It’s not woke for an army to look like the society it defends

Shapps’ attack on diversity shows zero understanding of the recruitment challenge

Paul Mason
10 min readFeb 17, 2024
Soldiers from the Army Air Corps on exercise last year. Credit: AirTpr David Allen AAC. Source MOD.

It’s been Anti-Woke Week in the UK defence world. Or at least in that part of the defence world that still thinks we’re living in the 1950s.

It started with a leak to the Telegraph of the British Army’s “Race Action Plan”, which noted that the Army “struggles to attract talent from ethnic minority backgrounds into the officer corps”.

Since one barrier to ethnic minority recruitment is security clearance — which delves deep into the family background of applicants, and is particularly arduous if you want to work in intelligence — it proposed to relax the rules.

That triggered an open letter from a dozen retired generals, decrying the move. Finally, an outraged Grant Shapps — who seemed remarkably un-outraged at the leak of information from his own department — launched an urgent inquiry into wokeness in the forces.

Since then there’ve been attacks on the Army for forcing people to study climate change, more outrage at an all-woman AWACS flight, and Iain Duncan Smith has joined the outrage over “woke” housing policies that allocate Army accommodation according to, er, need.



Paul Mason

Journalist, writer and film-maker. Author of How To Stop Fascism.