Friday, 28 August 2009
General Sir David Richards
Today is the first day in his new job of General Sir David Richards.
General Richards will become Chief of the General Staff with his troops engaged in a bloody conflict with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
In Whitehall, he will have to fight to ensure he gets the equipment his men and women need to do the task - a challenge which left his predecessor Sir Richard Dannatt frequently at odds with ministers.
Sir Richard had not been a quiet occupant of the post and his departure has been accompanied by continuing controversy and a disgraceful, Labour-inspired smear campaign that backfired spectacularly.
Some old military hands believe he should have been less outspoken and played a more political game behind the scenes in Whitehall. His refusal to do so almost certainly cost him the top military job as Chief of the Defence Staff.
However, from the outset Sir Richard felt that, for the good of the Army and his soldiers, playing by the old rules was no longer tenable. Within two months of taking over as CGS, he accused the Government of abusing the "military covenant" of mutual protection between a nation and its armed forces. Even if his political masters did not respond to these reproaches, the British public most certainly did. Troops who used to arrive back from Iraq or Afghanistan to a desultory greeting from family and friends now march proudly through their garrison towns. Sir Richard's insistence that men and women sent to war should be adequately equipped may have angered our pusillanimous ministers, but it endeared him to the soldiers who are his, and our, first concern. Those who criticise his forthrightness should ask what else he was expected to do.
It remains to be seen whether Gen Richards will be as outspoken as Gen Dannatt in his new role.
I for 1 wish him all the best in his new role but warn him of the beast that is Whitehall and our current Government.