Wednesday 1 May 2019

Surely, Somme Mistake?

Image result for general haig

Over the recent 4 years of national remembrance for the Great War, General Haig, mostly got away with being a bad general. The 'celebrations' and documentaries concentrated on the lead up to the war. The failure of politics and nation states. Covered that very well. 
And were more in sorrow than anger about the Somme.The post war poets 'Lions led by Donkeys' was much reduced from its 1960s/Vietnam conflations. 

Field Marshall Douglas Haig,in more recent times, has had his Somme legacy put into context. The Somme wasn't the Blackadder slaughter by incompetence. It was a highly detailed, highly planned battle. With well thought out ideas to counter the difficulties of advancing upon entrenched works on a front that was miles wide and deep.

The 'walking slowly towards the enemy' was simply advice for heavily laden soldiers to not panic and rush. The reason for being heavily laden in the first place was so they could combat previous offensive problems of not having sufficient supplies to withstand the immediate counter-offensives that a successful breach of the enemy lines would entail.
 Walking would be fine, because the largest bombardment ever undertaken would have broken the enemies strong points. Blown apart the barbed wire. Killed and concussed many of the defenders. 
 The air force was up in superior numbers and the humongous mines were detonated.

And was an unmitigated disaster. 

Largely for reasons outside Haig's control.
He had to make the attacks as the French were in deep trouble with the main German 1916 offensive.
Battles had to be planned to a timetable rigidity, as communications could not keep pace. A commander lost almost all control the moment battle was joined. Even more than in Wellington's day, where at least a General could see most of his forces. Haig couldn't see even a tiny portion of his. Couldn't contact them. It was 18th century comms with 20th century weapons. Hence the slaughter for everyone, on all sides. Made worse on the Somme as the British Army of 1916 was made up of troops of limited military experience, education, fitness and training.

Field Marshall Haig is not really responsible for the first day massacre of the Somme and the failure of his untried conscript army to breakthrough the German lines and win the war.
By necessity, he worked to a highly centralised, rigid, inflexible and simple battle plan, in which, if everyone did their job, and nothing went wrong, then all would be well.

So, Haig gets a let off for the worst single day in the history of the wars of the united kingdom and empire.

 Passchendaele, on the other hand, is a rerun of the Somme. Same commanders. Same tactics. Same battle plan. Same hopes.
 Where all those manifest failures of the earlier battles of the western front are repeated, in an even worse, more devastating way. With similar, catastrophic results.

People over the age of 50 could be forced to pay more than £300 more in national insurance each year in to fund social care, under plans that have been branded a tax on getting old by Labour.
Senior Tory MP Damian Green has proposed a major shake-up to funding for care, arguing that it should follow the state pension model where everyone is entitled to basic support but individuals top up the pot through their own savings.
The former cabinet minister, who was given the task of drawing up the long-awaited green paper on social care for England when he was in government, suggested a 1 per cent rise in national insurance for the over 50s as a last resort to fill the £2.75bn funding gap in the system.
In a paper for the Centre for Policy Studies, he said £350m could be generated by taxing the winter fuel allowance and even scrapping it for the highest earners.

The Independent.

Image result for theresa may general election 2017


Matt said...

Tories are dead. Simple. Tax your voter base more for those who aren't - winning strategy.

Anonymous said...

Has that genius advisor chap who lost May her inherited majority been rehired?

I can see the appeal. I can see that we are in an unprecedented situation where the retired are better off (on average) than the employed, thanks to lower house prices when they bought, zero student debt, higher wages and final slary pensions.

But all these are a temporary phemonenon. Future retirees will be a LOT poorer. The post-war settlement is completely dead. And our governments of whatever stamp still seem to think they can fund a welfare state with a low-wage, low-skill economy.

With May and the LP, be it Corbynite or Blairite, we're between Scylla and Charybdis.

Anonymous said...

I can see the only answer is for the Queen to appoint Dominic Cummings as Regent with dictatorial powers.

Nick Drew said...

wait till da Yoof get their way and we adopt zero-carbon, ZERO-GROWTH policies

no pensions at all, then

Sobers said...

I see your point, however I maybe the only person in the country who thought the old age care proposals in the last Tory manifesto actually made sense - someone has to pay for old age care, so why shouldn't it be the person who is getting that care and has assets available to pay for it? The howls of pain were more from all the middle classes who want to have their cake and eat it - to inherit Granny's house thats worth hundreds of thousands, but get everyone else to pay for her care until she snuffs it. And not have to look after her themselves of course as well. The poor weren't complaining, they stand to inherit bupkis when their parents die, indeed will probably end up in debt by paying for the funeral.

The problem is that the State has made a bed of nails for itself - by introducing means tested care provision its created a huge incentive to have no assets that can be taxed/taken to pay care home fees. So those who have scrimped and saved over their lifetimes are understandably p*ssed off when they get their life savings taken to provide care, but the layabouts who have been on the dole all their lives get exactly the same care provided for free. But of course if you are going to provide free care to anyone, someone has to pay for it.

The Tory proposals required an electorate capable of considering such matters in an adult way, and the reaction to them shows that the UK public are not capable of having such a mature conversations.

dearieme said...

Your WWI remarks probably explain why to my father (who fought in the Second German War) Passchendaele was his usual reference for the horror of the First.

Mind you the proportional losses in the bocage country in Normandy were pretty bad - but far fewer men were engaged, and the affair went on only for weeks, not for four years of siege warfare.

Bill Quango MP said...

The reason that politicians are so keen to scrap/reduce/thieve off the winter fuel allowence is simple.
Despite it being a single use, annual payout. That is reserved forpensioners. And is really a hardship payment, politicians have been trying to find the courage to snatch it off the pensioners.

The reason being, the payout comes to almost £2 billion a year.

CityUnslicker said...

Sobers - The Tory policy may or may not be a good idea. As you say, there is intellectual merit in reviewing what is an iniquitous situation.

POLITICALLY, I think BQ is under-doing it. Having actually lost a 20 point lead in the polls over this, you would hope the party would never mention is name again.

The Tories are toast, they are literally too stupid to continue. They are stupider than Corbyn which itself should not be possible within the space/time continuum.

Bill Quango MP said...

Matt - I have no words. No one is in command. No one is even on the bridge.
A Mary Celest government. Abandonded on the high seas in a panic.

Anon: That is an excellent [point. The 5 year election cycle keeps bumping up against the 60 year work cycle. Green/pension/health/jobs. With poor outcomes.

ND: Do you think this latest fad for pretending children have the answers is a serious political shift? An attempt to say 'we're listening.' Or just pandering to the green God they have created for worship?

Sobers: To ask the savers to pay, but not the spenders, is madness in a democracy. There's no votes in asking your people to pay for your opponent's lifestyles.
Everyone loves a tax rise on somebody else.

Dearieme: Was indeed worse.
May's WA is like this sorry episode. No one knows how to break the deadlock. So the attrition by force and the conviction that your willingness to take losses is greater than theirs, is the only idea in the bag. They will crack before we do!

The Germans found the way forwards the following year. Their offensive of 1918 almost won the war.
The British offensives for 1919, learning those lessons, plus our own evolution of warfare and advanced mechanisation, would have flattened the Hun.

Charlie said...

I don't see anything wrong with taxing the over 50s to pay for elderly care. I already pay extra council tax to help fund it, but the over 50s are the ones who have benefited from asset price inflation. Typical hypocritical response from the Labour party. They introduced hundreds of new stealth taxes in the Blair/Brown years, yet as soon as someone proposes to do something pragmatic to solve the ticking financial timebomb of elderly care, it's a "tax on getting old".

Charlie said...

As for winter fuel payment, some anecdata. Many years ago, I supplemented my student loan by working in a British Gas call centre. An elderly lady phoned up to plead poverty as she could not pay her bill. I asked if she had applied for the winter fuel payment. "Of course I have," she replied. "But I spend that on Christmas presents."

Bill Quango MP said...

Chalie: It is well known, anecdotally, that at least half of all winter fuel payments goes on christmas presents.

A £1 billion drop in Xmas spending would see the closure of the entire high street, forever!

Sebastian Weetabix said...

Our 100 days offensive in late 1918 did flatten the Hun.

Anonymous said...

sobers, charlie - we are all agreed that Something Must Be Done - but, to channel St Augustine, give me fiscal chastity, but NOT YET.

May's reported decision to leave the last manifesto up to a small group of her ministers/staffers, and then to present it to the Cabinet as a fait accompli with only a couple of hours before calling a vote was not only a monumental blunder, it showed the calibre of her Cabinet as very low indeed. I think most pre-Blair cabinets, faced with a stitch-up like that, would have threatened mass resignation unless given more time and a proper debate.

If you think you're going to have to do something nasty to the people who account for the majority of your vote, I suggest that just before you ask for their votes is the very worst time to announce it - and the best is probably two years into a 5 year term WHEN YOU HAVE A HEALTHY MAJORITY, to allow some recovery time.

She's chucking this new face-slap in the mix now, two years in with a knife edge minority government. Oh for a Willie Whitelaw, or someone with no future ambition but experience and MPs trust, to point out these simple truths.

Anonymous said...

The so-called winter fuel payment is simply a percentage of the State Pension that is kept back until November. This probably reduces government borrowing for the previous months.

Abolishing it is a reduction in the State Pension. Which may be unavoidable, as the triple lock is quite generous.

Don Cox

E-K said...

Sobers - No problem Mum paying for her end of life care (having already helped with two years of her care thus far) but what I do object to is for her to be paying twice the care home fee in order to subsidise the woman whose husband didn't work in the bed next to her.

The fact is most kids care for their parents, and then lose the inheritance anyway - the drugs keep them going beyond what previous generations were expected to cope with.

We are living in a Liberal tyranny. Politicians in the Tory/Conservative/Labour party are interchangeable.

May's government is totally left wing.

Anonymous said...

"May's government is totally left wing"

Forcing compulsory LGBTQERTYUIOP+ "lessons" onto four year olds, whether or not their parents consent, is the kind of thing you imagine some loony left London borough suggesting in the 1980s, only for Kinnock to deny it as a smear. Now it's "Conservative" policy.

What have they conserved exactly? The City Of London? But Blair and Brown made a pretty good fist of that, too.

Sobers said...

"What I do object to is for her to be paying twice the care home fee in order to subsidise the woman whose husband didn't work in the bed next to her."

Thats easily solved - its a competition issue. Ensure no care home is allowed to charge one customer less than another for the same service, regardless of who is paying.

Anonymous said...

Why is everyone blaming May. She is clearly both incompetent and a sociopath. Her continued pressing for "her" deal over and over again just confirms the flaws in her character.

The question that has to be posed is why the party allowed her and not some capable politician to rise to the top and be protected. Who are these characters in the shadows with such power over the party and its choices.

James Higham said...

A most interesting take, Bill.

Y Draig Goch said...


I think you are much too kind to Haig. When you describe his plan as

"rigid, inflexible and simple"

you are also describing the man himself.

However, it is not for me to make comparisons with any current senior politicians.