Yes, Owen Jones is an idiot

More than seven in 10 of Britain’s top military brass had parents with the means to send them to private schools;

The military tends to run in families. People who are in the military get an allowance, from their employer the government, to send their kids to public (for non-UK types, private) schools. Thus is the incidence of the privately educated in the Armed Forces explained, not by inherited wealth.

43 comments on “Yes, Owen Jones is an idiot

  1. We want officers who are well educated, even literate, know how to Play Up and Play the Game, and ideally moderately clever.

    That means they are more likely to come from well educated, moderately clever families. Which in turn means they are more likely to be privately educated.

    Big frickin’ deal.

    No one died in greater numbers in WW1 than students from Eton and the like. Whatever private schools do, they teach Upper Class toffs to lead their men forward and die when necessary. This suits me just fine. It is insane to complain about this – if they want to die defending the UK, I am happy to respect them for it.

  2. Actually Owen Minor’s complaint is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what a military career ought to be. It is not a benefit. It is not for people who want to make money.

    It is for people who are willing to sit in a muddy hole and have people try to kill them. For officers, it is for people who are willing to sit in a muddy hole with solders who hate them – whom they then have to lead by standing up in a clearly identifiable uniform and advancing first in the face of enemy fire. That is, it is for people with a lack of common sense or a great deal of self-preservation. It is a calling, not a career.

    We should be grateful someone else is willing to do it for us.

    That is the theory, I admit, the reality seems more on Owen Minor’s side.

  3. “Over the last generation – and longer – there has been a shift in attitudes towards inequality. We’ve been encouraged to believe that those at the top deserve to be there,.. ”

    The only.twompeople ‘at the top ‘ whom I.can identify with cast – iron certainty as not deserving to be there are Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. Go figure.

  4. Is 7 out of 10 more or less than it used to be? It’s a meaningless number without context.

    Owen has also managed to avoid mentioning Grammar schools. They may or may not be the answer, but we now have decades of evidence on the subject.

    Maybe his own purity is more important to him.

  5. Jones was born in Sheffield and grew up in Stockport, Greater Manchester,[2] and briefly in Falkirk, Scotland.[3] His father was a local authority worker and trade-union shop steward,[4] and his mother is an IT lecturer.[4] He describes himself as a “4th generation socialist”; his grandfather was involved with the Communist Party and his parents met as members of the Trotskyist Militant tendency.[5]

    Ok, its from Wiki but taking it on face value even more evidence of children following the tribe.

    Presumably next week we’ll get a revelation that the children of doctors are over represented in the medical profession.

  6. The handout to military and Foreign Office families to send their children to private UK schools should go. People in other lines of work who get shifted around the country don’t get the handout, even in other lines of government work.
    Naturally if the freeby went they would make more use of the state boarding schools, and the private schools would likely cut fees to fill their places with new entrants from abroad or the domestic middle classes.

  7. “… with the means …”

    Lefty-speak for those chose to spend their money on selfish pursuits such as educating their children without the state, rather than TV, cigarettes, booze and betting, or some other luxurious item.

  8. @ Henry Marsh. The military gets shifted around _the world_, often for long periods, and the same allowance applies to diplomats and foreign aid staff.

  9. The Top Brass do not sit in shell holes before walking slowly towards the machine guns and never have done.
    I can see the argument made by Norman Mailer in the “Naked and the Dead” that troops need to be more scared of their officers than gunfire but in the upper echelons it would be better to have people capable of objective decision making. MacMillan ,in North Africa in some important planning capacity read out a telegram from Churchill urging some bloodthirsty onslaught, and said “This is ,of course, nonsense ” then burnt it.

  10. @Runcie : I’m not arguing to abandon the allowance for those shifted outside the UK. I’m arguing to abandon the allowance for UK-based postings.
    It artificially increases the demand for fee-paying education.

  11. Doesn’t work. Because you never do know where the next posting will be in 2, 2.5 years’ time. My father was Italy based while I was at prep school, UK based from my 13th to 17th, then US based for my final year up to A levels. Any form of continuity of education requires payment throughout.

  12. The Top Brass do not sit in shell holes before walking slowly towards the machine guns and never have done.

    They do in their younger years. And an admiral is exposed to exactly the same risks as an able seaman.

  13. @DBC

    The top brass don’t ‘sit in shell holes before walking slowly towards the machine guns’ when they’re top brass, but they start out as platoon/troop commanders and they very definitely do do that, in spades, in those roles. In Afghanistan, officers received awards from the CGC down for some acts of extreme gallantry. Unsurprising, since everyone from Lt Col down was out and about, as Rupert Thorneloe could tell you if he hadn’t been vaporised. Of course, it was more often 2nd Lt to Major, but so what?

    The myth that all senior officers are idiots is also just that, a myth. Some of them are – they’re human, some people in every walk of life are idiots. I’d say there are fewer idiots in the upper echelons of the military than in most other walks, and that if anything they err on the side of caution these days.

    Your Churchill anecdote proves nothing. X can receive an order from Y and rip it up, and X and his blokes might be fine. But what if Y knows a bunch of stuff that X can’t know, and which cannot be communicated in the time available? Soldiers follow orders for a reason, and sometimes those orders are shit. C’est la vie.

    Finally, the Continuity of Education Allowance applies to all ranks, not just officers. Some service kids attend state boarding schools, of course, it’s not all Eton etc.

  14. DBC, the Top Brass begin as keen but terrified junior officers sitting in shell-holes needing urgently to crap.

    And it is much more useful and effective if the chaps are terrified of their NCOs. Their officers, not so much.

  15. DBC Reed – “The Top Brass do not sit in shell holes before walking slowly towards the machine guns and never have done.”

    Lord Bramall landed with his regiment, the King’s Royal Rifles, during the D Day landings. The 1st Battalion fought across Northern Europe, including the Arnhem landings, during which, at some point, Bramall won a Military Cross. Are you claiming he did not walk towards machine guns?

    A generation earlier Montgomery was shot in the chest while leading his soldiers.

    A generation later HMS Ardent was sunk by the Argentinians. Commanded by Commander Alan West as he then was. Or Admiral Alan William John West, Baron West of Spithead GCB, DSC, PC, former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the British Home Office with responsibility for security, a security advisor to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff from 2002 to 2006. You know, Brass.

  16. Ah, the good Interested posted something better and fuller than my tuppence worth.

    Mind you, the terror of NCOs is worth more in barracks and training. These days, with a volunteer Army, the average private soldier is worth at least a corporal in the old days.

  17. I suppose that you could also try some sort of system where the chaps were terrified of someone else, I dunno, perhaps you could call them Political Officers, or maybe Commissars.

  18. So Much For Subtlety said:
    “That is the theory, I admit, the reality seems more on Owen Minor’s side.”

    Depends what’s going on – for a while that was probably true, but then Blair started his foreign wars and life in the army has included a lot of mad foreigners trying to blow you up.

  19. If anyone asks you in a quiz who won a particular battle you’ve never heard of, ask them who the two commanders were.
    If one was a King and the other wasn’t, perhaps a Duke or an Earl, guessing that the King lost the battle will be right around 9/10ths of the time.
    It’s arguable that so many Queens have been well-regarded monarchs because they chose the best people for the top military jobs and had no intention of involving themselves.

  20. More relevant is the fact the private schools are far more likely to be patriotic – remembrance day taken seriously, British history taught. As opposed to public schools, whose priority is to inculcate a sense of shame in being British and the actions of the Forces in particular

  21. Henry Marsh – “If one was a King and the other wasn’t, perhaps a Duke or an Earl, guessing that the King lost the battle will be right around 9/10ths of the time.”

    Assuming you ignore battles commanded by Alexander the Great or his father Philip. Or battles commanded by Napoleon. Or Frederick the Great.

    The last time a future British monarch fought in a war was George II who fought the Battle of Oudenarde. He was noted for his insane cavalry charge. And his side won.

  22. Surely the real question we should be asking is ; “Why is there so much top brass in our militaries today ?”

    I have often wondered if it is analogous to grade inflation at schools

  23. Companies who send people abroad often subsidise private schooling for the same reason.

    If such subsidies were removed, I suspect that Civil Service and military jobs would become dominated by people who didn’t plan to have children, or who were wealthy enough to pay school fees themselves. Then Twatus Minor would find reason to complain about that.

  24. @ DBC Reed
    With all the recent coverage of the exhumation of Richard III, you can still spout “… and never have done”?
    There is, of course, no archaeological evidence for the existence of Bucephalus (merely of the city named after him), so it is merely hearsay that Alexander charged on a stallion towards the enemy instead of walking slowly.
    Churchill did a lot of things, one of which was to participate, as a junior officer, in the last British cavalary charge against an enemy armed with guns.

  25. “DBC Reed
    The Top Brass do not sit in” shell holes before walking slowly towards the machine guns and never have done”

    Depends what you men by ‘top brass’, I suppose but only a complete moron would expect highly experienced high ranking officers with years of experience to be thrown away leading a charge. Remembering that many of these high rankers would at some point have been junior officers in other campaigns where they no doubt risked their lives in a way armchair commentators would probably wet their pants to contemplate.

    As it happens in WW1 in excess of 200 British army Generals were killed, wounded or captured in action

    And, for the record the percentage of soldiers killed in WW1 were…..

    Rank below officer – 12%
    Officers as a whole – 17%
    Recruits of all ranks who happened to have been educated at Eton – 20%.

  26. SMFS

    George II fought at Dettingen in 1743, not Oudenarde in 1708, where Marlborough was in command.

    Regarding Marlborough’s great victories, I was taught at my ’60s prep school to remember the Duke’s ‘phone number as BROM 4689 – Blenheim 1704, Ramillies 1706, Oudenarde 1708 and Malplaquet 1709.

  27. @J77 More madness: Richard 111 sat in a fox hole at Bosworth waiting to walk towards the machine guns !

    BTW British people stopped trusting the Army Top Brass in WW1 > see Blackadder for persistence of deep-seated distrust.
    Also BTW when in my youth I did a lot of manual work, it was quite common for people who’s served in WW2 to confess, nay boast, of shooting an officer.

  28. In fact, during WWI, they had to (in the French and British) armies, curtail the habit of generals going into battle – the percentage losses among the brigadier-general level were getting worrying (running out of…) at one point IIRC.

    Andrew C : “Remembering that many of these high rankers would at some point have been junior officers in other campaigns where they no doubt risked their lives in a way armchair commentators would probably wet their pants to contemplate.” – exactly so. Name a WWI general and you will find an someone who had done some hand to hand fighting in a colonial war at a lower rank…

  29. …it was quite common for people who’s served in WW2 to confess, nay boast, of shooting an officer.

    And it is quite common to hear of people who confess, nay boast, of being Napoleon.
    Don’t make it true, though.

  30. Theophrastus

    “George II fought at Dettingen in 1743, not Oudenarde in 1708, where Marlborough was in command.”

    SMFS is actually right about this one. George II wasn’t king in 1708, of course, but he was there. Not running the show. Not even in charge of the cavalry, I don’t think, apparently that was the Danish general Jørgen Rantzau. All under Marlborough.

    According to a text quoted in Wikipedia, Marlborough wrote of George’s performance at Oudenarde that he “distinguished himself extremely, charging at the head of and animating by his example [the Hanoverian] troops, who played a good part in this happy victory”… but then, when the guy’s your future king, perhaps you have to say that.

    I love BROM 4689. That’s a cracking mnemonic.

  31. I love the idea of kings not winning battles, given that for the vast majority of human history kings were warlords: they simply must have won the majority of their battles or they wouldn’t have been kings.

  32. MBE
    I didn’t know the future George II fought at Oudenarde. So, yes, SMFS is right about it being the last time a future British monarch fought in a battle, though Dettingen was the last time a reigning British monarch fought in a battle. Glad you like the mnemonic!

  33. The future George II was there, but Oudenarde tends to support Henry Marsh’s point. The allied army was ably commanded by Marlborough, in charge because he was a brilliant general. The French army was incompetently commanded by Burgundy, in charge because he was the king’s grandson.

  34. Theophrastus – “Dettingen was the last time a reigning British monarch fought in a battle.”

    I sit corrected. Of course if there is a convenient set of accidents, we may end up with a monarch who has fought. Andrew did and of course Harry did.

    Still, we are very lucky with the British system. The French Revolutionary/Soviet system of “Forward and you will be shot if you don’t, if you survive you can rape as you please” is not superior. Nor is the German “Hitler is watching us” although it turned out to be very effective. We get people who say things like “Follow me chaps” and then die. That is an enormous benefit to us all.

    Social Justice Warrior – “The future George II was there, but Oudenarde tends to support Henry Marsh’s point. The allied army was ably commanded by Marlborough, in charge because he was a brilliant general. The French army was incompetently commanded by Burgundy, in charge because he was the king’s grandson.”

    We have lived for so long with competent and professional armies we forget what most of the world’s Armies are like – and what ours used to be like. Marlborough was not in charge because he was brilliant. He was in charge because his wife had the Queen’s ear. Burgundy doesn’t seem to have been all that incompetent to me but even if he was, he was that other important thing – loyal. In most of the world, Armies are mainly dangerous to their own people and their own government. Loyalty is not common. So of course you give command to someone committed to the ruling family. It is only when commanders are guaranteed in their loyalty that professional values like competence can be taken into account.

    After all, Marlborough may have tried to overthrow the government. Maybe even on his own account. He certainly corresponded with traitors.

  35. Mrs C was how he got the job in the first place. Once he had proved his abilities…

    Always the perverse and distorted viewpoint. Do you use this blog to practice your leftist lying skills?

  36. Marlborough was a career soldier under Charles II. He commanded the Royal forces during the Monmouth rebellion before siding with King Billy.

  37. often wondered if it is analogous to grade inflation at schools

    I believe that the main cause is civil service rank equivalence. We have some military roles where we generally want civil servants in post (PolAd and most finance jobs). We have some bureaucracy jobs where we want someone with recent military experience. Sometimes, we have roles that can be filled by either.

    This means that roles are set at a rank, usually a CS one as, outside purely uniformed roles, they are usually the ones filling out the forms.

    This leads to Colonels being employed in roles that could, from the military perspective, be adequately filled by a particularly grumpy Colour Sergeant. And Generals in Colonels’ roles because it’s politically impossible to tell the SCS that they could be replaced by somebody not in their hallowed club / (but actually above their pay grade!)

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.