Forget Building Iraq’s Armed Forces – Rebuild Our Own

I read this morning on the BBC website that yet more British troops in the position of “trainers” are to be sent to Iraq. Our government and top brass pulled our troops out 3 years ago. This “off the bus, on the bus” attitude of military operations really has to stop. Our troops and many others have already spent years training Iraqi, Afghan, Libyan, Kurdish and other troops from the region, and we’ve seen the poor results. Why? Because it’s been a facade of building a foreign armed force. We give them basic training over a farcical, unrealistic time frame. Why? Because it’s all political. Then they are armed with no more than the basics. Why? Because one day soon, we may be fighting the ones we’re training. And so it goes on…and so our tax paying pounds continue to be poured down the toilet; money that we badly need to train and equip our own armed forces.

Instead of our “two cheeks of the same arse” political parties looking 4 years in advance because of the next election, how about we look way in advance like China and Russia, and once again use every penny to get our own armed forces back up to scratch. After spending the last 15 years fighting for US foreign policy and making a mockery of “our” commitments, we need to now claw back the mantle of the finest military on earth.

I fear that future commitments for our brave armed forces won’t be against an enemy in flipflops, but against a formidable force beginning with “R”.

My Answer to “Child Soldiers” in the British Military

Why Under 18s Should Continue To Serve In Britain’s Military

Well meaning Human Rights groups are trying to change the British military structure that has gone on successfully for decades. Here is what they don’t understand.

I was born in Lochee, a very deprived area of the city of Dundee, Scotland in the mid 1950s. I was brought up in a Victorian tenement building sharing an outside lavvy with four other families. My father drank heavily and constantly threw my mother around the tenement like a rag doll. When I was around 7 or 8, I would step in to help my mother and get battered myself. At the age of fourteen, having spent more time looking after my mother than going to school, I chose to run away.

After chasing a dream of becoming a professional footballer but not making the grade, I joined the military. I entered the RAF Regiment just after my 17th birthday, did my basic parachute jumps and was sent off to a small simmering war in Oman. I was given special dispensation to go as a minor as my unit was undermanned.

I was chuffed to bits.

At the age of 20 I passed SAS selection (naivety got me through, lol) and I never looked back!

Joining as a youngster was good for me and it probably saved my life. It certainly kept me out of jail, off the streets and off drugs. It didn’t eliminate my voice, creativity or character, as those of you who know me or have read my blog know, ha.

The military gave me a set of front teeth as I’d had mine smashed out in a gymnastics accident at the age of 16. It showed me how to do laundry, stay tidy and keep my bedspace, shower and toilet immaculate…with the use of a toothbrush. It showed me the importance of being a team player, how to listen to your elders and how to never prejudge others. It gave me a family environment, something that I never had before, but would cherish for the rest of my life.

Joining the military as an under 18 year-old (child soldier) is the best thing that happened to me- and thousands of lads and lassies before, during and after me I’m sure. I really hope that never changes.

 

Britain’s “Guantanamo” Problem and the Legacy of Poor Policies

As the draw down of British forces from Afghanistan nears, the scandals seem to intensify.  The latest involves the prolonged detention of up to 90 suspected Afghan “insurgents” in Camp Bastion, Britain’s main military base in Afghanistan.  Defence Secretary Philip Hammond defended the policy, claiming the alternatives—turning the detainees back onto the battlefield to attack British forces, or handing them over to Afghan judicial authorities to face possible torture—were worse.

I am wholeheartedly in favour of protecting our brave soldiers and I support them unconditionally.  I further believe that releasing our enemies into an abusive situation could compromise our national security by feeding home grown terrorism.  But the real issue here is not the merits of this single policy, but the slew of bad policies which landed us between a rock and a hard place. Continue reading

Want to Get the Economy Moving, Create Jobs and Make Housing More Affordable? Here’s How We Get It Done.

It’s easy to feel powerless these days.  Jobs are scarce and insecure, wages are flat, fuel prices are soaring, rents are going up and all the while the rich keep getting richer.  At my age, it’s tempting to leave it to someone else to fix.  But as a parent and a patriot, I can’t and I won’t. An entire generation of Brits is being left behind.  1 in 5 young people are unemployed. Those who can find work often end up in part-time, poorly paid, dead end jobs. Then there’s the significant matter of putting a roof over their heads.  There’s a chronic lack of social housing and most young people don’t have a hope in hell of getting a foot on the property ladder, especially when the majority of jobs are being created in and around London where the average mortgage deposit for a first time buyer is projected to hit £100,000 by 2020.

That’s no typo.  It really is one hundred thousand pounds.  Talk about a hefty punch in the face.

For centuries, the British tax system has been rigged to benefit wealthy land owners.   It’s no surprise then that 70% of the land in the country is owned by 1% of the population.  The  majority (i.e. the working classes and the squeezed middle classes) put up with the arrangement so long as children had a good shot at a better life than their parents. But all that’s changed now.  We have reached a dangerous tipping point in our economy. Our children face a future of declining living standards.  The lucky ones will claw their way into social housing while the rest will be condemned to either live rough or spend their lives beholden to rich landlords who bleed them dry.

We don’t have to stand by while our children are railroaded into serfdom.   We are not powerless. We can make affordable housing a reality, and boost the economy in the process.  By demanding a LAND VALUE TAX.

LAND VALUE TAX or LVT is an annual tax on the value of a plot of land.  Unlike VAT, income tax, council tax and business rates which hit people of modest means the hardest, an LVT shifts the tax burden to the wealthiest land owning members of society.  As things stand now, land owners do not pay taxes on land they haven’t developed, which means they have everything to gain by sitting on real estate instead of putting it into productive use by building houses or businesses on top of it.  It’s a simple study in supply and demand. The fewer houses/buildings there are the more valuable the existing stock becomes. This is precisely why we have housing bubbles.   A LAND VALUE TAX would change everything by unlocking the value of the nation’s vast tracks of under-utilized real estate.  Hoarding would become very unprofitable, forcing land owners to either sell to developers or build on it themselves.  As the housing stock increases, prices would drop, recapturing the dream of home ownership for the nation’s youth.  And all that building would kick start the economy by creating much needed jobs, not to mention providing an incentive to improve our crumbling infrastructure which would make us more competitive.

Affordable housing.  More jobs.  Economic growth.  Competitiveness. That’s what a LAND VALUE TAX can do for us.  And unlike other forms of taxation, this one is very tough for the rich to dodge.  You can’t hide a piece of land offshore. Continue reading