Alex Hilton: Sun was cynical in use of Janes' grief

Unlike a train or a bridge, it is hard to put together a business case for a weapon. How do you quantify something financially on the basis of how good it is at killing people?

Alex Hilton
Alex Hilton

Army generals will always ask ministers for the very most they can get because they are in a negotiation and they know they will be ‘haggled' down to ensure a balanced budget.

This happens all over government and in local councils and schools. But ministers are never told children will die if more pencils are not provided or if a museum doesn't get repainted. In a democracy, it will always be the politician in power who has to draw the line on spending.

This is no comfort at all to Jacqui Janes, who lost her son Jamie, a soldier in Afghanistan. Of course, she was angry and of course it's understandable that she wanted to use The Sun to take revenge on the Prime Minister she holds responsible. She published both the letter of condolence Gordon Brown wrote to her and the subsequent telephone conversation she had with him, which she recorded.

But Mrs Janes believes a £5m helicopter would have saved her son's life. She hasn't had to balance her son's life against those who benefited from 10,000 rifles or night-vision goggles. Neither has that £5m been balanced against the impact of a similar cut in the transport, police, schools or hospitals budgets.

Mrs Janes has one concern: her lost son. And I never want to go through what she has experienced. But the hardest and most important job of government is balancing the concerns of 60 million people and deciding which £5m gets spent on military equipment and which £5m gets spent on painting museums.

This is why it is unfair for military budgets to be politicised by The Sun, which has been entirely cynical in its use of Mrs Janes in her grief.

There are very few countries in the world where the military gets all the equipment for which it asks - and very few of those countries are democracies with a free media.

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