Sunday, 8 October 2017

Tories betraying our Armed Forces, but are Labour leaders letting them off the hook?

Push out bad news when another crisis is hogging the limelight. The MOD must have read that memo and have gone to town on leaking possible defence cuts whilst the papers are concentrating on the internal war happening within the Tory Party.

Michael Fallon, who is pushing to be remembered as the worst defence minister ever, just seems to smile and try and convince us all is well in the Ministry of Defence, troop morale is high and we can continue to support our allies and contribute to NATO.

Even the beleaguered  Mrs May got into the act, visiting my old regiment in Estonia - she probably felt more safe there than she did at Manchester with Boris and other Cabinet members stood behind her back.

This week alone we have been told that the Army Air Corps may be slashed in half- big concern here in Ipswich as many Air Corps soldiers and civilians working at Wattisham air base live in our town. This news was then followed up with a report that senior Navy Officers were willing to see the Marines lose their beach landing capability in a vain hope that would see them retaining a few more warships.

Then over the weekend we were told that the plan is now to lose a complete armoured brigade. It is as if the current stand off between Russia and the Baltic states is not even happening, that Syria is at peace and that Boris is right and that Libya is now the new 'Dubai' of the Mediterranean. What a load of rubbish, the world is more unstable now than it has been for a long time. Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan  certain North, West and East African states are countries that are facing armed insurgencies and all have British troops deployed to them if even if most are just in training and advisory roles.

That is without even mentioning North Korea or the Ukraine!

The stand off between NATO and Russia is like a rerun of the 80's Cold War, but instead of facing Russia from our bases in west Germany we now have over 1,000  troops deployed to Estonia. Then add in to the melting pot the need to still deploy troops in Northern Ireland and at times to help the police in the rest of the UK - are clear indicators why we should not be thinking of cutting spending on our Armed Forces but actually increasing spending. That is not even including what we expect our armed forces to do if we have floods or natural disasters in UK or further afield (troops still currently working in the Virgin Islands.

A mini defence review was undertaken in 2015, Fallon states it was because of changing threats to the UK, but that does not tell the whole story - it reality it is try and sort the potential funding gap of over £30 million over the next ten years. Cutting a boat here, a plane there, scrapping a whole regiment - will not solve this - we need to make a major cut - the whole RAF? Or we demand more money from the treasury.

I am not a war monger, but the world is an unstable state, others look to us to lead - we have experienced troops, give them the correct tools to undertake these important tasks.

Mrs May and the Tory Party will continue to pretend they are the party that is is more trustworthy when it comes to defence and looking after our armed forces but as in the past it is is just a blatant lie.

So are Labour the party to take the bull by the horns and have an open defence review and listen to the experts and then allow our Generals, Air Marshall's and Admirals to get on with the the job they are trained to do? I have to be honest and say, I am not sure.

The Shadow Defence Secretary, Nia Grffith is highlighting the Tory cuts, but this is a shadow minister that was not even allowed to speak at our conference, that should not be a concern if Corbyn, Thornberry or McDonnell were highlighting our concerns, but presently I hear nothing. Checking the tweets of our leader from the last week, I can find no mention of defence or the proposed Tory cuts, but he could find time to tweet for people to join Labour in Scotland for a low fee to vote in their leadership election, priorities?

I discussed this with a Labour member who has always backed Corbyn yesterday, he commented on the view that as Corbyn is a well known CND supporter, peace activist he would be better staying silent and leaving it to to Nia. I understand that thinking, but to me it seems Jeremy is trying to please his supporters within the party rather than reach out to the general public. I know it will be hard for him, he does not agree with his own party policy on trident but this a test of real leadership - speak on issues that you may not want to but it seems defence is like the current situation in Venezuela - off the Corbyn agenda.

So it is left to Nia and Labour MPs like Luke Pollard to take the fight to the Tories but they struggle to get the press they deserve. So it has been left to certain journalists like Deborah Haynes to highlight the Tory cuts. Some journalists are critical of our current Generals for staying silent, but serving soldiers should not go public but I hope within the Defence HQ, they are telling Fallon in no uncertain terms that these cuts are unsustainable. Knowing the current Chief of the General Staff quite well (and for a long time) I am sure he is fighting hard but he may be playing a long game. Former Generals and Admirals can and should go public with their fears.

In conclusion, the Tories are letting the country down, our armed forces down but they will continue to get away with it till Jeremy takes them on over defence rather than keeping silent in the hope he will not upset his own supporters, mostly from the left, within the party.

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