Military chiefs encourage a “laddish culture” in the army because soldiers have to go out and fight bad guys, the outgoing head of the armed forces has said.
General Sir Nick Carter also admitted there needs to be a “fundamental cultural shift” so more women signed up, as he faced questions from MPs over the treatment of women in the armed forces.
Following a barracking from Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, on Monday, the army is addressing “culture and conduct” in the service.
Wallace held a tense meeting with the army board after becoming “exasperated” by bullying and harassment allegations, The Times reported, following reports about unsavoury behaviour at the Sandhurst military academy and the murder of a Kenyan woman in 2012.
Carter told MPs on the defence select committee: “We are talking about long-term cultural change… you’ve got to keep going at this.
“Part of the reason we encourage a laddish culture is ultimately our soldiers have to go close and personal with the enemy. What you’ve got to try and do is square both those outputs and that’s what we have to work on.”
It emerged on Tuesday that the Ministry of Defence has retreated from plans to invite a leader of Extinction Rebellion to address future army leaders.
The Centre for Army Leadership (CAL) had said on Monday that Chris Taylor, part of XR’s “vision sensing group”, would deliver a speech at a leadership conference next month.
But the unit was forced into a screeching U-turn on Tuesday, fearing criticism from ministers. “While the CAL encourages diverse thinking and alternative views, we recognise the challenge of inviting a member of XR to speak at our conference,” it tweeted. “At the direction of the Army’s Director Leadership, Chris Taylor will no longer attend.”
An Army source told the i newspaper: “The intent was to seek broad and diverse views but on reflection it is clear that the Army cannot align itself with any organisation (however noble its purported aims) that uses tactics or methods that break the law.”
Taylor was invited despite Priti Patel labelling XR “criminals” and branding them an “emerging threat” who are seeking to “disrupt our free society”.
The about-face comes despite the MoD website claiming the CAL “exists to champion army leadership excellence in order to optimise the Army’s edge and underpin operational success”.
The website also claims the group aims to “stimulate debate, awareness and critical thinking” and is “committed to the betterment of the whole army – all ranks, Regular and Reserve, through-life – and, altruistically, wider society”.
The leadership meeting will be held on 1 December and will be attended by figures such as Olympic hockey winner Kate Richardson-Walsh and author Simon Sinek.
Earlier this year, Patel vowed not to stand by as XR uses “dangerous tactics in the name of environmentalism”.
Related: MoD backtracks after inviting Extinction Rebellion to address Army