Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by oldmuso, Nov 12, 2007.

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  1. The forces in Iraq and Afghanistan must be in crisis if his country still needs him

    A PORTLY, middle-aged MSP has been asked by army chiefs to quit Holyrood (Scottish Parliament) for active service in Iraq or Afghanistan, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.

    In the latest and most astonishing sign of armed forces overstretch, Liberal Democrat Mike Rumbles was offered the chance to swap his parliamentary "uniform" of jacket and tie for desert camouflage and resume a military career he quit 13 years ago.

    Rumbles, 51, who spent 15 years in the Army Education Corps, reaching the rank of major, turned the offer down. Last night he condemned the Government for letting the army down and described the approach to him as "worse" than scraping the bottom of the barrel.

    Ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan mean 11,500 troops are currently deployed out of a total army strength of around 100,000. The need to rest troops, combined with injuries and commitments elsewhere in the world, has led to regular accusations the forces are close to breaking point.

    Under military rules, retired soldiers can be recalled up to age 55.

    In the event of a major conflict, the call-up is compulsory, but in the present circumstances they can only be asked.

    Rumbles, the MSP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, quit the army in 1994 and hasn't picked up a rifle - or done much physical exercise - since. His party vociferously opposed the Iraq war, and Rumbles himself considered it illegal, in 2002 describing any invasion as "unacceptable".

    So he was astonished to return from Holyrood's autumn recess last month to find a letter from the army's personnel office, based in Glasgow, and addressed to "Major Rumbles".

    It asked him whether he would tick a box which would allow him to be "called up" for active service overseas.

    Rumbles told Scotland on Sunday: "This really shows the state that the army is in that they have had to call on the likes of me. It's deeply worrying that the army are so overstretched. The army has been let down by this Government and badly treated.

    "I have been out of uniform for 13 years and I served in the Education Corps. Never mind scraping the bottom of the barrel. By the time they have reached me, they are through the bottom of the barrel and scraping underneath."

    Rumbles said: "If it were for the defence of the country then, of course, I would want to do my bit. But our troops should not be in Iraq in an illegal war. And so I did not tick the box for being called up."

    Although the major would have been placed in a headquarters unit rather than on day-to-day patrols or in combat, he would still have been given weapons training and the HQ would still be seen as a potential target for insurgents.

    Stuart Crawford, a former colonel in the Royal Tank Regiment, who attended the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst with Rumbles, said: "It just shows what a state the army is in that they are having to rely on people of our age.

    "The regular army has been overstretched and the Territorial Army is exhausted by members being redeployed so often. They are now having to dig very deeply to find people.

    "He's not letting the side down: you do accept that you might be called up to defend your country. But there is a big difference between that and an illegal and probably unwinnable war in Iraq."

    Willie Rennie, the Lib Dem defence spokesman, said: "It shows how desperate things are. We also have bandsmen heading to Cyprus and storemen finding themselves on the front line. The recruitment is actually not as much of a problem as retaining members of the armed forces. Their facilities are poor and they are being deployed much more frequently than they should be. The MoD can't hold on to soldiers."

    But other politicians of the same age with military backgrounds questioned Rumbles' decision. Patrick Mercer, the former Tory homeland security spokesman, said: "He should be flattered to get the letter at the age of 51. I would go like a shot. I don't know if they'd let me take on the Taliban, but I'd like to try."

    And Tory MP Desmond Swayne, who left the Commons for a six-month stint in Iraq with the Territorial Army, said: "I had the dilemma of who would represent my constituents, but I also felt that I couldn't sit in a parliament deciding to send others to fight when I wouldn't do it myself. I felt that many constituents might not even notice an MP - or I dare say a member of the Scottish parliament - being away either. I think that sending reservists is an increasingly difficult issue for businesses, though, as they are being deployed more often."

    An army spokeswoman said: "There are many roles for an experienced officer who is 51 years old. He [Rumbles] still has four years' liability left."
  2. I was called up as a regular reservist and decided to go. My old man went out on Telic 6 aged 53, 10 years after leaving the Regular Army. I suppose once you've done your bit it's all down to personal conscience what you decide to do if the call comes again and I certainly wouldn't condemn anyone who refused.
  3. OldSnowy

    OldSnowy LE Moderator Book Reviewer

    Well what a non-story - he was not 'called up', he was asked if he wanted to volunteer for Ops - something of a difference there :)

    The Army sends letters like that out all the time, to ex-Regulars. Pity APC Glasgow sent one to a politician with an agenda this time.
  4. Here's a quote from the Scotland on Sunday blog comments after the story:

    "the major would have been placed in a headquarters unit rather than on day-to-day patrols or in combat He could have done a few months and set an example for others. Always ready to bad mouth the Labour government about letting the forces down, he's not prepared to do his bit is he? I feel contempt for him and his like. And I bet others do too".

    Looking at the other comments if Rumbles was using this for scoring political points he may have mis-judged feeleings as a large percentage are appearing pro forces and are critical of his judgement.

    You can find the story and comments here:
  5. Shows how up to date the Lib Dems are. There was a scant possibility of this happening about 6 months ago and now, after a high profile campaign by certain wnakers in the Household Div bands this has been quietly dropped.

    More worrying should be the Musicians (not Bandsmen) that went in front of the front line with a certain Fld Hosp in 2003.....

  6. T*sser

    He could have politely and quietly declined. Everyone would have respected his choice - whatever his reasons.

    Seems to me that the Army have had a lucky escape
  7. I am assuming he received the standard reporting letter that all ex regulars receive.
    Now he is trying to make a political issue out of it. fecking tosser.

    And what is the issue with musicians, there primary trade always will be as medics/stretcher bearers.

  8. I think that they should 'call up' all MPs/MSPs/MEPs, even if they have to be trained from scratch beforehand. Maybe a full tour may reinforce the realities of what a war actually comprises and give them, whatever their persuasion, a sharp reality dig, when they are fighting alongside thier young constituents. Perhaps then, they will all realise what Force's life is all about and maybe, just maybe they'll show a reluctance to hold back on finances for all military related issues in the future.

    They could start to show some leadership, by allowing the bosses to take the initiative, so Hldr Broon and Rfn Cameron could go first. Wouldn't Paddy Ashdown and Lt Col Mercer just have a field day with them? They'd probably be the first to sign back on if they'd let them beast those two for 28 weeks.

    Perhaps, thier families can move into MSQs for the duration and thier wives can get jobs in the NAAFI or a slick wee cleaning number in the Mess working for the bare minimum wage for firms like....SODEXHO? It's only for 4 months and they would be seen as setting the example to the rest of the country. It just might stop some of the f*ckers sending an underfunded/undermanned Army to two wars in future, although I believe that if that were to work, it would be more down to thier wives whining about having to take sh*t behind a NAAFI counter, rather than by anything born of some flicker of personal morality.

    One problem though.....who the f*ck would want Eric Joyce back in the Army?
  9. If a few more had to pull on a uniform - they may start to get the point.
  10. "Rumbles, 51, who spent 15 years in the Army Education Corps, reaching the rank of major, turned the offer down. Last night he condemned the Government for letting the army down and described the approach to him as "worse" than scraping the bottom of the barrel."

    Does this mean all MP's are at the bottom of the barrel?? :lol:
  11. How delightful to see once again a politician sticking to his principles.
    Does this mean he might vote for an increase in defence spending? Holding breath now sir. :lol: :lol:
  12. Mark Lancaster - Conservative MP for Milton Keynes North deployed to the 'Stan last year as a reservist Major, - bomb disposal I think too.

    I seem to recall him on BBC Breakfast with his flak jacket prior to returning it to RTMC highlighting the disparity between the size of the 2 plates and the size of the jacket itself.

    Good boy!

    Now, if we could only get Swiss Tony out on the ground in Helmand with an OMLT for a couple of months.....
  13. Could have he been insulting AGC(ETS)?
  14. Well said Biscuits - 100% agree. Let's see these "Leaders", lead their' people by example. With the exception of the very few who have been mobilised for Iraq and Afghanistan, the remainder would do well to experience the whip, crack around them.

    Hope somebody at Lib Dem Central is reading this, and realising what a chod Rumbles has made himself appear - great reflection on the Lib Dems? I don't think so.