James Forsyth

Tories must pledge to spend more on defence

Tories must pledge to spend more on defence
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A story tucked away in today’s Sun shows just how short of helicopters our force in Afghanistan is:

“BRITISH troops in Afghanistan have only a quarter of the Chinook helicopters required under the MoD's rules of war, the Tories claimed last night.

A force like the one deployed in Helmand should have at least 47 of the twin-engined choppers, according to the Strategic Defence Review drawn up in 1998.

Instead, there are the equivalent of only 12 - insufficient to transport the 9,000 soldiers and their supplies.” But this story poses questions to the Tories too. By the calculation they’re using, there should be 47 Chinooks—or equivalent—in Afghanistan. But the Royal Air Force only possesses 40 of them, of which only 18 are in working order.  

This is another example of the consequence of the military having been running hot for nigh-on-a decade. There needs to be a significant increase in defence expenditure not only to allow for the expansion of the army, which would allow Britain to put more boots on the ground in missions like Afghanistan, but also to allow for a re-equipping of the force. But the Tories still won’t commit to one.

To Cameron’s credit, he has been talking about the need for more helicopters in Afghanistan for three years or so. He’s right that even on the current budget, things needn’t be as bad as they are. But the party’s criticisms of the government’s record on defence would be far more compelling if the party was committed to spending more on defence.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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