Despite his constant assurances that he will soon resign, Tony Blair continues to limp on as Britain's longest serving lame-duck prime minister. His government has been consumed by his quest for a personal legacy. He has skipped from one policy area to another, each time promising that he will be held accountable if he does not succeed and each time leaving behind a mess for his successor. After running out of domestic problems to "fix" he decided to move on to the rest of the world.
The beasts of burden who have carried him on his globe-trotting adventures have been our military. In his first six years he sent troops to Kosovo, Sierra Leone, East Timor, the Congo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. That is not an exhaustive list — British troops have been put in harms way around the globe and often not under British (or even NATO) command. Yet while other public sector workers have received large pay rises without being asked to deliver anything more, members of the military have been asked to give much more without even being given the manpower or equipment to do the job, let alone pay rises.
The problems have only been exacerbated by Blair's enthusiasm for "modernisation". While he slashed the size of the army he has spent heavily on buying the Eurofighter-Typhoon. The Eurofighter was envisaged as a replacement to the Tornado, itself designed to defend West Germany from the Warsaw Pact. Despite the fact that aircraft is redundant, the government has set about telling us how "state-of-the-art" it is.
That misses the point. Blair has confused shiny and new with fitness for purpose in modern warfare. We are increasingly reliant on our army for peacekeeping and counter-terrorism activities while we need warships and dogfighters less. Soldiers need better radios and the current British Army rifle, the SA-80, is sub-standard. Even better boots would make a difference.