by RAY FLEMING

FOR the past few years some British Army generals have risked giving the impression that they were as much occupied in fighting the Labour government and Whitehall as in dealing with the military task in hand. Now, if The Times is to be believed, it seems that they have also been occupied in fighting each other. According to the newspaper's leading article yesterday, “The dysfunctional relationship between the most senior commanders of the Armed Forces is an open secret and has an effect on the ground. It must be put right.”

Apparently the infighting is focussed on, but not confined to, the Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup whose RAF background is not thought sufficiently relevant to the priority needs of the Army. Sir Jock's term in the job was extended last year by the government in order, it is alleged, to prevent the post going to General Sir Richard Dannatt, the former Chief of the General Staff, now retired and advising David Cameron on defence matters. With the prospect of a wide-ranging strategic defence review later this year it is obviously essential that the Chief of the Defence Staff should have the total confidence of the heads of all three services as well as of the government of the day. Sir Jock Stirrup cannot claim to command that confidence but finding the person to replace him will not now be easy.

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