If I was the PR at the MOD (and I am by no means asking for a job) I would go home each night and kick the cat, wondering why I’m so shit at my job. Alternatively, I might think I’m so brilliant I need a pay rise.
It’s rare when a story about a relatively isolated and minor issue emerges which could be spun badly, but which the Government just abjectly fails to spin effectively. Take the decision to resist more helicopters in theatre in Afghanistan. David Cameron asks you ‘are there enough Helicopters in Afghanistan?’
What do you do?
The MOD answer at the moment is to resist even the possibility of agreeing with the premise, to deny that there’s an issue, to argue that people are playing politics with the lives of troops on the ground. This is spectacularly defensive and exceptionally poor strategy. In addition, it won’t be filling Liam Fox with confidence that he can rely on MOD officials when the election forces them over the top.
The best answer, as far as I can see for the MOD to put out would have been to answer Cameron with something like:
‘We’re working on deploying more of our Chinooks into theatre, which will be completed as soon as they’re fitted for the new requirement. We’ll have our new Merlins in theatre very soon, and in the meantime we’re able to make use of our allies resources when that becomes operationally necessary. Our armed forces could always do with better and newer kit in battle; we’re working with the Treasury to make sure that can happen’.
Straight, open, progressive and not denial. In addition, it puts pressure on Treasury to increase budgets. Win win!
More recently, this bizarre story about seeking to appeal compensation payments for troops who develop complications after the point of initial injury is absolute dynamite, and if spun properly by Liam Fox can do enormous damage to the government over the summer. The trick, it would have seemed to me, would to have asked the Attorney General to intervene or to begin a commission on compensation, chuck it on the long finger and hope an election comes in time to prevent major embarrassment.
Instead, the MOD has managed to make itself look exactly like it’s trying to victimise injured soldiers, the week after Harry Patch, our oldest surviving veteran, died. It’s so spectacularly screwed up it makes the article in today’s ‘Daily Mash’ look close to accurate reporting.
I wonder whether there’s something going on here within the MOD to deliberately embarrass the current government and guarantee Liam Fox as Defence Secretary. Stranger things have happened. Maybe the cat isn’t kicked as often as I thought.