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An interesting little thought on VAT on school fees

Will they top up the military and diplomatic allowances to account for VAT?

As you may or may not know one of the grand perks of military and diplomatic life is getting the private – boarding – school fees paid. It used to be, assume still is, 100% for the diplomats and 75%, maybe 85%, for the military. Because, posted abroad, we don’t run a system of secondary schools across the world (don’t have the numbers to do so, tho’ we certainly used to have some primary scchools run by the RAF, I went to one) with the English curriculum.


So, VAT is put on school fees. Have Labour thought through whether they will now up the allowances to pay the VAT? My best guess is that they’ve not even thought about it because they’re ignorant of the issue itself.

And this will matter. Take an entirely invented but not wholly unusual example. Perfectly reasonable officer (and senior NCOs could well fit this too, school fees are paid for non-officers’ kids) but who is topping out at Major or equivalent. Not one of life’s potential generals that is. Being paid £60-£80k, it’s that sort of range these days.

Marries late 20s, three kids in quickish succession. At one point all three in school (13 to 18). The school fees are more than pay – £90k, easily. Now add VAT – £18k. That’s a hell of a dent in £60k. Changes the calculation about being in.

Yes, obviously this is extreme. But there really are – is a group of – those who know they’ve missed the promotion years. But who stay in because the fees get paid. And when the fees are no longger necessary, the youngest passes 18, then they leave. They’ve got to go by 55, but they might go at 46, 49, whatever, depends on the fertility thing.

This is even checkable. Look at the retirement ages of those outside the promotion years (think it’s within 10 years of making Major, you don’t get next step ahead by then you’re not going to? About that, -ish) and see how many drop out before 55. Look at the pattern there.

My bet is that the Diplomats will definitely get this paid. The military, well, who knows? It’ll definitely be a big change in terms of service if they don’t.

My other, and much firmer, bet is that Labour haven’t thought about this because they don’t know.

How much would it cost to recommission HMS Belfast?

France stops fewer Channel migrants – despite £480m funding from UK
Just 45.2 per cent of those trying to cross Channel have been halted, even with extra financial support from Britain

We’d be able to get her back to sea and firing for that wouldn’t we?

Hell, for that much we’d be able to get Victory back to sea. And wouldn’t that be a sight to see?

Not sure this is wholly true you know

The Army is facing questions over a decision to feature a trans soldier on a panel at a “women in leadership” event.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Deborah Penny, who became the first transgender soldier to serve on the front line, took part in a discussion on “lived experience” of women in the forces during the event at Sandhurst this week.

The soldier, who has served in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan during a career spanning more than 40 years, is the Warrant Officer for diversity and inclusion in Army engagement.

I have a feeling that the on the front line was before the conversion.

Campaigners have questioned why the bomb disposal expert was given a place on the five-person panel over a biological woman, saying that WO2 Penny’s experience was “irrelevant” to women as she joined the forces as a man and served in roles which barred female soldiers.

Ah, yes.

Something I don’t understand

Ukraine ‘fires missiles at targets inside Russia’ for first time
Moscow accuses Kyiv of a ‘terrorist attack’ after apparent strike on the port city of Taganrog

Russia definitely fires missiles into Ukraine.

So, since when was it possible to say “no backsies” in war?


Fun, innit, the idea that there is a black market in tank engines?

The daily commute has a problem, the chop shop has just the part you need for it?

Russian army commander arrested for ‘selling tank engines’
Colonel Alexander Denisov is accused of stealing seven V-92S2 engines and trading them on the black market

Actually, given the Russian Army, the news here is that he got arrested.


A Russian tank used in the assault on Ukraine has mysteriously appeared at a truck stop in the US.

The T-90 tank is thought to have been captured last September by Ukraine’s 92nd Separate Mechanised Brigade, after being used in fighting in the Kharkiv region of north west Ukraine.

The combat vehicle was left on a low loader in the parking lot of a restaurant in the state of Louisiana.

I have asked, no, it’s not my mate. You know, my mate the arms dealer, who buys Russian kit for the US Army….

Err, yes, yes……

Software updates delivered mid-flight to Typhoon fighter jets could see battlefield threats eliminated faster than ever before.

Given the average quality of first pass attempts a code that should eliminate Typhoons quite nicely. Good that, given the manner in which climate change is driving extreme weather events, no?

You think, eh?

The attribution suggests it was sourced from a signals intercept, which in turn suggests the Americans are eavesdropping on Ukrainian communications.

Anyone thinking the Americans are not doing so is being breathtakingly stupid.

Tracking the etymology

A reader asks:

I have been trying to track down the true origin of the phrase “dirty little war”. Unfortunately that phrase caught on quick in the days of Nam. It became mainstream many decades ago. Suspect it is passé today if not yesterday.

Earliest reference I can locate in a quick web search is 1963 but feel that is too too late.

Any ideas?

Me, I dunno. I can imagine some John Company types saying it about one of the Afghans for example, but have no idea.

Errm yes, but

Discussions are taking place at Downing Street about the country’s military budget. The military want more money. The Prime Minister, meanwhile, is trying to ensure the country doesn’t tip into bankruptcy. What emerges in terms of military spending in the coming months and years could define Britain’s military posture as we enter an emerging multipolar world.

The first thing that stands out about Britain’s military spending is how inefficient it appears to be. Britain fields a total army of around 217,100 personnel, comparable to Germany’s army of 233,550. But, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Britain spent $68.4bn in 2021 on its military while Germany spent $56bn. Britain spent 22% more than Germany on an army 7% smaller.

You’ve noticed that our Army can actually fight, does not drill with broomsticks and all that?


Army instructors who start sexual relationships with recruits could face jail within a year
Ben Wallace draws up tougher punishments against officials following claims of a ‘toxic culture’ of sexual assault at Sandhurst

How was this even allowed to start in the first place?

Thought it was the golden, absolute, rule. No shagging across ranks in the same unit?

I’ve told this story before

The British Army has sent a new elite infantry regiment and a platoon of drone operators to the Mojave desert to take part in an American war-gaming exercise that simulates a Russian invasion of Europe.

About 450 British soldiers were flown to California for a fortnight of drills at Fort Irwin, a US military base that is almost 1,000 square miles. Among those joining in the exercises, called Project Convergence, were the Rangers, an elite British Army regiment formed last year.

That whole Tom Clancey novel thing about there being a fleet (erm, ships of the desert, that’s right, right?) of Russian tanks out there that everyone could play red v blue games with is, in fact, true. That’s also how I got into being an arms dealer. A very temporary thing but there we are.

Because if you’re going to have Russian tanks out there then you need to have spare parts for Russian tanks. Tracks, for example, last 1,000km. Plus the occasional new one to play with. If you’re going to be doing repairs and oil changes and all that then you need the tools to be able to do that work with. Which, given the way these things work, means that someone, somewhere, needs to have a shed full of metric spanners.

Which is what my buddy bought – I lent him some of the cash to do so. He paid me back, so my involvement was brief. But all true. Out there in the Mohave there is a shed of metric spanners. Part of that long tail which makes all the rest of this possible.

Who knows, maybe Mohave Greenie, that regular reader here, can see it from his window or summat?

Just a thought

Something I don’t know.

Female soldiers look less smart than their male counterparts due to “ill-fitting” uniforms, a new report has found.

Do women come in more different shapes than men?

Can make the obvious jokes about embonpoint and so on, but chest and neck sizes differ for men too. At one end of this there’s tailoring, where everyone’s different. At the other sackcloth, where everyone’s the same. But in that middle –

The question ending up as an attempt at an answer to the claim. Are there more different sizes of uniforms necessary for women than men?