result of the end of discriminatory treatment is far from a good starting point. The second rationale, present recruitment levels, is a potential example of a bad cut. Recruitment patterns rise and fall. It is more strategic sense to maintain a regiment that has a consistent pattern of recruitment success.

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