In the military, we (apparently) have something called 'The Military Covenant'. This is "an informal understanding, rather than a legally-enforceable deal, but it is nevertheless treated with great seriousness within the services" - especially when we can hold others to a higher standard and we aren't shy of using it as a virtual weapon to beat politicians and the media with it when we need to. And this is perfectly fine - we don't have a union and frankly the current wave of good feeling towards the Armed Forces will soon expire (once the cuts start to bite...) so it will become a weapon we will see being deployed more frequently.
One of the things the covenant is supposed to do is ensure that "in putting the needs of the Nation, The Army and others before their own, they forgo some of the rights enjoyed by those outside the Armed Forces. So, at the very least, British soldiers should always expect the Nation and their commanders to treat them fairly, to value and respect them as individuals, and to sustain and reward them and their families."
So how on earth does this tally with the appalling way that SDSR outcomes are being drip-fed to the media?
Today, various newspapers are breathlessly reporting that "all but 14 from 368 Challenger 2 tanks will be mothballed" and the current system of part-payment of boarding school fees (known as 'Continuity of Education Allowance' or CEA) will "be included in the review" (Liam Fox's own words). These words mean an awful lot to the thousands of soldiers who actually serve in those Challenger 2 regiments. Thousands of children are educated on the back of CEA and frankly £180m is pretty small fry when one considers the 'Value for Money' (VfM) derived from educating an entire generation balanced against the total sum spent of MPs various allowances last year (£110m) or the astonishing amount spent on hotel accommodation in London (400,000+ nights) and so on. But if it needs to go, fair enough - we need to save money. And bear in mind that these are just two reports - the others talk about the wholescale abandonment of Joint Force Harrier (mentioned here some days back), Nimrods, Tornados (likewise), tracked guns (AS90 - likewise) and so on - there is a human dimension to all this that those feckless wankers in town care not one jot about.
What I am annoyed about is that it appears that all these petty games of one-upmanship are being played in an environment utterly divorced from the realities of the society we live in. Where is the sound counsel advising a broader outlook? Where are the wise men who ought to be soothing fevered brows and generally keeping everyone calm and focussed on the important things in life? In short - where are the Civil Service grandees who are supposed to be the leavening influence between governments, and what are they doing?
Answer: they're all hurriedly looking for jobs as it seems they've been found out. My only fear is that they will seek to divert the cuts onto hundreds and thousands of lower band Civil Servants in order to maintain their grotesquely well-paid and well-padded jobs.
PS Brilliantly I will be away on the day that SDSR is announced (Tue 20 Oct 10) but I sense that we will need time to really understand the enormity of what is to come. And let's face it - there are going to be plenty of people in public sector work all over the country who are going to be in exactly the same position.