30 April 2012

'Into the Light' at Compton Verney

The long-list of 10 gallery and museum projects for the Art Fund’s 2012 Prize features three from South West England: M Shed in Bristol, the Holburne Museum in Bath and Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM). RAMM reopened in December 2011, marking the occasion with a major exhibition, Into the Light: French and British painting from Impressionism to the early 1920s, which has now transferred to Compton Verney.

53 works are on show by artists including Vanessa Bell, Eugene Boudin, Paul Cezanne, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Walter Sickert, Alfred Sisley, Alexander Stanhope Forbes and Philip Wilson Steer. Into the light describes the cross-Channel travels, connections and influences on their work of British and French Impressionists and Post-impressionists. This exhibition is a delight for anyone with an interest in British art and RAMM deserve praise for their efforts in bringing it about. Professor Sam Smiles of the University of Plymouth and Penelope Sexton (formerly of RAMM and now at Compton Verney) seem to be particularly deserving of appreciation.

Not to neglect two of the themes of this blog (SW England and SW France), there is an opportunity for those unlikely to travel as far west as Plymouth to admire Stanhope Forbes’ dramatic en plein air 'A Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach':

and to compare two Scottish Colourist views of Royan at the mouth of the Gironde estuary:

Into the Light continues until 10 June. The exhibition catalogue by Sam Smiles is excellent value at £14.95, particularly by comparison with the current equivalent on offer at the Courtauld. Better still for Exonians, RAMM have it on sale at £12.50!

Compton Verney is also hosting Gainsborough’s Landscapes: Themes and Variations, which was the subject of a post here when first shown at the Holburne.

29 April 2012

Turner and Claude at the National Gallery, London

In a post last year I commented, after a visit to Claude Lorrain: The Enchanted Landscape at the Ashmolean in Oxford, that there were relatively few paintings being shown by comparison with the numerous drawings and etchings (13 vs 125). The National Gallery’s current spring exhibition, Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude, provides an opportunity to see about 10 oils by Claude and 20 by Turner, and the ratio of paintings to other works is better balanced. The theme of the National Gallery (NG) show is Claude’s influence on Turner so the latter’s paintings being in the majority is as to be expected. Also Turner’s paintings are readily available in London, so many having been held by the NG and Tate Britain since his 1856 Bequest.

Joseph Mallord William  Turner (1775-1851) painted 200 years after Claude (1604-1682). But Claude became a major influence after Turner’s first encounter in 1799 with works in the possession of the dealer Angerstein (a collection which later became the kernel of the NG). Turner was impressed by and sought to emulate Claude’s ability to invest an ethereal quality to the light at the beginning and end of the day. An impressive example of this is A View of the Roman Campagna from Tivoli, Evening (below) on loan from the Royal Collection.

Turner left the NG his paintings Dido building Carthage and Sun rising through Vapour: Fishermen cleaning and selling Fish on the condition that they would be hung between two paintings by Claude: Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba and Landscape with the Marriage of Isaac and Rebecca and the exhibition hangs all these pictures in close proximity. Later works by Turner reveal his move away from Claude’s style (though commonalities remained – neither painter cared much for figures in their landscapes, preferring trees and water as subjects) to his later, more romantic and free-flowing style, much admired by the French impressionists, particularly Monet.

Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude ends on 5 June and should not be missed by anyone interested in either of these painters or in the evolution of landscape painting.

23 April 2012

Mondrian and Nicholson at the Courtauld

A post last year touched on the influence that the Cornish naïve painter Alfred Wallis had in the late 1920s and early 1930s on the artistic development of Ben Nicholson (1894-1982). Nicholson was a cosmopolitan individual who had already absorbed modernist ideas from Picasso in Paris, as the current Tate Britain exhibition, Picasso & Modern British Art, makes clear. In 1934, again in Paris, Nicholson, who had been exploring abstract composition, encountered Piet Mondrian (1872–1944). By this time Mondrian had arrived at his characteristic style of geometrical abstraction: horizontal and vertical lines placed on a white background with some of the resulting interstices filled in with primary colours.

The Courtauld Gallery exhibition, Mondrian || Nicholson: In Parallel, explores the relationship between the two artists from their first meeting until Mondrian’s departure to the USA in 1940. Works by both men during this period are on display including Nicholson’s pure white reliefs. These were built up or relieved laminas of different geometry, rectangular and circular, creating complex shadows. The reliefs merit careful examination to appreciate their construction, their apparent simplicity being deceptive. Mondrian’s pictures seem be presenting a curatorial challenge in long-term preservation akin to that of modernist architecture. This exhibition is particularly valuable as there are few public opportunities in England to see Mondrian’s works. The Tate has six in its collection, Composition C (no.III), with Red, Yellow and Blue, 1935 (above and currently at the Courtauld), being a long-term loan. The BBC Your Paintings website shows only that one.

Mondrian left Paris as war seemed imminent in 1938 to come to London at Nicholson’s invitation. After travelling to London in the company of the estranged Winifred Nicholson he settled into the artistic colony of Hampstead, living at Parkhill Road with Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth and their triplets around the corner in the Mall Studios. At the outbreak of war Nicholson and Hepworth left for Cornwall to be joined by Naum Gabo and his wife. Mondrian left London for New York after the fall of France in 1940.

The archival material on display includes Winifred Nicholson’s tiny diary (“Gabo telephone 10:30” “Ski lesson 3-4”) and correspondence between the two artists (“Dear Nicholson and Barbara”). It’s easy to get the feeling that for Nicholson parallels existed not only with Mondrian but in his relationships with Barbara and Winifred. An aide-mémoire of his first two marriages might be useful:
  • 1920-1938 Winifred Roberts (two sons and a daughter born 1927-31)
  • 1938-1951 Barbara Hepworth (triplets: a son and two daughters born 1934)
Admission (until 20 May) at £6 (full price) is reasonably priced and includes access to the Courtauld Gallery’s permanent collection. The exhibition catalogue is £30 and may be of considerable scholarly merit, although some visitors might consider it slim and short of colour illustration even at the current Amazon price of £19-50.

16 April 2012

Homage to a Government

At the last PMQs before the Easter Recess, immediately before the Financial Statement on 21 March, Ed Miliband asked for, and received, confirmation that combat operations in Afghanistan by British troops would cease by the end of 2014. Shortly afterwards, the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that as a consequence the cost of operations is expected to be a total of £2.4 billion lower than planned over the remainder of the Parliament. British forces deployed under NATO to Afghanistan in 2001 and have suffered over 400 killed and over 5000 wounded there since then. So it isn’t surprising that their final removal is being seen as a significant milestone in British military history.

This departure is overshadowing an event which will take place a few years later later which may well be of greater historical significance for the UK, the final repatriation of British forces from Germany in 2020, 75 years after the end of World War 2. In fact the only years after 1919 in which the British Army was not present in Germany were 1930-1945. There were armies of occupation in the years after the World Wars, and, of course, the extended British presence after World War 2 was as part of NATO’s defence against the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War.

The British have a continuing preoccupation with World War 2, our finest hour, even though living memories of it in 2012 are confined to those over 75 (say 8 years old when it ended). For example, the weekend following the PMQs, BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show on 25 March ran an interview with Ben Macintyre pushing his new book, Double Cross: The True Story of The D-Day Spies while Five later gave 5½ hours over to two World War 2 films and a Battle of Britain documentary.

The Cold War by contrast gets little attention, probably because, although expensive (at least 3% more of UK GDP was spent on defence during the Cold War than at present), there were no hostilities, in fact no clear declarations of war or peace. Even the dates of its start and end are subjects of historical debate, although good cases can be made for 1947 and 1989 (Baruch’s speech in April 1947, in which he made use of the term to describe US/USSR relations, and the Gorbachev - George HW Bush Summit in Malta in December 1989). On that basis, some “living memories” of the Cold War should be carried by anyone over 40 (say 17 in 1989). But we don’t hear, read or see much about it by comparison with the World Wars - perhaps a little more attention will be given in the media later this year during the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Once the Cold War had ended, the British presence in Germany was on borrowed time while UK defence policy tried to square the circle of the role in the world aspired to and the resources available for defence expenditure. In 1998 the Strategic Defence Review put in place by the new Labour government concluded:
Basing in Germany. The Government is committed to the principle of NATO Allies stationing forces on one another's territory, which is an important symbol of our mutual obligations. Moreover, although the specific military argument for stationing forces close to the Cold War front line has disappeared, there are still significant military benefits in having capable forces based in continental Europe, where they are closer to many potential theatres of operations and they can train more readily alongside our Allies. There is also the practical and economic question of how much additional military infrastructure and training the United Kingdom could readily accommodate. All these considerations have led us to conclude that the bulk of our current military presence in Germany should remain there.
Some reductions can, however, be made in that presence as part of Army restructuring. Three armoured regiments (including the two to be re-roled) and a number of supporting units will be removed from the front line in Germany and returned to the United Kingdom, totalling about 2,500 military personnel and some 186 tanks.
(Supporting Essay Six Future Military Capabilities paras 34 and 35)
Plans were already in place to withdraw the RAF from Germany by 2002.
In 2010 the new Coalition government completed Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review and decided to deal with the ‘practical and economic question’ raised in the SDR 12 years earlier:
The UK currently also has a major military presence in Germany, with 20,000 service personnel and their families based there. For more than 50 years the Federal Government has supported the British military presence providing essential training and operational opportunities as well as basing. The presence of the British military has played an important role in demonstrating Alliance solidarity, and has also been a symbol of steadfast UK-German friendship. But there is no longer any operational requirement for UK forces to be based there, and the current arrangements impose financial costs on the UK, disruption on personnel and their families and opportunity costs in terms of wider Army coherence. We therefore aim to withdraw all forces from Germany by 2020.
(Part 2 Overseas Bases)
Philip Larkin’s poem, Homage to a Government, elegiac when it was written in 1969 just after the then Labour government’s decision to withdraw forces from East of Suez, turns out to have been prophetic as well. It ends:
Next year we shall be living in a country
That brought its soldiers home for lack of money.
The statues will be standing in the same
Tree-muffled squares, and look nearly the same.
Our children will not know it's a different country.
All we can hope to leave them now is money.

13 April 2012

The National Trust and Tyntesfield

I have been one of the National Trust’s millions of members for nearly 40 years and still support it, although nowadays I am nonplussed by some of its activities and attitudes. For example, the NT has recently produced a report, Natural Childhood:
This report presents compelling evidence that we as a nation, and especially our children, are exhibiting the symptoms of a modern phenomenon known as ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’. We look at what this disorder is costing us, why it’s proving so difficult to reverse, and gather current thinking on what we must do to eliminate it, before opening up the question to the nation for consideration.
This met with a scathing response from Colin Blakemore, Professor of Neuroscience at Oxford, in The Times (£) on 10 April:
… what should we make of the National Trust’s recent report that a new, socially infectious illness — “nature deficit disorder” — is laying waste our children? The symptoms are indeed very worrying. Children with this disease can recognise Daleks but not magpies, and three times as many of them are injured falling out of bed as falling out of a tree. The predisposing environmental factor for this disease is — well — a lack of environmental experience. The National Trust is, of course, complaining that kids don’t get outdoors as much as they used to. We should be concerned. But it’s lack of exercise and the resulting heart disease, obesity and diabetes that we ought to worry about, rather than nature deficit disorder (or magpie- agnosia, as we doctors call it).
… But by putting a medical name on mere social change, the National Trust trivialises genuine disorders of the brain. Maybe it was done tongue in cheek, but it distracts us from the fact that more than 130 million Europeans suffer from genuine, often painful and incapacitating disorders of the nervous system, the economic cost of which probably exceeds £500 billion.
Unfortunately, as anyone who reads the report will realise, there was nothing tongue in cheek about it. It concludes:
With this report, the National Trust is launching a major consultation process, asking individuals and institutions to come up with practical, workable and effective solutions to reconnect Britain’s children with the natural world.
Some people might think this to be a rather broad interpretation of the role (“What we do”) the NT normally projects:
… a charity that works to preserve and protect historic places and spaces – for ever, for everyone.
but nonetheless predictable behaviour for a powerful not-for-profit corporate body. The NT has recently run an effective campaign against the revisions the Coalition government proposed to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Such is the influence of the NT (Power in the land as The Economist put it last year,) that its Director-General Fiona Reynolds lobbied the organisation’s point of view at ministerial level. But its website’s explanation as to Why is the National Trust involved? in the NPPF debate is revealing. As one might expect, and quite rightly:
Our statutory purposes (under section 4 of the National Trust Act 1907 and section 3 of the National Trust 1937) include the purpose of promoting the preservation of special places for the benefit of the nation. This doesn't just mean the places we own. It goes wider to mean any special places which are under threat. We support the legal and policy safeguards that protect such places, and would be very concerned if those safeguards were diluted or removed. We have a duty to oppose such measures and to bring the issue to the attention of our members and supporters.
… As a charity that owns land, we have been involved in developing homes, businesses and other commercial opportunities ourselves.
… We know from our own experience that new development can combine economic benefit with great results for people and the environment.
The press release in March which announced that the current DG would be standing down described the NT in the ‘Notes to Editors’ as:
With more than 250,000 hectares of countryside and 710 miles of coastline across England, Wales and Northern Ireland there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors with the National Trust. The charity is one of the most important nature conservation organisations in Europe. It promotes environmentally friendly practises and cares for the diverse and rare wildlife that lives on its land. It also looks after for more than 300 houses and gardens, from workers cottages to stately homes …
which puts the great outdoors first and the built environment second – spaces before places. Activities like lobbying against the NPPF and raising awareness of “nature deficit disorder” might be more representative of the future direction of the NT than acquiring more properties.

Nowadays I seem to visit only a couple of NT properties a year, most recently Tyntesfield near Bristol. This large Victorian Gothic pile acquired in 2002 could well be one of the last large properties which the NT will take on and is a reminder of how much more money there was around ten years ago. The NT quickly collected £8 million from the public, followed by donations from the National Heritage Memorial Fund of £17.4 million and £20 million for restoration from the National Lottery to follow.   Seaton Delaval Hall is the only large property acquired since 2002 and at a much lower cost. From now on it may well be the case that not only are there fewer properties left to come to the NT – they are already in the Trust’s hands or, like say Chatsworth, have worked out their own salvation – but lack of funding may restrain the ambitions of the NT’s management to acquire more anyway. In those circumstances embracing “nature deficit disorder” and launching major consultations would seem like a good bureaucratic survival strategy.

The Gibbs family who created the neo-Gothic Tyntesfield made their fortune from the importing of guano fertiliser. Like others who became wealthy in the early Victorian period, they followed the pattern described in Martin Wiener’s English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit: 1850-1980 and joined the English upper classes rather than, say, establish an agro-chemicals empire. In time the family fortune dissolved like guano and assets were sold off to maintain some semblance of the pre-1914 upper class country house life. There were Gibbs at Tyntesfield until 1901 and a photograph of the last, Richard, reminded me a little of Harold Macmillan, Conservative Prime Minister from 1957 to 1963, who had also served in the Grenadier Guards. A speech Macmillan (by then Lord Stockton) made in 1985 about the Thatcher government’s privatisation policy seems to reflect the state of Tyntesfield at the time:
'It is very common with individuals or estates when they run into financial difficulties to find that they have to sell some of their assets. First, the Georgian silver goes, and then all that nice furniture that used to be in the saloon. Then [similarly?] the Canalettos go.'
but in Tyntesfield’s case it was Turner, not Canaletto. The Tory Reform Group have retrieved the tape of the speech (often misquoted as “selling the family silver”) and made it available (about 18:30 for the above). Listening to his delivery, even at nearly 92, one can understand why Macmillan was so often called the great actor-manager of British politics.

The weekend I went to Tyntesfield it was surprisingly busy and visitors seemed to be enjoying themselves. The long queues at the restaurant and café could have been reduced if there had been more paid staff but there were plenty of volunteers everywhere else. These were mostly from that age group that can be relied on to turn up, be it at work or the polling booth. Inside the house there was more evidence of the modern NT preoccupation with kitchens and the ‘Upstairs, Downstairs at Downton Abbey’ experience than of instruction on the Gothic Revival movement. I would like to have learnt what connections there might be between Tyntesfield’s architect, the Bristolian John Norton, and Augustus Pugin during my visit rather than afterwards from Wikipedia.

It costs a family £31.30 to visit the house and the garden at Tyntesfield (£34.50 with Gift Aid). But NT members can pay an annual fee allowing repeated visits to all NT properties – for a family this would be £93.50 after the first year. So it’s not surprising that the NT has nearly four million members mostly drawn from the better-off A B and C1 socio-economic groups. Though, interestingly, the Cadw Pan-Wales heritage interpretation plan explains that “the National Trust have now abandoned socio-economic profiling in favour of segmentation”. This “allows them to look at the level of interaction visitors want, the elements of a visit that are important to them, and how to present these in the most accessible way”. Attached as an appendix to the plan were the market segments used by the NT which I can’t resist repeating here:
Out and about
Spontaneous people who prefer chance encounters to making firm plans and love to share their experiences with friends.
Young experience seekers
People who are open to challenge, in a physical or horizon-broadening sense They make and take opportunities in their journey of personal discovery.
Curious minds
Active thinkers, always questioning and making connections between the things they learn. They have a wide range of interests and take positive steps to create a continual flow of intellectual stimuli in their lives.
Live life to the full
Self-driven intellectuals, confident of their own preferences and opinions and highly independent in their planning and decision making; these people are always on the go.
Explorer families
Families that actively learn together, the adults will get as much out of their experience as the children. To fit in the interests of all family members planning, sharing and negotiation are essential.
Kids first families
Families who put the needs of the children first and look for a fun environment where children are stimulated and adults can relax; they’re looking for a guaranteed good time.
Home and family
Broad groups of friends and family who gather together for special occasions. They seek passive enjoyment of an experience to suit all tastes and ages
Q:  Am I a Curious mind or do I Live life to the full?
A: Neither, you’re a sad old blogger, mate!

This base, however it is sliced and diced, gives the NT and its leadership considerable political clout. It was almost predictable that the retiring NT Director-General would next year become Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. These Oxbridge posts are favourite destinations for those who are part of the British “Great and the Good” but not managed to go global. For example, the FT (£) recently suggested of the departing Director General of the BBC, Mark Thompson, that it “might be logical for him to take up the mastership of an Oxford College”. It will be an insight into the way the Coalition works when we learn who gets appointed next to both these "Director General" posts.


Amended as the relevant part of Macmillan's speech has become available on YouTube.

5 April 2012

Max Hastings: the Falklands war in context

The 30th anniversary of the Falklands War of 1982 has led to several documentaries on British television in recent weeks. The existence of a large amount of contemporary reporting in colour obviously must be helpful to these kinds of productions, as is the readiness to be interviewed of some of the participants, now in healthy-looking late middle age. On 1 April BBC2 screened The Falklands Legacy with Max Hastings, the journalist and military historian who sailed with the Task Force in 1982 and reported on the Falklands campaign first-hand.

On this occasion, Hastings (who with Simon Jenkins wrote a well-respected account of the war in 1983) gave only a brief account of the 10 week operation in the South Atlantic, choosing instead to spend time putting it in its historical context. His thesis was that years of British post-imperial decline were halted by the victory in 1982. (A post here last year was about Denis Healey’s “liquidation of Britain's military role outside Europe” and cancellation of the Royal Navy’s strike carriers.) Also reversed was the unpopularity of the Conservative government under Mrs Thatcher, transforming her into “Maggie”, Iron Lady and winner of the 1983 and 1987 elections. However, in Hastings’ view, the Falkland conflict’s swift success (‘The Empire Strikes Back’ as Newsweek’s cover put it), although it improved Britain's sense of pride and its image abroad, tempted later politicians into prolonged and unpopular involvements in Iraq and Afghanistan. Added to these experiences, the current economic constraints meant a gloomy outlook for the UK’s future aspirations for ‘hard power’.

Hastings’ journalism tends to be controversial and opinionated, and he can go astray, for example last year he was full of forebodings over intervention in Libya. But in this programme, perhaps under the guidance of its producer/director, Robin Barnwell, the case was well-made and convincing - up to a point. To my mind he omitted a key factor concerning Afghanistan: that, unlike in Iraq, the UK’s involvement has been that of a senior NATO member to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) which the alliance established soon after 9/11. He might also have emphasised that 30 years ago the UK, as a member of NATO then confronting the Soviet bloc, was spending over 5% of GDP on defence. This would be about £100 billion a year in current terms, ie the same size as the health budget, as opposed to £39 billion at present. Given the resources then available and the level of competence their ownership provided, the UK’s ability to generate the 1982 Task Force and its success is perhaps not so remarkable after all. David Miller in his The Cold War A Military History describes one of the UK’s significant NATO roles at that time:
One of the major achievements of the USMC [United States Marine Corps] in the Cold War was the plan to reinforce Norway. In this, the majority of the combat equipment required by a full Marine Amphibious Brigade [MAB] was pre-positioned in Norway, housed in specially built caves in the Trondheim area. … The task of the MAB, reinforced by up to two more USMC brigades, a Canadian brigade and the Netherlands-UK Amphibious Group, was to reinforce the Norwegian armed forces in repelling any Soviet invasion.
Although the logistics of deploying to the Falklands were far more demanding, various aspects of the Task Force’s role were analogous to the Norway reinforcement which the UK was committed to undertake if required. A final minor nit-pick, although Hastings quoted Acheson’s 1962 comment on Britain, “lost an empire and not yet found a role”, he did not mention the more damning opinion of General George Brown, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs, only six years before the Falklands expedition: “Britain is no longer a world power; all they have got are generals, admirals and bands”.

Some of the interviews relating to the political background featured characters who have already made an appearance in this blog. For example, Michael Cockerell, who in the middle of the Falklands campaign covered the 27 May Beaconsfield by-election, probably only remembered now because Tony Blair, then 29, was the Labour candidate in a normally safe Conservative seat. Cockerell asserted that Blair subsequently remarked to Robin Cook that “Wars make Prime Ministers popular” but didn’t tell us when this was said, and, of course, Cook is no longer with us to confirm or deny it anyway. Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles has been mentioned here before too, and he took the opportunity to make the point to Hastings that Generals, Admirals and Air Marshals are keen to assure politicians that they ‘can-do’ and that Chiefs of the Defence Staff manipulate Ministers and Prime Ministers accordingly. Hastings subscribes to the emerging view that it was a reaction to the perceived failure of the British in Iraq, (particularly Basra) that led to our attempting a subsequent over-ambitious involvement under ISAF in Helmand.

As far as the Falklands are concerned, Hastings concluded that the 1982 story isn’t completely over, given the current antagonism from the Argentinians and the UK’s diplomatic isolation in South America. Looking back, the 1982 war may have been our last popular conflict, the last imperial hurrah.


Anyone who missed The Falklands Legacy with Max Hastings (no longer available on BBC iPlayer in the UK) might find two recent articles by Hastings of interest. The first, in the Daily Mail on 3 April, made many of the points in the programme, and concluded:
We could not again mount a campaign remotely on the scale of 1982. We sent 30,000 men to recover the Falklands, but when the current defence cuts are complete the army will be able to deploy only a single brigade group of 7,000-8,000 men for sustained operations overseas. We have no aircraft carrier; when the Royal Navy does eventually take delivery of the two new carriers now being built at Rosyth, it cannot afford suitable planes to fly off them.
Economic forces are driving our continuing relative decline, heedless of our martial prowess. I shall forever be grateful to have shared in that extraordinary 1982 odyssey in the South Atlantic, though I shall never forget the price paid for victory by such men as the Royal Marine whom I knew, damaged for life. But 30 years on, the war looks to me like a last imperial hurrah.
The second, in the FT on 6 April (£) covered some of this ground again but put more emphasis on future defence capabilities – or the lack of them. Again, he went for the carriers:
The most conspicuous symbols of this [defence mismanagement] are the two aircraft carriers under construction at Rosyth, for which nobody can see any useful purpose because we cannot afford appropriate aircraft for them. Some of us have for years pleaded for cheap, cheerful carriers to operate cheap, cheerful aircraft. But these behemoths were started to appease the ambitions of successive first sea lords and the last Labour government’s desperation to provide jobs in Scottish constituencies. This pork-barrelling threatens to cripple our maritime capability for decades, because the Royal Navy will be able to afford little else. Even now, I would scrap the ships, to save their huge downstream costs.
And he concluded:
Intellectual rigour is what is lacking from defence policy-making, … We do not configure the armed forces according to what equipment we might need to defend ourselves, but by making arbitrary judgments about what bills the Treasury is willing to pay. … Ministers may live to regret treating defence as an optional extra because it swings no votes. Every conflict in which Britain has fought since 1945 – including Korea, Northern Ireland, the Falklands and the Gulf – has come from nowhere. The only certainty is that our children can expect more surprises, and more unexpected enemies, and we shall have precious few weapons with which to address them. Repeated random axe-blows mean not only that the armed forces are unable now to retake the Falklands – which is probably irrelevant – but, more fundamentally, that we shall own too little of anything to play an appropriate role in defending our vital interests – as we shall surely have to do before we are all dead.