I started this blog in late 2011 as a response to the levels of debate which surrounded many issues impacting on Defence and wider UK security policy. I felt a keen frustration that all too often the debate quickly descended into poor reporting, tired clichés (e.g. more admirals than ships) and a general sense that the UK was a declining nation with good armed forces who were being betrayed by the MOD.
In starting it I wanted to try to address some of these myths, try to put across an alternate viewpoint and suggest that actually the UK remains a relatively influential nation with capable armed forces and that there is often very logical reasons why things have been done as they are. In other words, I wanted to put across that it is possible to be very positive about Defence in the UK and that there is a remarkably good story to tell. In the intervening two and a half years, nearly 200 articles, over 2600 comments and over 650,000 page hits later, I feel that hopefully some of this has been achieved.
That said, I’ve now reached a point where the decision has been made to close down this blog. There are several reasons why I feel this is the right time to do this: Firstly, from a career perspective, it is increasingly difficult to balance holding down busy jobs as both a civilian and a reservist, and be able to comment objectively here. Recent changes to both commitments mean I don’t think I can continue to be able to post material here without having a conflict of interest in my professional roles. It also fair to say that the next 12 -18 months will see a lot of substantial changes in UK politics which could impact on Defence. The Scottish referendum, the General Election, the next SDSR and so on. There will be intense scrutiny of these debates, and particularly as this site has grown in popularity, the ability to comment discretely goes. There is a danger that in seeking to comment on the story, you run the risk of becoming the story yourself.
There is also the realisation that while there will be developments in Defence; I am often challenged to find new and fresh things to say on them. There is only so many times you can comment on a story or subject before you rehash material, and increasingly I feel that I’ve run out of things to say that add new perspective to the debate. You know it is time to start thinking about stepping away when you feel obliged to put an article out, rather than wanting to put an article out. The challenge of sustaining a blog over any length of time is the ability to put out fresh and interesting content. I’ll be honest here and say that this is becoming particularly challenging.
Finally, there is an issue of how much time it takes to keep the blog updated and credible. Even with the best will in the world, as my real life has grown busier, my ability to get regular and relevant updates out has diminished. I don’t want this site to become something which I feel I am obliged to do, not that I love to do.
I have genuinely loved writing here, and really enjoyed the debates and arguments which have followed. I’ve been flattered by the extremely kind praise I’ve received from other sites, and the way that others are kind enough to link or comment on what has been posted here. The participants in this site have really made it what it is, and I’m hugely grateful to everyone who has posted here to express their own views – particularly Ianeon, Derek McBride, Mark Colllins, Think Defence, Not a Boffin, Phil, GNB, JediBeeftrix, Challenger, Mike, Angus Maclellan, and many others including the denizens of the DBB…
What happens next?
The site will remain up, and all the articles will remain here for anyone to view, but I will not be posting directly here as ‘Sir Humphrey’ anymore. The site will not be updated (except for occasional spam pruning) for as long as I remain in HMG service. But, in the event that I do leave, then I would certainly plan on restarting it at some future point (‘PinstripedLine 2 – he’s back and this time the stripes just got a whole lot thinner’). It’s fair to say too that having realised how much I enjoy writing and commenting on Defence matters, I am now actively considering how I could make a career out of it outside of HMG service, although I’m not too sure where to start looking (any tips gratefully received!). So if I can find the opportunity I am seeking, then this site may well come back online in the future.
In the meantime I will remain out there on the net, observing in the background what is going on, and generally enjoying the excellent plethora of defence websites out there – one thing this experience has taught me is that there are some superb defence related websites on all manner of issues – do make time to go and read them!
Finally, if you do wish to contact me offline, then the site email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, or message me via the Twitter account (@pinstripedline). All that remains now is to say thank you for reading, and goodbye – it’s been a blast, and I hope we all meet again very soon.