David Blackburn

Brown will fear the foreign policy debate most of all

Brown will fear the foreign policy debate most of all
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The Tories’ Invitation to join the Government was never going to dwell on defence. (You can listen to the brief chapter on defence here.)  But that doesn’t mean defence isn’t an election issue. It is, and it's one that the Tories will win.

Brown’s defence record is abysmal even by his standards. Former service chiefs have described how Brown ‘guillotined’ defence budgets whilst fighting two wars, and field commanders in Afghanistan have made constant reference to equipment shortages. These accusations were corroborated by facts that Brown then tried to distort before a public inquiry.

That’s not all. As Alex notes, buried in Labour’s manifesto, is an admission that the Defence Spending Review (conveniently delayed until after the election) will equip the armed forces for the 21st Century. This implies that the 1998 Strategic Defence Review failed to equip British forces for the 21st Century, bequeathing a legacy of sacrifices lives and wasted money. Added to that, Brown’s foreword to the manifesto opens:

‘This General Election is fought as our troops are bravely fighting to defend the safety of the British people and the security of the world in Afghanistan.’

The manifesto’s limp argument is that only Labour can do the same for Britain. Truly, the man knows no shame.

Alex asserts that defence is ‘an issue that annoys people but does not motivate them.’ I agree where manifestos are concerned. It’s an issue that suits extended set-pieces, not bullet-points. Even during the dark days of January and February, the Tories co-ordinated brutal and effective assaults on Brown’s contemptuous attitude to the armed forces. And it was telling that Cameron led with the issue during the final PMQs session. The foreign policy TV debate will be the largest set-piece of all; it’ll be great viewing.