Book review: Andrew Murrison on the military covenant

Taking its title from Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem, this book by Conservative MP Andrew Murrison is rather a mixed bag. There is much that is interesting and thoughtful in his study of how wider society views and treats the military in Britain, but that is rather let down by a meandering structure which results in some topics being returned to frequently, the flow within many chapters being unclear and indeed the actual origins of the military covenant being largely unmentioned. We get a little detail of who first wrote the words and when, but almost nothing about what triggered the words to be written by that person at that time nor what, if any, difference the writing of the words and the coining of the phrase made.

I suspect the time pressures of being an MP meant Murrison did not have quite enough time to dedicate to writing the book, for some parts are very well-written, especially his moving eulogies to those who served in Bomber Command and his deft combination of praising their bravery and service whilst acknowledging the many doubts over mass bombing raids on German cities that form the most high profile part of their service.

He also makes the case well that the particular circumstances of military service, with the ceding of control over their own lives and the willingness to die if necessary that those in the front line consent to, means people are not simply filling another public sector job. Their treatment should reflect that.

Even if the structure of the book – and Murrison’s habits of making references to events that only the very knowledgeable reader will understand without further reading or research outside the book – can make the arguments hard to follow and evaluate at times, the book is also a handy and concise summary of many of the issues about how the armed forces are treated.

You can buy Tommy This An’ Tommy That: The Military Covenant by Andrew Murrison from Amazon.


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This entry was posted in Books and Op-eds.

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