With Theresa May’s departure expected later this year, the race is underway among her Tory colleagues to position themselves as her likely successor. The weekend papers were filled with ministers at pains to prove their credentials – with Liz Truss calling for one million homes to be built on the green belt and Matt Hancock and Amber Rudd sparking rumours of a double ticket after they penned an article calling for a ‘modern, compassionate Conservative party’. On Monday evening Jeremy Hunt appeared to show some ankle of his own with a speech to the Lord Mayor’s Banquet.
Discussing Britain’s place in the world, the Foreign Secretary said the UK is held in ‘far higher respect abroad than we sometimes have for ourselves at home’. However, the part of the speech that will garner the most attention relates to Hunt’s comments on NATO and defence spending. The UK currently spends around two per cent of GDP on defence – higher than France and Germany but below the US on 3.6 per cent. Although defence is not Hunt’s brief per se, the Conservative politician used the address to suggest that the government should look at increasing the proportion of GDP devoted to defence in the next Strategic Defence and Security Review:
‘The foundation of Britain’s security is NATO. But it is simply not sustainable to expect one NATO ally to spend nearly 4 percent of its GDP on defence while the others spend between 1 and 2 percent.
So for these and other reasons I believe it is time for the next Strategic Defence and Security Review to ask whether, over the coming decade, we should decisively increase the proportion of GDP we devote to defence.’