The coalition trumpets its admiration of our armed forces – but would take away their human rights.
Coming from a garrison town, the plight of soldiers – and the sheer hypocrisy of politicians fawning over them – has always stuck in my throat.
Our government is quite prepared to talk up the bravery and commitment of ‘our boys’, but is content to throw them into conflicts with the very real prospect they will never return.
This year’s commemorations of the start of World War One are a stark reminder of the sacrifices politicians make with other people’s lives – except nowadays they’ll do so wearing a Help for Heroes t-shirt (almost entirely covering their brass necks).
When it comes to the hypocritical lauding of the armed forces while simultaneously shafting them, no one does it better than this government.
Former soldiers struggling on Civvy Street have been hammered by the coalition, whether it’s those who’ve ended up in the criminal justice system affected by legal aid cuts or others seeing their benefits slashed.
Now it appears the government wants to take away armed forces’ human rights too.
Defence secretary Philip Hammond told the Commons he is worried by the ‘encroachment of judicial processes’ into the operation of the armed forces.
In plainer language, this means stripping members of the armed forces of the right to sue the government for injuries suffered in action. Help for Heroes could not be further from his mind.
The background to this is the Snatch Land Rover case, which came to a head last summer when the Supreme Court ruled families of soldiers killed in Iraq could pursue damages against the government.
At least 37 UK soldiers have died in conflicts while travelling in the vehicle which some troops called the ‘mobile coffin’.
How dare this government try to deny our armed forces the right to redress when they are not properly trained, equipped or protected?
No soldier is under any illusion that their job isn’t dangerous. They know it is potentially fatally dangerous. But each has the right to expect their government to do everything they can to ensure they have the best chance of avoiding injury and, indeed, survival.
Denying the chance of redress also means the very real prospect that the problem will not be highlighted and rectified, potentially putting more lives at risk.
Last year David Cameron put his name to a Help for Heroes fundraising push, saying: ‘I never fail to be amazed by the sheer grit and determination of our forces and what they can achieve both on and off the battlefield.’
Fine words. But when it comes to action, his government is found wanting. The armed forces are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country, and the coalition repays them by taking away their human rights.
John Hyde is a Gazette reporter