The agreement between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats has been published and the Ant and Dec show on the lawn of Number 10 concluded.
One might think a new government should consider its absolute first priority those service personnel who will as we speak, be out on a foot patrol or on a watch or loading an aircraft.
In the 3,000 published words of the agreement, we get a commitment to make possession of illegal timber a criminal offence but nothing about Afghanistan, you know, the same Afghanistan where thousands of UK service personnel are currently in harm’s way.
Now I know the document only covered the compromise agreement but wouldn’t it be nice, for a change, just for once, to put service personnel at the front of the agenda?
Perhaps wood and electric vehicle charging points are more important.
A fuller set of details are promised soon that will include defence and many other issues but in this document, Defence and Security don’t even get their own subheading, just a second bullet point in the section titled
Spending Review – NHS, Schools and a Fairer Society
The commitment to a nuclear deterrent remains as per the Conservative manifesto, but, any replacement for Trident will be scrutinised for value for money. It does not actually explicitly say that Trident will be renewed with a like for like system and the Liberal Democrats will be free to make a case for alternatives.
Both parties have committed to a Defence and Security Review but the text makes it clear that it will take place alongside the Spending Review and will have strong involvement of the Treasury. This last section, about strong Treasury involvement, is a straight lift from the Liberal Democrat manifesto. Any hopes anyone had of the Defence Review being anything other than a slash and burn exercise, that will, in common with the last half dozen or so similar reviews, results in less money for Defence, is in for a rude awakening.
Liam Fox took up his post in Main Building today; he is going to need all the guile, cunning, political skill and downright luck to get anything other than a budget-cutting review.
Incidentally, the agreement also maintains the commitment to spending 0.7% of Gross National Income on overseas aid so in the forthcoming Defence and Security Review (Budget Cut) where it is likely a reduction or stagnation in funding for the armed services will be the result, it will be of some comfort to those service personnel that will be made redundant or have to face yet more shortages of equipment that the taxes that they pay will be going to India, so it can afford aircraft carriers, jet fighters and more C17’s than us.
Perhaps we might remind the dream team of their pre-election comments;
Liberal Democrats would make the welfare of the men and women of our armed forces a priority
A Conservative government will, most importantly, repair the broken Military Covenant