Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Who will defend the defenders of the realm?

I see that Lord Mandelson of Foy is leading Labour's spin on how to handle the recession. No "cuts" of course - only Conservatives do cuts, it would appear. Instead Labour's guiding light (if that is the phrase I need) talks of "constraints" and "efficiency". My word, are we sure he isn't a Tory?

Sadly, in one respect I find myself agreeing with him. In the second paragraph of the BBC report, he says that "sustained investment" in areas like healthcare and defence would continue.

It's the defence bit I'd like to focus on. The list of what the armed forces need is large and growing:

  • More helicopters (and probably newer ones, too).
  • More body armour.
  • Better protected vehicles,
  • More radios.
  • Better transport to and from war zones: I am astonished that part of our transport fleet consists of aircraft (the Lockheed 1011) that civilian airlines got rid of in the last millenium.
  • Back home, better treatment for the families of servicemen and women; at the current rate of expenditure, it will take decades to make their accommodation decent.
  • Better care and rehab for the wounded.
  • More money for ammunition and fuel: if we are to have armed forces, we need to train them properly.

Most of the above should be uncontentious. I am not raising here the matter of supersonic aircraft, nuclear deterrents or aircraft carriers.

Nor should we expect that we can avoid all deaths on duty. Any decision to take part in a conflict carries a real risk that our forces will die or be badly injured. However, we owe our soldiers a duty that their lives are not risked recklessly and that their home life, which will never be luxurious, is at least decent.

I hope that's what Lord Mandelson of Foy meant. Even more, I hope it's what the next Conservative government will do.

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