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Daily Archives: August 18, 2010
Option: Cut the officer corps of the armed forces by a quarter, returning the ratio of top brass to lower ranks the 1 to 7 level that prevailed through the cold war.
Saving: In salary alone, the saving is around £400m a year. There are then knock on savings from bonuses, housing costs, private school fees, the entourage, the offices, travel costs, training, the pension etc.
The case for a cut: Britain’s armed forces are more top heavy with officers than at any point in the 20th century. As the armed forces have shrunk in size, the lower ranks have suffered more than the officer corps. It now looks terribly unbalanced. The ratio of officers to lower ranks has fallen from 1/10 in the Second World War, to 1/7 in the cold war, to 1/6 through the late 1990s, to 1/5 today. There was no strategic decision to change this structure — it is a symptom of a bureaucracy protecting those at the top at the expense of efficiency. Most striking is the trend since 1997, which is shown in the chart below. Senior officers (colonel and above) have increased by 8 per cent, while the lower ranks have been cut by 12 per cent. What is the rationale for that? There are now more admirals than active warships and two-fifths as many RAF officers of one star and above as there are in the US Air Force, which is roughly eight times the size.
The fact that all political administrations have political honeymoons is proven by the fact that Gordon Brown, one of the worst prime ministers in history (by most accounts) enjoyed a few months of media praise, from – it has to be said – the FT among others. Labour’s poll rating was in August 2007 at its highest since the invasion of Iraq.
In this light it is worth taking a rather sceptical view of anyone who believes they can judge the success or otherwise of the coalition on its initial three months. In another three months’ time, after the comprehensive spending review, we might have a somewhat clearer idea – but not necessarily the full picture.
If you don’t believe me about Brown, recall these words of wisdom from various gurus at the time. Perhaps you can enjoy guessing who they are.
Mr Brown today stands a more formidable character than even his friends had imagined he would become in office. He has dealt with every disaster fate has thrown at him with a sureness that often eluded Mr Blair. The Conservatives have for some time been able to step back and let Labour tear itself to pieces. Those who had hoped Mr Brown would bore and blunder his own way out of 10 Downing Street have been sorely mistaken.
David Mililband makes his pitch to British industry — FT
Will Cameron dare follow through with localism? — Tony Travers/FT
Three cheers for the postcode lottery — Tim Harford/FT
100 things you may not (need) to know about coalition — Sam Coates/Times (£)
Cameron won’t repeat Thatcher’s mistake of acting too slowly — The Sun
‘You may as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb‘ — Jonathan Freedland/Guardian
The price the Tories pay for a coalition -- Tim Montgomerie
The Lib Dems aren’t on 8 per cent, yet — Anthony Wells
Margaret Thatcher, Vince’s hero - FT Notebook