Posts Tagged ‘Labour defence review’

Seven rubbish defences for Labour’s defence policy review

20/01/2016, 09:49:38 PM

by Rob Marchant

While the party membership has been convulsed by the burgeoning civil war over the Corbyn leadership phenomenon, policy has – understandably – taken something of a back seat.

However, in recent weeks it has been in the news over one area. Surely, you say, it must be how to rework Labour’s economic policy to make it more electable? After all, aside from the public’s lack of personal engagement with Ed Miliband, that’s the factor generally accepted (including in Labour’s own post-mortem, the Beckett report) to have essentially lost it the last election?

Oh, how naïve. It’s defence, of course. Not because it was an election-loser for Labour, you understand, or even figured highly in doorstep conversations, but because it is a personal hobby horse of Our Beloved Leader and his entourage (prominent kitchen Cabinet members Andrew Murray and Seumas Milne, for example, being long-time Stop the War Coalition stalwarts).

The original brief for the defence review thus considered everything the Stoppers hold dear, from dumping Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent to leaving NATO. That said, last week the leadership rowed back from the latter and sidelined Ken Livingstone from the defence review, realising that leaving NATO was really a step too far for most.

This “most”, interestingly, includes major unions like Unite and the GMB, who realise that many defence jobs are dependent on Britain’s relatively high world profile on defence, not to mention those at Barrow-in-Furness who work for Vickers on Trident. Here membership realpolitik easily trumps a natural inclination for these unions’ leaderships away from nuclear weapons. We now have the absurd compromise of keeping Trident submarines without the warheads.

The review is however still chaired by Emily Thornberry, a keen unilateralist, so Trident is clearly still in play. If anyone doubts that the Stoppers will have an influence on policy, it is virtually laid out in a quote from her last week:

“We will encourage the widest possible participation of Labour party members and affiliates, as well as defence specialists, NGOs and the armed forces.”

This surely has to be the first time in British political history that an NGO has been consulted on matters of national security, hardly a field for NGOs to start with. And, hmm, I wonder which “NGO” she must be talking about? The Stoppers, of course. A political pressure group is not, of course, anything like an NGO, but hey.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Sunday review on Tuesday: Pragmatic Radicalism’s defence “top of the policies”

27/03/2012, 05:48:12 PM

by Amanda Ramsay

Affecting party policy should be more about ideas and innovation than shabby promises to open-up the Downing street policy unit for £250,000. This is what Pragmatic Radicalism offers Labour members and last night it hosted the first event of Labour’s defence policy review with Labour Friends of the Forces.

Chairing was shadow secretary of state for defence, Jim Murphy MP, with speakers having just two minutes to present ideas as complex as the reform of NATO and UN Security Council to the complete overhaul of the territorial army. Two minutes of questions from the floor for each person was then followed by a vote at the end.

Security and resilience issues in a globalised and highly networked world were tackled by the winner, Dan Fox, UCL honorary research associate at the Institute for Security & Resilience Studies, with “cyber reserves: strength through expertise.”

Fox, a serving JNCO in the Territorial Army, outlined the need to have a dedicated cyber Reserve supported by cyber apprenticeships, co-ordinated by the ministry of defence and with greater collaboration between FE colleges and ICT practitioners. Fox presented the common sense but intriguing notion of “white hatting” hackers, to turn their expertise and skills to do good.

Speaking to Labour Uncut last night, Fox said: “No party has a monopoly on caring about and promoting the best policies for our armed forces. Pragmatic Radicalism’s defence ‘top of the policies’ evening showed that we in Labour have the ideas, experience and commitment to ensure our national security, and support our servicemen and women.”


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Why Britain needs a new defence strategy

22/02/2012, 02:13:20 PM

by Jim Murphy

The driving focus of the shadow defence team is to develop a defence policy fit for modern times, responsive to a dramatically changing world which enables us to maintain a position of global influence.

That is why today we have published a consultation paper, ‘21st Century Defence’, to launch the shadow defence review.

Defence is important to Labour for two reasons. First, defence must be the first duty of any government and therefore also the first duty of any party aspiring to govern. Our credibility as an alternative government relies on our credibility on defence.

Second, the Arab spring is the tip of the iceberg of the change we are likely to experience over the next decade.  New and emerging threats, from cyber to bioterrorism, demand new policy responses.  Constrained fiscal circumstances due to the downturn limit expenditure and potentially our global reach.

Global trends – from climate change to new economies – are creating new threats and recasting the global power balance.  These trends come amidst the immediate pressures and priorities of stabilisation in Afghanistan, countering extremism, preventing proliferations and confronting the fresh turmoil in the Middle East. There is massive potential for disruption.

In that context Britain needs a defence policy which can keep up. It must be flexible and agile, with new and wide-ranging capabilities. It must prioritise coalition-building, be attuned to the threats and trends of the future and co-ordinate defence with development and diplomacy.

The government’s rushed review fell short. It did not match ends with means, precipitated a strategic shrinkage by stealth and left us with dangerous capability gaps.  Libyan operations succeeded in spite of the defence review.  Tough decisions must be made – we have been clear about that – but we disagree with some of the decisions and the manner in which they were taken. There is more than one way to spend an annual defence budget of almost £35bn. Labour is committed to being fiscally responsible and true to our own progressive principles.

We need a new defence strategy consistent with financial circumstances but also with strategic context.  Lasting more than a year, this consultation is open to all military, industrial and academic figures, all parties and the general public.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Tories dragged kicking and screaming to put military covenant in law

19/05/2011, 04:00:14 PM

by Gemma Doyle

In the weekend’s media, David Cameron outlined his government’s plan to enshrine the military covenant in law. After earlier back-tracking on his pledge – made aboard HMS Ark Royal last summer – the prime minister has now been dragged kicking and screaming by Labour, working alongside the Royal British Legion, to keep his promise to our brave armed forces. We welcome this step to define and strengthen the contract between the state, the people and our armed forces, which we campaigned for. But the Tory-led government still has a long way to go to rebuild the trust of the armed forces community it has lost since taking office a year ago.

Our servicemen and women do dangerous and difficult work in conflict zones all over the globe. It places great strain on loved ones when their husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters spend many months away from home.

The most important thing we should do is ensure that our armed forces are not disadvantaged because of their service. Whether it be the housing they are eligible for, the employment opportunities open to their spouses, or the standard of their children’s education, opportunities should not be closed off to them because they have signed up to serve their country.

In recognition of this, the last Labour government delivered the first cross-government approach to forces’ welfare, which was widely welcomed by the service community. The service personnel command paper set out improved access to housing schemes and healthcare, free access to further and higher education for many service leavers, and extended travel concessions for veterans.

For a year in office the Tory-led government has seemed determined to abandon that approach.

It gave me no pleasure to hear the chairman of the forces pension society, Sir John Moore-Bick say “I have never seen a government erode the morale of the armed forces so quickly”. Yet it is not hard to understand why he did.

Before becoming secretary of state for defence last year, Liam Fox declared that the military covenant was “shattered”. He pledged that a Conservative government would rebuild it.

But the reality is that under the Tory-led government, spending is being cut faster and deeper than for a generation, and no recognition has been given to the unique nature of service life.

Thousands of servicemen and women will be made redundant, many more will see cuts to their allowances, and all will be hit disproportionately hard compared to other workers by plans to downgrade public sector pension rises. These are just some of many actions taken by the government in the last twelve months, which have completely undermined the military covenant.

This week, Liam Fox confirmed to Parliament that the principles of the military covenant will be enshrined in law. That is a positive step forward.

The covenant between the nation and our services says that the UK’s commitment to its armed forces is made in recognition that a career in the forces differs from all others. It recognises that service personnel agree to sacrifice certain civil liberties and follow orders, including placing themselves in harm’s way in the defence of others. In return, the state and the nation shall help and support people who give that service. Writing the covenant into law is a symbolic gesture of our commitment to our servicemen and women. But it is much more than that – it’s a vital measure to ensure that government and public bodies are forced to meet their responsibilities to our armed forces.

Unfortunately, while welcome, the government’s action is belated. It has come only as a consequence of fear of a defeat in Parliament and in the face of huge anger from forces families, after David Cameron reneged on his HMS Ark Royal pledge. After making that pledge, his government refused to include proposals to write the covenant in law through the armed forces bill, and he ordered his MPs to vote against Labour amendments which would have done so.

Nonetheless, it is welcome that the principles of the rights that our forces heroes can expect in return for their service will now be protected by law. But this announcement does not change all that has gone before. The Tory-led government needs to review wholesale its approach to the armed forces, which has led to a meltdown in morale. And the military community will rightly ask why it has taken twelve months of discussion and a double u-turn from the government to have the decency to honour their promise.

Looking to the future, Labour’s shadow defence team, led by Jim Murphy, is conducting a full review of our policy. In this process, I am reviewing our approach to the welfare of service personnel, forces families and veterans, and to strengthening the military covenant.

This review will be guided by meeting the needs of the armed forces community. The outcomes will be determined only after detailed consultation with forces charities, families, and our soldiers, sailors and airmen themselves. It will not be a rushed, cost-cutting exercise like the government’s strategic defence and security review.

Labour campaigned for and welcomes the move to put the military covenant on a legal footing. But in spite of this, since taking office, the Tory-led government’s actions have undermined the relationship between the state and our armed forces. We want to rebuild this relationship and strengthen the covenant. Our armed forces deserve nothing less for the sacrifices they are prepared to make on our behalf.

Gemma Doyle is Labour MP for West Dunbartonshire and a shadow defence minister.

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon