Thinker's Corner

Not Fit to Fight: the cultural subversion of the armed forces in Britain and America (Social Affairs Unit, 314-322 Regent Street, London W1R 5AB, 0171-637 4356, £11.95 plus £1 p&p), edited by Gerald Frost, argues that civilian values of commerce and political correctness are replacing the military ethos in the British armed forces. The protection of the citizen will be contracted out, an aim which new Labour is pursuing as avidly as the Thatcher government. The report exhibits acute homophobia, suggesting that resentment, favouritism and blackmail result from the admission of overt homosexuals to the forces. It claims that advocates of women in combat "are not fighting gender discrimination" but "are at war with masculine strength and virtues". It is probably true that few politicians or lawyers, either in Britain or the USA, have personal experience of la vie militaire, but to argue that the use of US forces in peace-keeping roles has reduced their fighting capacity and lowered morale shows a lack of understanding of the role of the military in global society.

Community Governance, Community Leadership and the New Local Government (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, available from York Publishing Services Ltd, 01904 430033, £10.95 plus £1.50 p&p), by Michael Clarke and John Stewart, tries to define the role of local government in the light of the government's white paper, Modern Local Government: in touch with the people, which held up local councils as examples of community leaders. Community Governance calls for the public, voluntary and private sectors to interact with citizens, who in turn should take an active part in democracy through their role in the community. The local authority should be more open and outward-looking and, controversially, the authors argue that its elected members and officers should place more emphasis on "networking and brokerage". Where does "cronyism" fit in?

This article first appeared in the 22 January 1999 issue of the New Statesman, Goodbye to all that boiled cabbage