Alex Massie

Labour’s Defence Weakness

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Meanwhile, I'm puzzled by quite a bit of Labour's manifesto. Some of it seems rather sullen, defensive and most put-out. Take the passage on defence for instance: there's much protesting that, actually, defence budgets so have risen and it's rotten that anyone should ever think anything to the contrary.

And yet Labour seem to concede - implicitly anyway - that their critics have a point. Otherwise why would they feel the need to promise -  as part of "the next stage of national renewal" no less - to "conduct a Strategic Defence Review to equip our Armed Forces for 21st Century challenges"?

Doesn't this rather suggest that the Armed Forces are not in fact presently equipped for 21st Century Challenges? Indeed, by the time they might be so equipped 15% of the 21st century will have been and gone. This does not seem ideal. For that matter, wouldn't it have been sensible to have the SDR before committing to hugely expensive carriers and the JSF?

Still, the respective defence and foreign policy passages are - with the exception of Europe - broadly similar offering slight differences of emphasis, but little divergence of vision. The foreign policy consensus endures and no-one, I suspect, really thinks it will play any great role in this election. And nor, despite the Afghan War, will defence either: it's an issue that annoys people but does not motivate them.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.