I’m a white male – the Army no longer actively tries to recruit men like me

Soldiers marching in line
'The white working classes, who have historically formed the bedrock of the military ... are now routinely overlooked' - E+

The Army has had many mottos, including most recently: “Be the best” and “Serve your King and country!” But these fundamental sentiments are increasingly under attack from woke targets that seek to degrade our military, ultimately denigrating our combat effectiveness.

This week, The Telegraph revealed that the Army has become so obsessed with recruiting people from diverse backgrounds, it is set to potentially relax its security checks on applicants from overseas. Leaked documents describe vetting as a “primary barrier to non-UK personnel being enlisted into the officer and intelligence corps” – so they will dumb them down in an attempt to boost numbers.

Mercifully, Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary, is said to be outraged by the idea and has quite rightly ordered an immediate review. I – as a veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan – will add my voice to his.

The idea that we should, simply to meet woke targets, be forced to recruit our nation’s soldiers, sailors or airmen from overseas when we have a huge untapped population in the UK is simply ridiculous. More than this, it is outright dangerous.

With war against Russia raging in Europe, rampant extremism and growing threats from China, our Army needs to be more effective and lethal than ever. It is imperative that we keep our focus, do not reduce security and counter-terrorism checks, nor go begging foreign nations for help.

But this is, of course, just the latest outlandish drive from the Army to boost its diversity and black and minority ethnic (BAME) quotas. I should know, for as well as my previous role as the director of defence and security at Civitas, I have also worked in Army recruitment since 2016.

Robert Clark
I – as a veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan – will add my voice to Shapps' review

As a white male, I am well aware that the Army no longer actively tries to recruit men like me. The white working classes, who have historically formed the bedrock of the military and proved a formula for great battlefield successes over hundreds of years fighting our nation’s wars, are now routinely overlooked for those with a different skin colour. They feel rejected and unrespected, as they should, in a culture now promoting ethnicity and gender over meritocracy.

Working in recruitment, I also dread the time that I am made to use profile targeting to fulfil woke targets. Every year, everyone in the military has to do a day-long course where we learn about unconscious bias and making people feel comfortable if they have different gender pronouns.

It’s all about recognising “microaggressions” and creating safe spaces to work in, where people feel included and that their opinions matter. It’s horrendous. It’s a whole day and it is the most unpopular activity that is forced upon us. But in recruitment, it’s expected to transfer over onto how we deal with potential applicants and recruits. The Army, by definition, is a hierarchical system, based on rank and discipline.

This new system openly encourages subordinates to publicly challenge superiors in a way that isn’t always conducive to a military environment, where rank can suddenly be questioned. If this happened on a battlefield, it could lead to indecision, chaos and failure. I know that my colleagues share the same sentiment and worries.

In recent years, the Army has started shunning old-fashioned and cost-effective recruitment sweeps, such as outside football matches, and in some places spending the Army’s valuable resources targeting specific demographics, based on ethnicity. They will hand-pick soldiers who are from ethnic minorities to visit towns with high ethnic make-ups, such as Leicester, to try to recruit those from BAME backgrounds.

Clearly, I am all for having a diverse Army that represents British society. But the statistics hold up, as the ethnic minority make-up of British Army junior ranks is between 15-20 per cent, already in line with the 18 per cent of the wider UK population.

And there is a fine line between trying to recruit from as broader swathe as British society as possible, and targeting specific minority demographics. This is shunning equality of opportunity for all for equality of outcome, a supposed outcome that’s equal through enforced diversity quotas – a proven dangerous Leftist social experiment.

At the most dangerous end, these methods can stray into illegal working practices, because it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of race and sex, which includes white men. This strategy also does not work.

Not only do, in my opinion, some people in BAME communities have a huge problem with the British Army, Government and police, steeped in critical race theory – as seen with the deeply divisive Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement – but many don’t appreciate being targeted in this way as it feels like positive discrimination, which, of course, it is. Regardless of race or gender, people largely wish to advance through meritocracy, which these policies erode.

If you want to understand just how much the Army is getting this all wrong, then just look at an advert it ran in 2018 which is still available on YouTube. Called “Keeping My Faith”, it was part of a £1.6 million television, radio and online campaign designed to boost plummeting recruitment numbers – and showed a Muslim soldier stopping to pray in front of his comrades.

Did it work? No. But it did anger and infuriate existing British Muslim soldiers who know full well that often they give up their own individual liberty and freedom to serve their country. The whole advert was a disgrace. But as well as infuriating those from ethnic backgrounds, these drives also alienate the military’s traditional talent pool.

Take the RAF, for instance, which in 2022 was hit by a scandal when its head of recruitment refused to follow an order to prioritise women and BAME candidates over white men, because she believed it was unlawful.

Yes, she had the moral courage and integrity to resign, but the fault was not of her making, and the damage had already been done, with – as far as I understand it – several dozen white male pilot candidates who had been selected but held back refusing to wait and seeking jobs elsewhere, causing a knock-on effect to pilot availability, which as a maritime power with aircraft carriers, we desperately need. What a waste of possible talent.

I do realise the Army is in trouble with recruiting, but this is for many reasons. For a start, it has poor pay compared with other public sector roles. Its members cannot strike – yet they are routinely called out to cover for those who do, such as Border Security staff, ambulance drivers and firefighters. It also offers soldiers poor accommodation. And I believe society has drastically changed, too. Many younger people these days do not want to spend years overseas, instead preferring financial advancements and a chance to get on the property ladder. Addressing these concerns might be a start.

But if the Army is still intent on boosting its BAME numbers, I suggest they look to the Commonwealth of Nations. When I was serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, there were many brilliant soldiers from the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth has 56 countries, with a population of 2.7 billion. Commonwealth soldiers can immediately apply for training, and have a fast track to citizenship. My best friend from the Army was from Trinidad and Tobago, and he was one of my first commanders, and now continues to enjoy a successful career in security after his Army career.

I would strongly advise the military top brass to divert any money they had earmarked for foreign nations into existing Commonwealth schemes, where we already have excellent relations and established roots.

Mostly, though, I would advise policy planners and top civil servants in the Ministry of Defence to stop obsessing over critical race theories and pointless inclusion targets that drive division not reduce it, and instead understand that the Army is not a civilian environment where woke policies can be implemented at the expense of meritocracy. If a civilian firm engages in such practices, it may lose a client. If the Armed Forces do it, people get killed. If our main focus is not on creating an effective – and by that I mean lethal – military, with the best possible talent, but instead on woke and damaging targets, then our enemies will reap the rewards.

The Ministry of Defence has declined to comment.

Robert Clark, 36, from Nottingham, is a senior fellow at the think tank Civitas, where he writes on defence and security. He is also an Army Reservist, and has worked in recruitment since 2016. He spent nine years undertaking active service, including tours of Iraq and Afghanistan

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