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Our indefensible record on defence

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THE Times on Saturday informed me that Dom Cummings wishes to curtail wasteful MoD projects. 

Here we go again.

Has the Tory Party as an institution still no idea what a pitiful record it has on defence?

In 1957 I saw the last jet fighter that the RAF would develop, according to our very first Minister of Defence, Duncan Sandys, son-in-law of Winston Churchill. It was called the P1 in those days and eventually became the Lightning. Yet here we are in 2019, over 60 years on, working with the Americans and bringing a new stealth Lightning fighter into service.

I was still in the Army when the Secretary of State for War, one John Profumo, came to inspect us while Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies were bringing about his irremedial defeat on the front pages of every newspaper most days.

Harold Wilson’s Labour Party ran away from Aden in 1968 – many people left from the beaches in a desert Dunkirk – then abandoned the Far East despite confrontation with Indonesia and the risk of the Vietnam War spreading westwards.

Two of my friends were killed in the South Atlantic War after that book-keeper/bean-counter John Nott was allowed to start scrapping the Royal Navy because he thought you must defend only Europe and seapower wasn’t required. The ancient Greeks would have regarded him as a joke. We all know how grateful the Europeans are to him. Those of us who admire the Royal Navy would like a statue of General Galtieri on Southsea sea front.

Tony Blair went to war like a schoolboy; Gordon Brown refused to pay. Result: political defeat and military humiliation in two re-runs of Aden in 1968, Basra and Helmand.

Blair and the FCO ended our treaty obligation to South Korea (frankly on the sly).

Despite all the lessons of the South Atlantic, Liam Fox scrapped our maritime patrol aircraft, which had multiple other duties and are still in the long process of being restored. I will refrain from the obvious comment.

Cameron and Osborne brought the ten-year rule back from its 1932 grave and almost destroyed the Armed Forces once again while leaving their fellow countrymen and women in effect defenceless. We lost the ability to project power at sea for the first time in 500 years.

So Dom, if no one else will tell you, take it from me, if you want to celebrate Brexit Day, forget about cleansing the defence temple.

Leave it to the experts.

PS: Boris, we old sailors, soldiers and airmen are not in a very forgiving mood when it comes to the Tory Party’s record on defence. There’s bound to be a General Election and much as I like you personally, indeed think you’re all doing a good job, our views on defence are based on personal experience in several wars, some far bigger than anything Britain has fought since Korea.

We might just form a party ourselves and then see who would like us as their partner.

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Adrian Hill
Adrian Hill
Adrian Hill. Former soldier and diplomat, afterwards member of CBI Council and author.

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