Author – Oliver Wootton

Currently circulating around is Labour’s ‘Draft’ manifesto, although not officially approved until tomorrow, it does offer an idea of what Labour intendeds to achieve in power. One topic that is of great importance, given the UK’s leave of the EU, is Defence! What have we got, what do we need and what is the threat? are the questions any new PM needs to ask themselves. Under the Conservative regime, like everything else, our defence budget has been cut significantly. Planes, ships and personnel numbers have been reduced.

Current Spending and resources –

NATO have set a target of 2% of GDP that needs to be spent on defence spending. As of the 1st April 2016, these commitments came into force. This resulted in an increase of £800m in 2015/16 from £34.3Bn to £35.1Bn total spend. According to .gov the UK has;

“The UK has the second largest budget in NATO, the largest in the EU, and the fifth largest in the world.”

(1st April 2016, Ministry of Defence, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/defece-budget-increases-for-the-first-time-in-six-years)

So do we really need to spend any more? Well those figures are based on maintaining in ‘real terms’ the defence budget. Under the Conservatives, despite the increases, they have scrapped ‘NIMROD’, HMS Ark Royal and Harrier Jump Jets as they were too costly. Further personnel reductions places the overall army figures at approximately 79,000, the lowest since the Napoleonic era…despite conservative pledges to increase to 82,000 by 2020.

Labour’s Leaked Manifesto –

Corbyn has addressed the issue of defence in a ‘draft’ manifesto, admittedly not until the final few pages… Some might argue showing its overall lack of importance to the Labour campaign. Corbyn makes a statement that during the last Labour government (Blair 97-07 & Brown 07-10) they repeatedly spent over the NATO 2% GDP mark. Corbyn has stated he hopes to emulate that spending seen under previous Labour governments. Whats in their manifesto?

TRIDENT – The UK nuclear defence system, IS supported by Labour. They would review its procedures and renew its operations. Personally I feel it would be more logical to invest in anti-missile systems, rather than our own missiles. If we developed a system whereby we could prevent missiles from reaching us then it would make nuclear weapons obsolete. Whats the point if no one can use them because they just get shot down?… that’s the real answer to getting rid of all nuclear weapons… just make them useless… It also reflect a better front of ‘defence’, arguably a nuclear missile is not a defence more of an ‘offensive threat’ which doesn’t work as well.

USING THE ARMY – Labour under Jeremy Corbyn is different from ‘old Labour’, his view is that military operations would not be used unless ALL other avenues were explored. A far cry from Blair and Iraq. What this could mean for current military engagements is unclear, however, less military intervention is not always seen as a ‘good’ thing on the international ‘stage’. President Trump is a keen advocate of military action and has demanded more from NATO members in the past, as well as, the UK’s ties with America may require involvement on a joint action campaign. Will Corbyn back America or refuse to commit our military personnel it has not been made clear in Labour’s ‘draft’ Manifesto. Corbyn had stated there will be no ‘hand holding’ with America. 

HOMES FIT FOR HERO’S – An idea to improve living conditions, initially for Veterans requiring loft insulation, boilers and other efficiency measures. With a further pledge to look to review the Forces ‘help to buy’ scheme, with an aim to improve it. A quote from the manifesto, “we will ensure our armed forces get the pay and living conditions that their service merits”. (BBC, ‘General Election 2017: Labours draft manifesto at a glance’, a copy of the manifesto is available there, information on page 43-45).

It will be interesting to see Theresa May’s plans for improving the defence sector. More to follow about the Conservative and Labour manifesto’s as and when they are released…..

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