The President once said, “Listen to Liam,” referring to the comprehensive knowledge Tory defense spokesman Liam Fox has of national security matters. Therefore I don’t feel too bad in pointing out, apropos of Tony Blair’s security credentials, that Liam Fox has delivered a speech that points out just what Tony Blair’s government is doing to the British military:
This year we will spend only 2.2% of our GDP on defence. This is the smallest proportion of our national wealth that we have spent on defending our country since 1930. By the time we finish the new Wembley Stadium, we will be able to seat the ranks of the whole of the British army inside it. The Royal Navy will be smaller than the French navy. And the RAF Museum at Hendon will have more attack aircraft than the RAF does now…
The Army down 9,000. The Royal Navy down 10,000. The RAF down 16,000..
The lack of general debate about defence and security policy – rather than domestic affairs – is doubly strange given the varied locations in which British troops are currently serving. Afghanistan and Iraq are the two most notable deployments, but British forces can still be found in the south Atlantic, the Balkans and West Africa. Our global commitment amounts to some 15,000 troops – not including those permanently stationed in places like Cyprus and Germany. Their task, wherever they serve, is not an easy one and as a nation, we are rightly proud of them. Yet our armed forces have equally never been under such a strain. They have never been asked to do so much with so little of the national wealth at their disposal. Therefore there is an urgent debate for this country to have. Do we reduce our commitments to match the size of our defence budget or do we increase our defence budget to match our commitments?
The full speech can be read in PDF form here. There was a decent chance that Liam Fox would have beaten David Cameron in the election for Tory leader, but MPs chose not to send him to the membership for consideration.