Predictably there is a touch of farce to today’s defence Green paper. The study itself is sober to a fault. But somehow the main story of the day is not whether Britain’s military clout is waning but whether Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, chief of the defence staff and ace fighter pilot, thinks the RAF could be abolished.
Here is the deliciously absurd press statement the MoD have put out:
It is being misreported by some that Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, said today that it was “plausible” that there could be only two armed services. This is not the case.
The following question was asked: “Do you think it’s plausible that we will have three Armed Services?” CDS replied to this question by saying: “Certainly it’s plausible.”
He was not saying that the idea of two services was plausible.
Who can accuse the top brass of lacking imagination?
The other big point of contention are the photographs. The Green Paper is packed with photos of our brave boys in action. But it has terribly upset some officers by failing to fairly represent all the services. There seem to be sufficient shots of the navy. But the RAF are barely given a look in (at least in terms of fast jets). And most controversial of all, the shots of soldiers in Afghanistan all appear to be Marines. The army understandably have taken this as a deep affront.
How fortunate there isn’t more at stake.