The British Army has been warned by a former officer it is playing a dangerous game if it starts selecting candidates according to diversity rather than ability.
Lt Col Stuart Crawford was commenting after Defence Secretary Grant Shapps suggested “woke extremists” were jeopardising the military, which he claimed needed a “proper shake-up” in order that it could focus on “being a lethal fighting force”.
The former member of the 4th Royal Tank Regiment said: “I think that diversity rather than weakening the armed forces actually enhances them, because those from different ethnic backgrounds bring different experiences and different expertise, and that is very much a good thing.
“What I think we’ve got to be careful of is not going into the place where we actually allocate quotas to people from different ethnic backgrounds.
“Well, first of all, it’s illegal. And secondly, it’s not recruiting on merit. And I think merit has always got to be the final arbiter.”
Asked whether the armed forces were placing diversity ahead of competence Mr Crawford told GB News: “I mean they can all be Martians, as long as they’re the best people for the job, but I think there is a great pressure on the armed services to widen its diversity, if I can use that phrase.
“The RAF recruiting fell foul of that when it was discovered that they were holding back white applicant pilots in favour of ethnic minority and female pilots, rather than selecting just on pure ability, and that’s a dangerous road to go down.”
Mr Shapps has ordered a review of diversity and inclusion policy at the Ministry of Defence following reports that the Army wants to relax security checks for overseas recruits to boost ethnic minority representation.
The Defence Secretary insisted there would be no “lowering of security clearance requirements on my watch” after the Sunday Telegraph reported it had seen a British Army document vowing to “challenge” security checks to increase diversity.
The newspaper said the armed forces are looking overseas to attract ethnic minority talent because they have long failed to hit recruitment targets.
Mr Shapps is believed to be “genuinely furious about this woke nonsense” and does not believe such policies are the way to address the military’s recruitment crisis.
Writing in the Express he said a “woke culture has seeped into public life and it is poisoning common sense discourse”, , adding: “I am in a position to challenge this philosophy and I will.”
“I am ordering a review of diversity and inclusivity policy at the MoD.
“We want people from all backgrounds to serve in our military but some policies appear to be more about a political agenda than practically improving the lives of our dedicated soldiers and military personnel.
“There will certainly not be any lowering of security clearance requirements on my watch.
“And no-one should be offended by having religion as part of remembrance services. You don’t have to be Christian to appreciate and respect the history and traditions of the United Kingdom.”
A source close to the Defence Secretary said: “He’s determined it is rooted out on his watch. He’s ready to go to battle on it…
“There are personnel issues that need addressing in the armed services but some of these policies are about a woke agenda.”
Meanwhile, fellow Cabinet minister Michael Gove said political correctness should not “impair our ability to defend our borders”.
The Housing Secretary told Sky’s Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips: “Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary, has been looking at the specific policies we have in the Ministry of Defence in order to ensure that we strike the right balance, that we provide protection for individuals in our armed forces, that we make sure that we draw all the talent available in this country to ensure that we have a strong and diverse military, but also to make sure that these policies operate in such a way as to ensure that political correctness, or some of the more – what’s the word? – ‘out there’ approaches that people take towards diversity, equity and inclusion don’t impair our ability to defend our borders and to make sure that this country is secure.”
An MoD spokesman said: “Our priority is protecting the national security of the United Kingdom and ensuring the operational effectiveness of our armed forces.
“We take security extremely seriously and ensure that all personnel have the appropriate security clearance, which is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.”