From the TUC

More stories about defence cuts

30 Aug 2010, by in Blogging, Politics

This weekend more stories have emerged about cuts in defence spending, featuring elements of the armed forces that are well-known to the public. Yesterday there were reports that the Ghurkha regiment is to be scrapped, today the newspapers featured reports that the Special Air Service is being forced to retire 40 of its most experienced soldiers and the Telegraph has revived a story about scrapping the Navy’s Harrier jump-jets.

I thought quite a bit about whether to include these stories in Cuts Watch. There’s quite a strong argument for doing so, generally speaking we report there anything that looks like a cut – as we note elsewhere

In our Cuts Watch feature, we are trying to list all the expenditure cuts flowing from the mistaken policy of making cutting the deficit the main economic priority, rather than securing the recovery. This is not to pass judgement on the merits of the individual area of expenditure. Cutting the ID cards programme is a victory for TUC campaigning, cutting back Building Schools for the Future is a disaster for education and the wider economy, but both would be included in cuts watch.

But I’m increasingly sceptical about reports of defence cuts. As I’ve noted elsewhere, the MoD has a long history of leaking scare stories whenever there’s cuts in the offing. What’s more, this list – cutting units and equipment the average patriotic reader might be expected to have heard of and care about – reads as if it was compiled by a committee thinking up stories that would appeal to editors desperate for stories on the bank holiday at the end of the silly season.

It’s still worth reporting these stories, but as an ordinary posting, not as part of Cuts Watch.

PS

If these stories are genuine, there ought to be security concerns – there’s a D-notice on

details of the state of readiness and operational capability of individual units or formations whose involvement in such operations is current or may be imminent

Of course, no-one’s going to be hauled off to chokey for these reports – they’d just have to say where they got them from. But it does indicate how cautious we ought to be about relying on any of them.