Thursday, May 23, 2024
HomeDemocracy in Decay£75billion more for defence? Who’s going to do the defending?

£75billion more for defence? Who’s going to do the defending?


DEFENCE Secretary Grant Shapps will be wallowing in praise from his civil servants and the armed forces top brass following the Prime Minister’s announcement that defence spending is to rise by £75billion over the next six years as he puts the country on a war footing. No doubt the arms makers are also licking their lips. Certainly BAE shares were up yesterday to a near all-time high, as the chart below shows. The military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower rightly feared marches on. 

On Wednesday Mr Sunak rattled through his speech with his usual charisma of an accountant describing a VAT claim. He said that his government ‘put beyond doubt that defence investment does count towards environmental, social and governance assessments’. He didn’t say how. 

Mr Sunak also announced a new Defence Innovation Agency in the hope that doing so will enable innovation without red tape. That’s what the private sector does anyway. Moreover the MoD already has the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), which does just that. It created the technology behind the DragonFire laser weapon, which Mr Sunak mentioned. He’s presumably unaware that it was first shown in 2017 and had been in research for at least a decade before that.

This is not a new defence policy, it’s another headline grab by a desperate politician on his way out seeking to shore up his core vote. Sunak has form for this, as I wrote here

The increased spending is smoke and mirrors, not least because Mr Sunak intends to fund this by cutting the Civil Service by 77,000 (the increase in headcount since covid). That this hasn’t already been done is telling. It is very unlikely to happen when Mr Sunak hands over the keys to Downing Street and former civil servant Sue Gray takes charge. Her political avatar, Sir Keir Starmer, has already stated that increased defence spending will happen when it is economically possible. With a stagnant economy, a £120billion deficit and £90billion of interest payments on the £3trillion national debt, nothing is economically possible.

While the technocrat PM can rattle off some numbers, he’s missing the prime point about military matters – it’s all about people being prepared to get close and personal with a bayonet, intending to eviscerate His Majesty’s enemies, while accepting that this might happen to them. Unlike any other employment, service personnel commit to kill and risk being killed. That requires motivation.

Currently the UK armed forces have a net outflow of soldiers, sailors and airpeople. The British Army has failed to meet its recruitment targets for 14 years. For every 11 people who join the armed forces, 16 leave. That’s not just the MoD’s and Capita’s ineptitude, it’s indicative of youth who are unwilling to sign the unlimited liability contact which the armed forces require. Perhaps Gen Z aren’t impressed with their country

It’s not hard to see what might be wrong: tax is rising, public spending is out of control while public services are generally poor. Law and order has more or less collapsed – the chance of a burglary being solved is zero for half the country. Immigration is out of control, with some 800,000 non-EU migrants arriving in 2022 alone. That’s a net influx of an entire Glasgow (the UK’s third largest city) in just one year. No wonder the UK’s infrastructure can’t cope. Then there is the challenge of finding a house, let alone getting a mortgage under the hideous burden of usurious university debt.

In 1997 Tony Blair promised things could only get better and won an election on a soundbite. Twenty years later, two ill considered wars, several recessions, countless platitudes and an incompetent, expanding and increasingly authoritarian government machine later, it’s clear he was wrong. Gen Z doesn’t think this country is worth defending. 

Mr Sunak can pose as much as he likes; Ukraine is a distraction and defence spending a diversion. This country – once the land of hope and glory now despised by the left wing of what passes for academia, the media and our wretched government, now one of debt and despair – needs reform and attitude change to avoid revolution. And it needs it now.

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Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell is a former Army officer who has spent the last 30 years in commerce. He is the author of Net Zero: The Challenges, Costs and Consequences of the UK's Zero Emission Ambition. He has a substack here.

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