The army isn’t in need of a new ‘code of conduct’ as announced on Friday by General Sir Nicholas Carter, the head of the British Army. What the army needs is a new lease of leadership and diversity at the top.
As part of the General’s media rounds on the new initiative, Carter accepted there was a problem recruiters in signing up black and minority ethnic men and women into the military; something the new code will attempt to tackle as it confronts discrimination directly.
Did nobody think of telling the General that perhaps a more effective way of sending a clear message to those under-represented men and women would be to showcase a bit of diversity a bit further up the ranks?
It stinks of hypocrisy when an old codger of a white General announces a more considerable effort to addressing this lack of talent from the black community. Why didn’t they get a black general to broadcast this important message? Well, the answer is simple, there is no, nor has there ever been one.
Does the message of trying to reach out to the ethnic minority people smell a little ironic? Of course it does. How could there possibly never have been a black soldier in the history of the British Army who hasn’t been good enough to be a General?
It's an all too common occurrence: the senior leadership of the army highlights an issue and then immediately, via its response, shifts the blame onto a generation of soldiers far, far removed from the all-white, upper class, Christian, heterosexual command structure above.
These ruddy-faced white old men from the Cavalry and Guards Club are saying “the ranks have got it wrong – we certainly haven’t but don’t worry, we’ll fix it” from their plush officer’s mess in St James’ or Whitehall. The ‘squaddie’ boys and girls who are light-years ahead in terms of diversity are suddenly ordered to change their way. It’s Pythonesque.
By making such an overt statement, the General has implied our current talent essentially consists of a bunch of racist yobs – something I know first-hand is simply not the case.
This generation of soldiers are the most technologically advanced that have ever worn the Queen’s uniform. Over half of all men and women serving today have seen more action than that of the any generation since WWII; arguably, many soldiers in their twenties have seen more action than the majority of the Generals sat in the old boys’ clubs on Pall Mall.
And more than this, the vast majority of them are genuinely from the real world. They grew up with the internet, something our Generals certainly did not; they have encountered a world of real diversity throughout their lives, something our Generals simply haven’t.
The men who run our army are playing a constant game of catch-up which apparently they aren't very good at, take the Army’s gradual acceptance of gay equality for instance.
Gay soldiers like me were waving the flag ten years ago, unionising and going to Pride without the blessing of the command structure and, indeed, very much to their irritation. It's a fact that not one former member of the armed forces who sit in the House of Lords voted in favour of Gay Marriage in 2013.
As the army has become populated by 21st-century minded young people, the pensioners at the top have had the hell scared out of them by how brilliantly modern the guys at the bottom are and every now and again episodes like Friday’s PR stunt draw the attention away from where the real issue lies: right at the top, at the VERY top.
Show me a black General; introduce to me a gay General who is happy to put his name to his sexuality. Show me something different from that old, public schoolboy, Oxford educated white General and I will accept that the army is changing.
Until then it’s smoke and mirrors and no new ‘code’ will fix the real issue at the heart of it all.Reuse content