The Royal Marines
23 May 2017
In this age of uncertainty and unpredictability, our national security relies on armed forces that are fast, flexible and can fight in any theatre. For more than three centuries – from Gibraltar and Trafalgar to Normandy and Afghanistan – the Royal Marines have epitomised those qualities. They have fought in more theatres and won more battles than any other British unit. In our nation’s hours of danger, they have been, as Lord St Vincent predicted in 1802, “the country’s sheet anchor”.
So the news that the Government is cutting 200 Royal Marine posts – and at such a volatile time in world affairs – should concern us all. They are committing this folly in response to a crisis of their own making. In 2010, the then-Defence Secretary Liam Fox embarked on a review of our Armed Forces, but failed to provide the leadership or strategic vision such a process requires. As a result, it descended into an undignified squabble between the heads of the different branches. That squabble placed status and prestige ahead of a sober assessment of the nation’s long-term defensive needs. Instead of “Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty” as the review’s title promised, we ended up paying £6.2 billion for two huge aircraft carriers, despite not having the fighters to fly off them.
And now it’s our Royal Marines who are paying the price for this folly.. Michael Fallon, is the first ever Defence Secretary to have decided to focus his first cuts on the elite forces who serve on the front line. He’s playing fast and loose with the nation’s defences.
The cost of Conservative foolishness doesn’t end with the Royal Marines. They’ve cut personnel numbers, breaking their manifesto promise not to reduce the Army below 82,000. Troops on the frontline are deprived of basic equipment and combat training has been slashed, putting soldiers’ lives in greater peril. Navy warships sit idle at quaysides. No wonder top generals have accused the government of “deception” over defence spending.
The Tories are very practised at talking tough on defence in elections. But, look at the history and you will see that its always Tories who cut most on defence in Government. Its now clear that Mrs May will get back because of the hopelessness of the Labour Party. But it would be very dangerous to give her a big enough majority to ignore us again. Britain needs a strong opposition to stand up for our Armed Forces and hold the government to account – and only the Liberal Democrats are up to that task. We will fulfil our NATO commitment to spend 2% of national income on defence, and we’ll spend it wisely, prioritising the things that truly keep our country safe rather than prestige projects to keep the service Chiefs happy. I have launched a petition against further government cuts to the Royal Marines, and I urge you to sign at HYPERLINK “http://www.saveroyalmarines.org/” www.saveroyalmarines.org.
The Conservatives’ misjudegements on the Armed Forces are symptomatic of their mismanagement of their wider failures in the country. Just look at the way they have neglected the South West and pushed our public services to breaking point. They’re cutting school budgets by 8%, forcing headteachers to cut back on teaching staff, equipment and training. Classrooms are getting increasingly crowded and the burden on teachers is mounting. And that’s before the big extra cuts that will hit more than 500 schools in our region when the Conservatives’ new funding system comes into force next year.
You don’t need me to tell you about the crisis in health and social care. Thousands of patients are lying on trollies in hospital corridors, waiting for a bed. Thousands more have their operations cancelled at the last minute. Nursing homes are overcrowded and understaffed. Their defence procurement is failing our defence industries. Look at the way their short-sightedness in awarding the MoD’s Apache helicopter contract to Boeing in the US without any competitive process has contributed to the closure of GKN in Yeovil and the loss of 230 local jobs
Theresa May is taking voters for granted in this election. That’s why she ducked difficult questions and public appearances on her recent visit to Cornwall. As pressure on local schools increases, she slashes their budgets. As the NHS crisis worsens, she refuses to give it the funding it needs. As the cost of food rises, she cuts support for low-paid workers.
The message is clear. We may now be on course for a Tory Government. But it would be folly to give Mrs May so big a majority that she could go on ignoring is. She needs to be held to account and, for the West Country, only the Lib Dems can do this
The Liberal Democrats will reverse the cuts to our schools, investing an extra £7 billion to make sure funding rises in line with both inflation and rising pupil numbers. We’ll also put an extra £6 billion a year into the NHS, funded by a 1p rise in income tax rates. And we’ll establish a cross-party health and care convention to work with patients, staff and the public to integrate the NHS and social care and put them on a sustainable footing for the long-term.
With your support on 8th June, our local MPs will stand up for the South West and for our schools, our hospitals and our Armed Forces.
I know that the combination of Theresa May’s cynicism and Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to provide a proper opposition can be depressing. But they don’t represent Britain. We are a wonderful country full of decent, hard-working people. Our future can be bright, but only if people vote to change it.