Saturday, September 08, 2007

A Broken Covenant - Lib Dem Friends of the Armed Forces Launch

As a disaffected 17 year old, desperate to get away from home and to be free to do my own thing, I had a choice. Get a live in job as a receptionist in Radlett, or join the army. I joined the army! Surprisingly I found myself working as an analyst with Special Intelligence (I know scary isn't it??! But of course, one of the roles of military intelligence is to confuse the enemy and I'm very good at that!).

I often joke that my first attempt at collective bargaining was in the army, and it didn’t go down very well. In fact, on one memorable occasion I was threatened with a charge of mutiny! However, that was more than 30 years ago and frankly, despite the progress we have witnessed elsewhere, the lot of servicemen and women has seriously declined.

Our armed services, whether we agree with the political decisions regarding their deployment or not, deserve our respect and gratitude. They operate in often dire and understandably extremely risky situations. What they don’t need to be doing is fretting about the living conditions of their loved ones at home, or worrying about whether they will have the right equipment, or whether that equipment will fail, or their boots will melt. If they are injured they don't want to be faced with yet another battle to get proper compensation at home.

The British Legion is launching its "Broken Covenant" campaign rightly drawing attention to the military covenant - if you agree that by committing themselves to put their lives on the line for their country our servicemen and women deserve more from their government and share the concern about the growing sense of disillusionment among Service personnel and veterans about their treatment by the state, please sign the message board here.

As Liberal Democrats we have rightly been consistent, both in our opposition to the illegal war and occupation in Iraq but equally in our outrage at the iniquity of the failure in duty of care to our servicemen and women.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Damon Hooton who served in the army for 23 years and myself have established the Liberal Democrat Friends of the Armed Forces, to be formally launched at conference. Our aim is not to campaign on operational issues (there are other forums for that) but to campaign for the fair treatment of service personnel and their families.

The Lib Dem Friends of the Armed Forces will be launched on Monday 17th September 6.15pm in the Thistle Hotel. The fringe will be chaired by David Heath MP. Speakers include Nick Harvey MP, Michael Smith (Sunday Times Defence Correspondent) and Richard Bartle from BAFF (British Armed Forces Federation). Hope to see you there!

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