The government has announced a £24.1 billion investment in defence at a time when the rest of the economy is struggling due to the ongoing effects of Covid-19, and when the cliff-edge that is Brexit is fast approaching. The prime minister was vague at PMQs about what the money would be spent on, so don’t be too surprised if a contract for new fighter jets ends up going to one of his old school chums who runs a bicycle repair shop or something.
Wessex has a long association with the armed forces. Two of the three main branches have their headquarters in Wessex, the army in Aldershot and the navy in Portsmouth (RAF HQ is just over the border in High Wycombe). The “British Pentagon” is at Abbey Wood in Filton, Gloucestershire. Large tracts of land in central Wessex are given over to military use, Even in a devolved Wessex, defence (other than civil defence) would be largely a function of central government, so you might think that the Wessex Regionalists have nothing to say on the subject. But at the most basic philosophical level, we have a duty to speak out when the national government is in conflict with the principles for which we stand.
One of these is ethical politics; that which is morally wrong cannot be politically right. As mentioned above, this government’s history of rampant cronyism makes us highly suspicious of this spending, due to its potential for enriching people whose only qualifications are having gone to the “right” school, and donating lots of money to the Conservative and Unionist Party. Secondly, there is environmental stewardship. War is as destructive of the environment as it is of human life. Finally, we have to ask what all this spending is for? Much emphasis is made of the need for enhanced cyber-security, but again, there is a question of trust here, given how much the current administration owes to Cambridge Analytica and Russian/Eastern European troll farms. The burden of proof is on the Tories to show that they won’t just treat the money as an extension of their campaign fund.
But it’s not just the Tories and their “old school tie” mentality that is at fault. British governments, Tory or Labour, have never really adjusted to the end of the Cold War. They still act as though the main enemy is hostile foreign governments who need to be outgunned and threatened, which makes them easy prey for an arms industry eager to sell them missiles, aircraft carriers and sharks with fricking laser beams in their heads as the solution to rebels in (insert name of next country to be invaded) planting roadside IEDs. The ten biggest arms exporters in the world (often to some of the world’s worst regimes) include the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. We would rather see the expertise and resources currently being expended on finding innovative new way to blow people up used instead for tackling the real problems that face humanity, not least the looming threat of climate change.