Apparently, if you compare the wages of soldiers with traffic wardens the poor old grunts come off worse, according to the head of the armed forces General Sir Richard Dannatt.
Except that’s actually a load of old bollocks. The good General and knight of the realm is being just a little misleading – I’m sure it’s unintentional, him being such a respected state figure and all - when he fails to point out that, unlike the average traffic warden, our boys in khaki also get a number of little perks. Nothing much, just subsidised lodgings and food, training, financial and career advice, medical and dental care, ‘tours’ to what amount to a succession of holiday destinations in peacetime, much more extensive leave than any other profession – you know, the little things.
It feels churlish to even mention it really, except that the army already do so across most of their hugely expensive recruitment literature.
I’d venture to say that our esteemed old commanding officer is actually saying something a bit different than the old chestnut of ‘give us more money, we’re underappreciated’ – something which for a bluff old patriot, proud of British mettle and the ability of the lower orders to come good against Johnny Foreigner must come as a bitter pill to swallow.
Nobody wants to fight. We have on our hands an entire generation of young adults who are asking ‘why the fuck would I want to enter an army which is constantly on a war footing, and where there’s a real chance I’m going to get my head cut off’? Yes it’s good money but what’s that worth if I’ve got no limbs to spend it on?
The fact is the grand victory of Thatcherism, the building of mercenary values across an entire population which destroyed the very concept of solidarity for a higher cause, be it working class pride or the urge to lay down your life “for your country”, is a crippling blow to the military in wartime, when it asks for self-sacrifice in the name of an illusory concept of valour and glory.
Of course to say this directly would be deeply embarrassing for all concerned but inevitably, Brown’s desperate nationalism and attempts to ban anti-soldier sentiment aside, the only way to get around this problem now has to be… more money. Yet more cash diverted from the NHS, education, pensions and services to the dusty, bloody-rusty theatres of Iraq and Afghanistan.
No wonder the treasury is looking a bit threadbare.