The point is that the poem is as fresh now as it was when it was penned by the great man, in 1890. It's pretty funny, too:
TommyI don't know about you, but I think it's time to put an end to this Afghan thing, either by sending in massive reinforcements and actually paying the necessary price for final victory - in other words, not causing unnecessary death by doing everything on the cheap (one scandal for which Brown should genuinely never be forgiven) - or by bringing our army home. That's the choice Cameron will have to face. Why? Because, to coin a phrase, we can't go on like this.
I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, 'We serve no red-coats 'ere.'
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed and giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again, an' to myself sez I:
Oh, it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 'Tommy, go away':
But it's 'Thank you, Mister Atkins,' when the band begins to play -
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
Oh, it's 'Thank you, Mister Atkins,' when the band begins to play.
I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 'Tommy, wait outside';
But it's 'Special train for Atkins' when the trooper's on the tide -
The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
Oh, it's 'Special train for Atkins' when the trooper's on the tide.
Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 'Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?'
But it's 'Thin red line of 'eroes' when the drums begin to roll -
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
Oh, it's 'Thin red line of 'eroes when the drums begin to roll.
We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that , an' 'Tommy, fall be'ind,'
But it's 'Please to walk in front, sir,' when there's trouble in the wind -
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
Oh, it's 'Please to walk in front, sir,' when there's trouble in the wind.
You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 'Chuck him out, the brute!'
But it's 'Saviour of 'is country' when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool - you bet that Tommy sees!
Me, I would opt for the former and give our armed forces everything they need, and then some. Whatever it takes, Afghanistan, unlike Iraq, is the right war and is a war that we have to win. We must respect our troops properly, therefore, by backing them to the hilt, even if it means making some sacrifices at home in the short term.
One thing is certain, if nothing else, our armed forces deserve much better than Labour, and much, much better than Brown.