Sunday 25 June 2017

Ruth Davidson's army cosplay badly undermines the perceived political impartiality of the armed forces

The shockingly opportunistic Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has been cosplaying as a member of the army in a desperately cynical effort to drum up Tory support from current and former military personnel and their families.

You may wonder why you've never seen a UK politician adopt this cynical services cosplay tactic before (even Thatcher was wearing civilian clothes when she went on that tank) and the answer, as anyone who has ever served in the forces (or other uniformed public services like the police) will know, is that it's strictly against the rules to use your uniform to promote party political causes.

Here's the specific regulation:

Queen's regulations for the army: Occasions on which the Wearing of Uniform is Forbidden J5.368.b - "Uniform is not to be worn by prospective or adopted parliamentary candidates at political meetings, or while canvassing, appearing in public or engaged in any other activities connected with their candidature." [source]
If playing dress up in army uniforms wasn't banned in the UK as the kind of stuff that only happens in autocratic dictatorships, then we can all think of plenty of political opportunists from all sides of the political spectrum who would have absolutely loved to dress up like a Colonel Blimp and strut around for the TV cameras.

Politicians engaging in military uniform cosplay is so beyond the pale that even the likes of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson wouldn't go there, but Ruth Davidson is a different and far more dangerous kind of politician who just doesn't give a damn about the rules, or the fundamental importance of the army being perceived as a politically impartial force.

As far as she's concerned she's completely untouchable, and she can do whatever the hell she likes, even if that involves trying to appeal to services personnel by egregiously ignoring the rules that they have always had to comply with.

Aside from the fact Ruth Davidson should have known better, it's incredibly difficult to see what the 32 Signal Regiment thought they were doing by inviting Davidson to come and play dress up for the cameras too.

Inviting the leader of the Scottish Tory party to cosplay as a soldier badly damages the perceived political neutrality of the army, especially coming after a serving army general actually threatened that the armed forces would launch a military coup if Jeremy Corbyn is ever elected Prime Minister.

Queen's regulations for the army: Occasions on which the Wearing of Uniform is Forbidden J5.368.e - "On occasions when the Army’s reputation or political impartiality might be brought into question e.g. Political protests, rallies, marches or demonstrations of any kind where a political, social or interest group agenda may be perceived as being pursued, or where disorder or affray might result, or appearing in the media to seek personal publicity".  [source]

If your average soldier turned up at a party political event in their uniform or tried to give their political aspirations a boost by strutting around in uniform in front of the cameras, they'd be read the riot act for ignoring Queen's regulations, but Ruth Davidson firmly believes that she's far too important to follow Queen's regulations, so she can posture as a revolting Tory Saddam of Scotland without facing any consequences whatever.

Not only has she ignored the political impartiality rules that ordinary services personnel have to abide by, she's also part of a government that has put their beloved hard-right austerity dogma above the national interest by savagely cutting the army, and has an extraordinarily lax attitude towards caring for the thousands of former soldiers living in desperately unstable circumstances, or even in the streets.

One of the most sickening displays of Tory contempt for ex-services personnel came when the the former soldier David Clapson was sanctioned to absolute destitution and left to die by the DWP.

Still. Davidson imagines that the rank and file services personnel are gullible enough to forget about all of that as they go weak at the knees at the sight of her cosplaying as a soldier.

It's difficult to see how anyone who has ever served would not be furious about Ruth Davidson's disregard for Queen's regulations, and her glib self-serving opportunism.

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