The Sketch: Leave no stone unturned. Except the ones hiding creepy-crawlies

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The Independent Online

False argument, false accusation, spurious indignation, comic ineptitude, flailing about himself because he knew he was, heart-and-soul, entirely and damnably wrong ... Adam Ingram was more than usually useful to sketch writers yesterday. But for the parents of the dead? The families of the dead recruits at Deepcut barracks will find little to reassure them in Mr Ingram's performance, or his new inquiry (the seventh) into their children's decease.

False argument, false accusation, spurious indignation, comic ineptitude, flailing about himself because he knew he was, heart-and-soul, entirely and damnably wrong ... Adam Ingram was more than usually useful to sketch writers yesterday. But for the parents of the dead? The families of the dead recruits at Deepcut barracks will find little to reassure them in Mr Ingram's performance, or his new inquiry (the seventh) into their children's decease.

To re-cap: the training culture at two Army barracks seems to have been based on principles that even the Marquis de Sade would recognise. Indeed, one trainer was recently convicted of applying overtly sado-masochistic practice to entirely non-consenting adults. Mr Ingram urged us not to "conflate" this particular case with the 173 other allegations of abuse.

Many of these other allegations were, he said, trivial, or sparse, or hearsay, or unnamed, or about pay discrepancies. Do you feel reassured now? Come, come, buck up. Consider the importance of attracting recruits into the Army and try a braver face, if you please. This criticism is very disloyal.

There had been, Mr Ingram did admit, nine rapes, one multiple rape and four suicides, but he urged us to walk a careful path through the list of assaults, abuse, cruelty. Because they're not evidence, you see. They're allegations. And, in point of fact, they weren't suicides either, with two open verdicts and the jury still out on the fourth (you fool).

So let's join in with Mr Ingram and pay tribute to the magnificent performance of the instructors and staff and their professional work. Why aren't you joining in?

Kevin McNamara, a Labour backbencher, quietly but gravely doubted "the good faith" of the Government, warning against another cover-up. Mr Ingram floundered.

Other MPs, Labour MPs, asked whether the parents of the dead would be allowed to give evidence to the inquiry. Was that much to ask? Yes, actually, much too much for Mr Ingram.

Calling for a public inquiry, Brian Sedgemoor asked why, in the face of allegations of negligence, manslaughter and possibly murder, was the Ministry of Defence behaving so defensively? Mr Ingram promptly scuttled down a redoubt in his trench and refused to poke his head above the parapet.

Labour's Eric Illsley was the last straw. How could families have confidence in the ministry without an open inquiry? Mr Ingram went on the attack. He was always being asked for public inquiries into everything, he said. How was he to investigate every incident that had ever happened in every barracks? "How many stones will that turn over that will have to be turned back? And headlines blazing all over the place?" Heavens, it might lead to resignations!

Paul Keetch, for the Lib-Dems, observed that, had these allegations been made by Iraqi prisoners against their guards there would be an international outcry. Incredibly, that's true.

But as for the parents? Mr Ingram said: If you attended a passing-out parade "you would see very many contented parents".

Yes. He should resign.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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