Sunday 29 August 2010

Sorry Ms Lumley, the Coalition is set to axe the Gurkhas after all

It was the start of a beautiful friendship, as Nick Clegg and David Cameron publicly joined forces for the first time, along with Joanna Lumley too, to celebrate a Commons victory in the Gurkhas' rights campaign.

Mr Clegg said: "This is an immense victory on a series of fronts: for the rights of Gurkhas who have been waiting so long for justice, a victory for Parliament, a victory for decency." He added that it was "the kind of thing people want this country to do".

Mr Cameron said it was "embarrassing" for the prime minister because his efforts to strike a "shoddy deal" with Labour rebels had failed.

Yet now the Gurkhas could well be for the chop under the Coalition. The Observer reports that they are likely to be sacrificed as part of the MoD cuts needed to make a like-for-like Trident replacement possible.

Patrick Mercer, a Tory MP and a former army officer, said: "The first people to go will be the Brigade of Gurkhas, probably in their entirety. In the past, the Gurkhas' existence was guaranteed by the fact they are cheaper to run than British troops, and that there was a shortage of British troops.

"Recent changes mean they are now just as expensive, and recruitment is extremely healthy at the moment. I am afraid the writing is on the wall."

Ironically, Clegg and Cameron's backing for the Lumley campaign may have sealed the Gurkhas fate, as the report suggests that their Coalition government is now likely to use the increased costs of fairer terms for the Gurkhas to argue that the Gurkhas have become unaffordable.

(However, equal pay and pensions was the policy of the last government after 1997, whose record on the Gurkhas was considerably better than reputed, as Dominic Lawson set out; the central demand of the Lumley campaign was to extend the right of veterans to settle in the UK).

1 comment:

Robert said...

They pose for a photograph, looking as dignified as their frail bodies will allow, in the centre of the British Army town which they now call home. Forgotten and alone, the old Nepalese soldiers spend their nights in decrepit bedsits and their days searching for something they can afford to eat.
What a sorry plight for the proud Gurkhas who fought for Britain and won the right to settle here last year. No wonder they are growing angry and the name on their lips is Joanna Lumley, the English actress they once hailed as a goddess. They accuse her of staying 'chup' (or 'silent' in Nepalese) as they complain of their conditions in Aldershot, Hampshire.
Begging for help, they blame the Absolutely Fabulous star for a string of broken promises that have left them cold, hungry and penniless in Britain.

Reason for this benefits they cannot claim, the higher benefits because many will not pass the new medical, many are on pension which are much lower then UK troops. In other words Lumley won the battle but lost the war to new labour, and the coalition will say nothing and do nothing...