Woman given the all-clear from three cervical smear tests discovers she DOES have cancer after all
The test results WERE concerning but nobody cared
Doctors have apologised to a cancer patient who was wrongly given a clean bill of health three times. Tanya De Sousa, 39, was even told she was healthy after her last smear test despite medics later discovering she had pre-cancerous cells.
She was only correctly diagnosed after she underwent a hysterectomy for an unrelated condition and surgeons discovered she had developed cervical cancer. A review of her previous test results at King’s Mill Hospital in Newark, Nottinghamshire, has revealed she had been given the wrong results three times in the last eight years.
Mrs De Sousa, from Bilsthorpe, Nottinghamshire, lodged a formal complaint with Sherwood Forest Hospitals Trust who have apologised for the repeated blunders.
She said: ‘I’ve found it very difficult to get over. What I want to know now is what happens during their screening process, whether they’ve learned from the mistakes they’ve made with me, and what they are doing as a result. I don’t want it to happen to anyone else.
‘I’m also very angry – I only asked them for a little bit of reassurance and a little bit of information, and they’ve just fobbed me off. ‘I know everyone is human and makes mistakes but it’s unforgivable that they’ve got this wrong so many times. ‘I’ve always gone for my smear tests and never been called back. You take it for granted the results are right.’
Mrs De Sousa had her first test in 2003, which came back as a negative result. It was later found to be ‘inadequate’ – meaning she should have been retested.
In 2007, a test was again reported as negative but was later found to be ‘borderline abnormal’, meaning slight changes to cells had occurred which could develop into cancer.
By 2010, the test detected the possibility of pre-cancerous cells but doctors still gave Ms De Sousa the all-clear.
Last year she went to hospital for a hysterectomy to remove fibroids – non-cancerous tumours on the womb. But surgeons halted the operation after they discovered the cells had mutated into cervical cancer. Surgeons removed her lymph nodes as a precaution to stop the cancer from spreading in August last year.
Despite apologising for the mistakes, Dr Nabeel Ali, Sherwood Forest Hospitals’ medical director, said the case did not indicate a wider screening problem. He said: ‘Inaccuracies over tests is certainly not a common occurrence, as the quality and safety of patient care is always our top priority.
‘Since March 2011, our screening tests have been analysed at a regional centre for cytology at Royal Derby hospital. ‘This follows a decision made by the East Midlands Commissioning Group and relates to several hospitals.
‘We have met with Mrs De Sousa and have apologised to her verbally and in writing. We are contacting Mrs De Sousa to offer to meet her again to discuss directly any further concerns she may have.’
Rat found running around in NHS operating theatre: Troubled hospital forced to cancel surgery amid fears of disease
Weil’s disease is no joke. Hospitalisation, followed by antibiotics and often dialysis, will be required if the patient is to survive. Recovery can take months.
A Health Service hospital has been forced to cancel dozens of operations after a rat was found in its operating theatre. Pest controllers were called and a deep clean was ordered after the rodent was spotted scurrying in the room last Tuesday night.
The operating theatre at King’s Mill Hospital in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, was not in use at the time, but more than 40 scheduled operations had to be cancelled for fears the rodent may have spread potentially fatal diseases.
Rats can carry salmonella and the deadly Weil’s disease, also known as mud fever, which is spread by contact with infected urine and is thought to kill two or three people a year in Britain.
The embarrassing incident will alarm patients, but hospital bosses insisted there was no longer any cause for concern, although the fate of the rat is unknown.
Karen Tomlinson, director of operations, said she was shocked but said it was a ‘minor, one-off incident’. ‘As soon as we became aware the following morning, we immediately took steps to thoroughly clean and sterilise the entire theatre area and called in external pest control experts to completely eradicate the problem,’ she added. ‘We have apologised to any patients affected for the inconvenience caused.
‘We took immediate and comprehensive action to rectify matters and to restore services with the minimum of disruption. We are fully operational again.’ No other rats are believed to have been found on the premises.
It is not the first time pests have caused chaos in British hospitals this year. A recent investigation found that hospital kitchens are failing to meet basic standards of cleanliness, with infestations of mice, rats and cockroaches reported across the country.
At Lewisham Hospital in South-East London, environmental officers found ‘widespread mouse activity’ and an infestation of cockroaches, while at Wolverhampton’s West Park Hospital a dead rat was found in a cupboard close to where food was being prepared.
In total, health officers found 541 out of 731 hospital kitchens were dirty and flouting hygiene rules.
This year a patient was reportedly bitten more than a dozen times on his back and neck by a rat at a hospital.
The family of Jason Ketley, 42, claimed he was savaged by the rat at a specialist care unit in Surrey, with staff spotting him stumbling around a corridor with the rodent hanging from his neck by its teeth. Nurses eventually knocked it off and killed it.
The most serious concern about rats infesting hospitals is the potential threat of Weil’s disease, which is caught through contact with infected rat urine.
Also known as leptospirosis, it is thought to have caused the death two years ago of British double Olympic gold-medal winning rower Andy Holmes after he fell into the water during a 26-mile sculling marathon in Boston, Lincolnshire.
The latest incident at King’s Mill is another embarrassment for the hospital, which is struggling with debts. Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs it, lost almost £6million in the first quarter of 2012.
Last month it emerged that about 120 breast cancer patients had been given false negative results by the hospital, leading to many not receiving the treatment they needed.
British tuition fees hike ‘may have benefited poorer students’
The gap in university participation between rich and poor students has narrowed since the introduction of higher tuition fees in England in 2006/07, according to a new report.
Students from poorer backgrounds may have benefited from the introduction of higher university tuition fees in England, according to a new study published today.
The gap in higher education participation between those from wealthy and deprived backgrounds has narrowed rapidly since the 2006-07 student finance regime changes, which saw the tuition fees cap rise from £1,000 to £3,000 per annum.
According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report, this could be because the new fee regime was more generous to poorer students and hit those from richer backgrounds relatively harder.
“Contrary to the beliefs of many, the new HE [higher education] finance regime introduced in 2006-07 was actually significantly more progressive than the system it replaced,” the report says.
It adds: “We cannot say for sure that this change in [university participation] arose as a consequence of the new HE finance regime, but it was coincident with it and we cannot explain it using the other characteristics that we observe in our data.”
Only 18 per cent of state school students from the most deprived backgrounds attended higher education in 2009-10, compared with 55 per cent of those from the least deprived backgrounds – a gap of 37 percentage points.
But according to the report that gap had fallen from 40 percentage points just five years earlier, due mainly to a sharp increase in the number of pupils from deprived backgrounds applying for university.
The gap has in fact been diminishing throughout the last decade, but the process ‘accelerated somewhat’ after the tuition fees cap was increased in 2006-07, according to the report.
Claire Crawford, the author of the report, said: “This experience in 2006-07 provides some hope that the drop in university applications observed this year – following the most recent increase in tuition fees – may not herald the start of a longer term fall in participation rates.”
However, NUS president Liam Burns said: “Top-up fees were in marked contrast from the current government’s decision to increase the cap on tuition fees to £9,000 which, far from providing additional income, was used as a spurious justification by ministers to remove almost all public funding from universities and to substitute it with debt loaded onto the shoulders of individuals.”
Students starting university this September faced another tuition fees hike, with the cap now set at £9,000 per year.
The IFS report cites studies concluding that poorer students became better off under the 2006-07 fees regime than its predecessor because the fees are means tested, and because student loans are only payable above a certain earnings threshold after graduation and can eventually be written off.
Bursaries and grants are also available to university students based on household income.
But the studies point out that poor students will only benefit if they fully understand the implications of the regime and aren’t ‘debt averse’.
The report also notes that increased university participation among poorer students has been partly driven by a ‘catch up’ in attainment earlier on in the education system.
The proportion of young people with at least 2 A-levels also rose more quickly among poorer students over the last decade, for instance.
A separate report also published by the IFS today criticises the new National Scholarship Programme – introduced this year to replace previous bursaries for disadvantaged students – for being too complex.
The report also criticises the variation in bursaries available from different universities under the new regime. It found Russell Group universities offering more generous financial support than lower-ranked institutions.
Secret! Those who made the BBC Green will not be named
Warmism thrives on secrecy, which should tell you most of what you need to know
As expected, the BBC has won its legal battle against blogger Tony Newbery.
Newbery wanted the list of “scientific experts” who attended a BBC seminar at which, according to the BBC Trust, they convinced the broadcaster to abandon impartiality and take a firmly warmist position when reporting climate change. When the Beeb refused to divulge who these people were and who they worked for, Newbery took the corporation to an information tribunal. Now the names and affiliations of the 28 people who decided the Beeb climate stance – acknowledged by the Corporation to include various non-scientists such as NGO people, activists etc – will remain a secret.
The case was heard on Monday and Tuesday last week; the BBC was represented by a team of five, at times six, lawyers, including lead counsel Kate Gallafent, a barrister at Blackstone Chambers. Newbery, who represented himself, was accompanied by his wife. The hearing included cross-examination of the BBC’s director of news Helen Boaden.
Newbery had asked for the attendance list in a freedom-of-information request to the BBC some 18 months after the seminar took place in early 2006. He had been struck by a disparity between the BBC Trust’s description of the event – “a high-level seminar with some of the best scientific experts” – and subsequent accounts of the confab, which suggested the 28 invitees included a number of environmental activists and ideologues. Newbery wanted to know how many scientists were there, and what they said that had been so convincing.
The BBC argued that it was able to derogate from the Freedom of Information Act because the seminar was held “for the purposes of journalism” and its attendance list is therefore protected by the law.
And in any case, according to the Beeb’s lawyers, the information didn’t exist at the time of the request – despite its historic significance: the public-funded broadcaster has statutory obligations, under Royal Charter, to be impartial.
The “purposes of journalism” get-out-clause has been used by the BBC on various other occasions as a cloak to conceal information requested by the public under the act. For example, the corporation has refused to disclose how much tax its commercial operation BBC Worldwide pays in the United States, and its US web traffic numbers, using the “purposes of journalism” catch-all.
The speed of the verdict is a surprise – most deliberations take four to six weeks, but this took a mere ten days. However the verdict itself is less surprising: the Supreme Court earlier this year upheld the BBC’s “purposes of journalism” derogation and supported its right to withhold an internal review, dubbed the Balen Report, of its Middle East coverage.
Tribunal judge David Marks QC supported the broadcaster, cut off several avenues of questioning from Newbery, and agreed with the BBC that it can be considered a “private organisation”, despite the fact that it is funded by a compulsory tax.
The hostility of lay judge Alison Lowton, one of the three-strong panel, to Newbery was also noticeable – but perhaps understandable. The former director of legal services [PDF] of Camden Council took a six-figure severance package in 2007 when her post was abolished. Camden fought to keep the details of the settlement away from freedom-of-information requests.
The other lay judge, former Haringey councillor Narendra Makanji, appears to have strong views on climate-change skeptics, as he tweeted here this year:
We asked the Information Commissioner’s Office how a lay judge with such partisan views on climate change came to oversee hearings so closely coupled to the subject of climate. Campaigning lay judges would not normally be appointed to sit on such a case, a spokesman noted, and concerns would be legitimate grounds for appeal.
Makanji was a councillor from 1982 to 2006 and sits on the boards of various quangos and charities, according to his tribunal service profile [PDF], including the Selby Trust, which makes grants to bodies promoting climate-change issues.
The BBC Trust may have erred in giving the seminar, arranged by Beeb reporter Roger Harrabin and climate activist Joe Smith, such significance. However by a year later, the BBC had an elegant solution before it: in June 2007, the BBC Trust published a report, known as the Bridcut Report [PDF], which grappled with the issue of impartiality. Bridcut agreed that it was impractical and unreasonable for every point of view to be included in every report. However, turning to the topic of climate change, he warned:
“These dissenters (or even sceptics) will still be heard, as they should, because it is not the BBC’s role to close down this debate. They cannot be simply dismissed as “Flat Earthers” or “deniers”, who “should not be given a platform” by the BBC. Impartiality always requires a breadth of view: for as long as minority opinions are coherently and honestly expressed, the BBC must give them appropriate space. ‘Bias by elimination’ is even more offensive today than it was in 1926. The BBC has many public purposes of both ambition and merit – but joining campaigns to save the planet is not one of them.
The report was ignored – and in the best tradition of a British bureaucratic establishment under siege, the Beeb simply dug in deeper. Our postbag reflects widespread disquiet from supporters of the BBC about the disparity between its declarations of intent on transparency, and the reality. A refusal to make itself accountable to the citizens only makes political meddling more likely – so by winning an expensive legal battle, it risks losing a rather more important war.
Newbery has told us he is mulling a request to appeal.
Scottish Borders ‘on course for 1,000 wind turbines’
A thousand wind turbines are on course to be built in the Scottish Borders thanks to the SNP’s “backroom bullying” of the local council to ignore public opposition, it has been claimed.
Campaigners said official figures showed wind farm developers have already built or have planning permission for 403 turbines in the picturesque tourist area.
An additional 418 are in the planning system, either as live applications or appeals, while wind farm companies have started scoping and screening for around a further 200 turbines.
The figures emerged the day after the Daily Telegraph disclosed how SNP ministers are pressurising Scottish Borders Council to allow more wind farms even where they risk reaching “saturation point”.
Scottish Government planning officials have asked the local authority to change a new blueprint for the area’s future development after complaining of the “negative language” about wind farms.
The council also acceded to another SNP demand to drop proposals for turbine “buffer zones” around castles, abbeys, stately homes and gardens.
Mark Rowley, chairman of Cranshaws, Ellemford and Longformacus Community Council, compiled the total number turbines built and in the pipeline after becoming concerned about the effect on tourism, agriculture and country sports.
He said: “I’m sure the many Borders residents who have made their concerns about oppressive wind farm development known will be shocked to discover that whilst they were openly engaging in the planning process, the Scottish Government was busy behind the scenes bullying the council into consenting more turbines.
“Our residents are clear – they have supported schemes in the past but think enough is enough.” Although the local authority’s website contains details of wind farm numbers up to March this year, he has compiled figures that include plans lodged up to this month.
Scottish Borders Council is in the process of drawing up a new local development plan (LDP), which will decide which areas are appropriate for new housing, businesses and wind turbines.
One of the first stages was producing a document called a major issues report (MIR), which highlights the most prominent development pressures facing the region.
Correspondence published under the Freedom of Information Act showed the Scottish Government has written to the council attacking the MIR’s “negative language” about wind farms and urging it to recognise the “positive benefits”.
Anne Grove, a senior planner, wrote: “It is regrettable that the only alternative option suggested is a negative one stating that the Borders landscape is at saturation point for wind turbines.”
The council has protested their policies are compliant with national guidelines, but has agreed to consider ministers’ views and commission further research before drawing up a final version of the LDP next year.
John Lamont, Tory MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, said: “This correspondence from the Scottish Government just goes to show how ruthless they are being in pursuing their wind farm agenda.
“The SNP are insistent that more and more sites should be given planning permission to help them reach their ludicrous energy targets regardless of the views of local residents.”
Ray Porter, an anti-turbine campaigner who lives near the village of Coldingham, said the Borders was in danger of becoming a “turbine landscape”.
A Scottish Government spokesman said it was a legal requirement for councils to consult them on emerging development plans and they provide comments when this occurs.
Football fans need free speech, too
A man has been jailed for singing a song that mocks a religious leader, yet liberty campaigners have said nothing
Imagine the scene: a young man is led away in handcuffs to begin a prison sentence as his mother is left crying in the courtroom. He is 19 years old, has a good job, has no previous convictions, and has never been in trouble before. These facts cut no ice with the judge, however, as the crime is judged so heinous that only a custodial sentence is deemed appropriate. The young man in question was found guilty of singing a song that mocked and ridiculed a religious leader and his followers.
So where might this shocking story originate? Was it Iran? Saudi Arabia? Afghanistan? Perhaps it was Russia, a variation of the Pussy Riot saga, without the worldwide publicity? No, the country in question is Scotland and the young man is a Rangers fan. He joined in with hundreds of his fellow football fans in singing ‘offensive songs’ which referred to the pope and the Vatican and called Celtic fans ‘Fenian bastards’.
Such songs are part and parcel of the time-honoured tradition of Rangers supporters. And I have yet to meet a Celtic fan who has been caused any harm or suffering by such colourful lyrics. Yet in sentencing Connor McGhie to three months in a young offenders’ institution, the judge stated that ‘the extent of the hatred [McGhie] showed took my breath away’. He went on: ‘Anybody who participates in this disgusting language must be stopped.’
Several things strike me about this court case. For a start, if Rangers fans singing rude songs about their arch rivals Celtic shocks this judge to the core, I can only assume he does not get out very much or knows little of life in Scotland. Not that his ignorance of football culture is a surprise – the chattering classes have always viewed football-related banter with contempt. But what is new about the current climate is that in Scotland, the middle-class distaste for the behaviour of football fans has become enshrined in law.
This new illiberal climate has created a situation where football supporters are increasingly viewed as a public-order incident waiting to happen. Tragically, young fans like Connor McGhie are now fair game because those in powerful positions don’t like what they sing. They have been demonised and criminalised for many years, a trend which reached its logical conclusion last year with the introduction by the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communication Act, which made it a criminal offence to shout or sing offensive slogans. The consequence is that to be a Celtic or Rangers fan today is to be watched over, regulated, censored and generally treated like a threat to society. There is no discrimination towards different groups of fans – all are treated equally badly. It was this time last year that I wrote on spiked about a dawn raid on the home of a 17-year-old Celtic fan, who was remanded in custody for allegedly singing a republican song the police objected to. In short, the civil liberties of Celtic and Rangers fans alike are now fair game to be trampled on.
What is also noticeable about the imprisonment of McGhie for singing songs is the response of civil-liberties activists and religious-freedom campaigners. Or rather, the lack of response. There has been complete silence. Where are all those who protested vehemently against the detention of Pussy Riot for making similarly profane statements in a Russian cathedral? Where are all those newspaper editorials howling in rage against the incarceration of this young Rangers fan? Perhaps if he stormed into St Andrew’s Cathedral in Glasgow, the spiritual headquarters of the Catholic Church in Scotland, and hurled obscenities at worshippers, he would attract more support.
The other thing that strikes me is how anti-Catholic prejudice seems to be tolerated when it comes from our ‘national treasures’, like Stephen Fry or Richard Dawkins, but not when it comes out of the mouths of football fans. When the pope visited Britain two years ago, liberal campaigners lined up to accuse him of everything from hatred of women to paedophilia. To my knowledge, none of these words were deemed offensive enough to the UK’s Catholic community to prompt arrests or detentions, yet when a Rangers fan shouts of his hatred for the pope, that fan is locked up.
Tolerance, it seems, exists for those safely ensconced in polite society but not for Rangers or Celtic supporters, the great majority of whom are just ordinary working-class guys who love their team and enjoy expressing their passion for 90 minutes a week. True, they are not observing polite dinner-party etiquette when at a football match, and those of a more delicate nature should perhaps avoid Celtic or Rangers games. But part of the ritual of supporting a team is to wind up your rivals and, for some, this involves being raucous and boorish and hurling the occasional insult.
At the time of writing, Connor McGhie has been released on bail pending an appeal. Young men like him need and deserve the support of people who claim to care about free speech and civil liberties. This support should not be reserved for nice, respectable people, and withheld from those deemed less respectable. Despite my fanatical support for Celtic and my deep loathing for Rangers, there are things that cut through football rivalry. The right to shout the slogans we choose during the game is one of them.
Farewell to our warrior nation
Max Hastings on the decline of Britain
The Government is making huge cuts to the Army, Royal Navy and RAF in the mistaken belief that they no longer matter
Thirty years ago, I tramped across a soggy South Atlantic wilderness among 15,000 Royal Marines, paratroopers, Guardsmen and Gurkhas who fought that most surreal of campaigns, the 1982 Falklands war.
It was obvious at the time that Margaret Thatcher’s South Atlantic adventure was a last imperial hurrah. But none of us would then have guessed that today, not merely the ships and planes, but the very Armed Forces which fought the war, would be on their way to the scrapyard. Soldiers are being made redundant. I do not mean merely those thousands of men and women who have lately been handed P45s as part of the Coalition Government’s defence cuts. Britain’s entire Armed Forces are shrinking towards a point where, like Alice’s cat, soon only the smile will be left.
This represents a big cultural change. Yet despite all the public’s enthusiasm for supporting soldiers through such charities as Help for Heroes, there is no sign that they have noticed the draconian implications of the defence cuts – or if they have, that they much care. Amid disillusionment following perceived military failure in Iraq and Afghanistan, the British people have lost enthusiasm for our traditional role as a warrior nation.
David Cameron’s Government is cutting the regular Army to its lowest manpower strength for centuries: 82,000. When the downsizing is complete, more than 20 per cent of our soldiers will have gone. I must confess that I am profoundly sceptical whether it will prove possible to recruit the 30,000 reservists the Defence Secretary promised this week.
Soon, we shall be capable of deploying only a single battlegroup of 7,000-8,000 men for sustained operations overseas. Compare this tiny force to the 35,000 troops deployed in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles in the 1970s, or the 30,000 military personnel sent to the First Gulf War in 1991.
The message is plain: Britain has neither the means nor the will any longer to sustain a capability to commit large troop numbers abroad, in support of the national interest. The historic vision of the redcoat – holding the line at Blenheim, Waterloo, Balaclava; defending Rorke’s Drift for that peerless movie Zulu; fighting to victory in two world wars and countless colonial “brushfire” campaigns – is to be laid to rest.
This momentous decision, with all that it means for our culture and heritage, has been a long time coming. And it raises an important question: what are soldiers for in the 21st century?
For thousands of years, nations required armies to defend their own territories and conquer those of others. From the 18th century, most of our military effort was deployed to secure our burgeoning empire. The public in those days did not love its soldiers as it did its sailors. Everybody knew that Britain recruited its warriors from the dross of society, men incapable of finding any other route to a living than to “take the King’s Shilling”. The Army preserved some respectability chiefly because the aristocracy liked fighting, and sent its younger sons to serve. Lords and honourables were often bereft of brains and unfit for their commands, as Wellington complained. But somehow a raw, brutal, bovine courage common to the leaders and the led, together with a few bright officers, enabled the relatively small regular army to achieve some remarkable things.
The First World War brought a huge expansion of the Army, first by volunteers, latterly by conscription. The same happened in 1939-45, when once again millions of young citizens experienced military life. Even when peace came, the Cold War and residual empire commitments sustained into the 1950s an Army of 750,000. Then, however, it was decided that conscription was more trouble and expense than it was worth. Though a minority of young men fought, most peeled potatoes or blancoed puttees at Aldershot or Rheindahlen. They learnt little that was useful, and the professionals had to devote most of their energies to training them.
The Army that followed in the 1960s and 1970s, volunteers to a man, became the best this country has ever had. But the end of the Cold War brought another radical upheaval. Inevitably, the government seized the opportunity to save money by cutting the Armed Forces. The Royal Navy secured a temporary reprieve thanks to the 1982 Argentine invasion of the Falklands. A short, sharp, decisive war enabled the British to show off their superiority over a third-class enemy. The prestige of all the services soared, and victory earned Margaret Thatcher her reputation as a warrior prime minister.
But she soon resumed her pursuit of a “peace dividend”. Rhine Army’s resources and training budgets were cut savagely. For the First Gulf War in 1992, it proved necessary to cannibalise the Army’s entire armoured vehicle inventory in Germany to deploy a single weak division in the desert.
The Army was deeply apprehensive about its future when Tony Blair became prime minister in 1997. As far as action went, it need not have been.
New Labour’s prime minister put British troops in harm’s way, in pursuit of his supposed “moral foreign policy”, more often than any other modern national leader including Mrs Thatcher. There was one important difficulty, however. While Blair was eager to use force to do good deeds in the world, he never wanted to pay the bills. In Iraq and later Afghanistan, British forces found themselves pursuing hugely ambitious objectives with wholly inadequate resources, and humiliatingly dependent on the Americans for equipment.
In the Blair era the Army shrank below 100,000 men, yet again and again accepted tasks that were properly beyond its means. The generals’ traditional “can do” spirit contributed to grievous embarrassments and failures in Basra and Helmand province. They should have said “no” more often.
Today the public still embraces our Army – but as victims, lambs to the slaughter like the Light Brigade at Balaclava. Such an attitude greatly dismays thoughtful soldiers. They know that the Army has lost much of the prestige won by victories of the Falklands era, and the political clout it could wield when most politicians had served in uniform. David Cameron’s Coalition sees only that it needs to save money, and soldiers are expensive.
It costs about $2 million a year to keep each American in Afghanistan. Manpower costs account for 40 per cent of Britain’s defence spend. The Government is determined to fight no more foreign ground wars, once we escape from Helmand.
This hope or expectation is almost certainly unrealistic. Events have a way of taking charge. Who knows where Cameron, or his successors, may discern a “moral imperative”, as he did in Libya and chafes also to do in Syria? Downing Street argues that air power and special forces can do the business, without having to commit thousands of troops. Technology may be expensive, but it seems to the politicians to deliver a bigger bang for their buck.
Yet “boots on the ground” offer flexibility and a disciplined and available national resource such as no other institution in the land can match. In 2012, the Government would have faced huge embarrassment had it not been able, at a month’s notice, to deploy 3,000 soldiers for security at the London Olympics. After 2015, however, there will be pitifully few men for Olympic security or anything else.
Defence policy should always be rational, so no sensible person will lament the passing of Britain’s redcoat tradition merely as a matter of sentiment. But I believe that our national interest and security will suffer from the drastic shrinkage of the Armed Forces. In future, we shall retain – at vast cost – a capacity to pulverise an identified foreign enemy with Trident nuclear missiles, though it is hard to conceive any credible scenario in which we would use them. We shall still have special forces, capable of storming buildings and fighting terrorists. But we shall have lost immense and important capability between the two.
When millions of people put on their Remembrance poppies tomorrow, they will commemorate not only the dead of our past wars, but the looming recession into history of the Armed Forces which have done so much to define our national culture. The politicians are consigning Britain’s Army, Navy and RAF to the margin of national experience. As a matter of policy rather than sentiment, this seems a grievous error.