David Blackburn

The case for Carswell

The case for Carswell
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Douglas Carswell has an outside chance of becoming the chairman of the Defence Select Committee. I hope MPs take a punt and elect him because his ideas on defence procurement deserve regular airings.

The festering sore of defence procurement went septic under Gordon Brown. The Nimrod Inquiry and the Gray Report concluded that contractors and the defence establishment operate a ‘conspiracy of optimism’ which disregards the requirements of specific theatres, causing casualties and diminishing military capability. Soldiers in Helmand cannot subdue Helmand with Viking trucks that were designed for arctic warfare (why the hell would we be fighting there anyway?). Whilst there are no panaceas in warfare, heavy armour, light Tucano fighters and helicopters would transform the Afghan campaign. 

Carswell identifies the ‘conspiracy of optimism’s’ root cause: defence procurement is protectionist. Therefore, purchases are made according to what it suits contractors to supply – the mythic but obsolete Eurofighter being the prime example. The refrain that ‘Britain is best and Britain must have the best’ dominates the liturgy of procurement: the two super carriers and Trident being cases in point. Britain should have the best of what it needs; and Carswell would expose contractors to the choice and competition to deliver that. Few others would.    

PS: As an aside, Julian Lewis asked Cameron a very adept question about our failing Afghan strategy at yesterday's PMQs. He would have the measure of the government as chairman of the committee.