Editorial: A khakhi election?

IssueJune - July 2024
Comment by Milan Rai

This is the most militaristic election in a while. It’s started with a bang, with prime minister Rishi Sunak’s ‘national service’ proposal (see here) and it comes against the backdrop of eye-watering promises on military spending by both the main parties.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said on 11 April that a Labour government would increase military spending to 2.5 percent of national income ‘as soon as resources allow that to happen’.

At the time, he was matching the Conservatives.

Two weeks later, Rishi Sunak hardened his position by saying military spending would rise to 2.5 percent of national income by 2030. This would mean increasing spending gradually to £87.1bn a year by 2030, £7bn higher than if it was maintained at 2.3 percent.

Global Campaign on Military Spending UK co-chair Dr Stuart Parkinson pointed out: ‘It is very likely that this money would be found by cutting existing budgets for tackling poverty both in the UK and abroad – and climate spending – which is already far below the level that scientists say is needed to tackle an emergency which already threatens communities at home and around the world.’

The truth is that Labour and the Conservatives both want the UK to be able to intervene militarily around the world – to protect British commercial interests. They want a military that can act as a world cop (well, as a very small but respected side-kick to The World Cop).

Is this what the people want?

According to a series of Ipsos MORI polls in recent years, around 40 percent think the UK ‘should still try to punch above its weight in world affairs’. 20 disagree.

That leaves a lot of don’t knows – people we can persuade.

Does anyone think that the Republic of Ireland has been insecure? Its military spending has been less than 0.35 percent of its national income for 10 years.


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