Politics: State school officers sought to stamp out Army elitism

Snobbery in the Army came under fire yesterday from the Secretary of State for Defence, George Robertson. Colin Brown, Chief Political Correspond ent, heard him say the MoD is targeting state schools to recruit more officers.
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The Independent Online
The Secretary of State for Defence announced an offensive against elitism in the officer classes of the Army by widening recruitment to take in more men and women, including the ethnic minorities, from state schools. George Robertson, an old boy of Dunoon Grammar School and Dundee University, is setting his sights on an "old boys" institution which has centuries of tradition behind it.

Some army officers have their own polo ponies, while others go fox-hunting on Salisbury Plain to keep up the riding skills among the tank traps.

One officer was recently threatened with a court marshal for publicly accusing the armed forces of snobbery.

Mr Robertson made it clear that he was not supporting the criticism by Eric Joyce, a major in the adjutant-general's corps in Winchester, that those from state schools were failing to rise through the ranks.

He said he believed the real problem lay in the failure of the armed forces to recruit more widely. His remarks in a Fabian Society lecture were directed at Labour local councils who have been hostile to allowing the armed forces to recruit in their areas.

"I am determined that the Army Officer Corps should not be seen as some privileged elite, but instead as an extension of the classless, meritocratic society we want to build in Britain ... I hope that we will start to change people's perceptions about the Army and ensure that more young people from state school backgrounds are able to experience the many valuable opportunities offered by a career as an army officer," he said.

Mr Robertson will be meeting careers service officials and the local authorities in the New Year to enlist their support.