Where does the Navy go now?

April 17, 2007

For those of you who haven’t read it, can I strongly recommend you read Charles Moore’s article in the Telegraph HERE . Like Charles I have had the privilege of meeting the former First Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Leach once, and I am fairly confident I know what he would have thought of the conduct of all involved in the recent hostage situation (I hesitate to use the word crisis). In 1982, when asked if we could retake the Falkland islands he said that we could and should because “if we do not, in another few months we shall be living in a different country whose word counts for little.”

This is where we now live, and I don’t like it.

But we do have to decide if we want to be a military power or not. Defence spending has dropped over the 10 labour years from 3% of GDP to 2%. We are building 2 aircraft carriers, but may not have aircraft to fly off them or other ships to defend them-what is the point in that? Why on earth should we invest huge sums in a nuclear deterrent which is de facto controlled by the USA and when we have no-one to deter.


Are we still worried about the French?

I believe that we should invest in the armed forces. We should have a Navy which is capable of projecting power, and an Army which can be the best in the world for its size. (I am unconvinced that we need the RAF, mind you), but we have to acknowledge that this costs money and has to be paid for. If we aren’t prepared to pay for it then we should be honest about it, withdraw from all overseas commitments except the odd UN peacekeeping mission, scrap the aircraft carriers, Eurofighter and Trident and start practicing maneouvres against Belgium



  1. Hi Mens Sana, I’m going to surprise you here.
    I don’t support war (any war), but I can see that Britain still has delusions of grandeur (and empire).

    But that aside a nation like Britain should still be able to afford a couple of aircraft carriers or three, and a few submarines – though I shall not advocate nuclear weapons – and a decent airforce including a ‘fleet’ of Eurofighters.

    And you are right the only helmet British Troops abroad should wear is the blue UN helmet. Under British command – but under UN not US direction.

    It is not a matter of that could be better spent somewhere else – that creates high tech jobs, as well as research and technology. And though it may not all be jobs in Britain, it is in Europe – and what is good for Europe is good for Britain. I’m certainly not at war with France, Germany – nor with Iraq.

    What the government spends on defence should not affect what the government spends on health or space.

    What the government spends on defence should not affect what the government spends on education or space.

    What the government spends on defence should not affect what the government spends on pensions or space

    What the government spends on defence should not affect what the government spends on civil engineering (roads, public transport) or space.

    What the government spends on defence should not affect what the government spends on anything else.

  2. But surely in the real world we have a finite amount of money (all be it we can vary the tax take a little), and basic economics tells us we cannot spend more than we earn indefinitely (Gordon Brown seems to overlook this), so increasing the amount we spend on defence will have to be met by a reduction in spending elsewhere.

    For me the national scandal is the number of people we are paying not to work for various reasons, and the social security budget would be where I would look hardest, but obviously space would not be touched!

  3. […] Sir Henry Leach and his comment about living in a different country whose words count for little HERE , I have been thinking about what the legacy of the last 10 years of government will be. I believe […]

  4. The argument of limited resources no longer holds true
    It is simply one used by those who have more to distance themselves above those who have less.

    In a modern ecoonomy where supply of goods and services clearly outstrips demand – whether catering, education, entertainment, tourism, mobile phones or plasma tvs … in other words we have more than people can afford –

    there are only two things which we are short of – more and cheaper housing – which would dampen house price rises (and perceived wealth of those who own) and clearly despite an NHS with a £90 billion budget, surgeons and dentists to ‘cater’ for patients needs – those patients who cannot afford the ‘market prices’

    Dentistry is not a matter of cosmetics.
    Dentistry is as critical to a human’s well being as a hip replacement, knee-cap reconstruction or plastic knee-cap.

    But before I provided another £2billion for dentistry I would raise the quality of nhs dentistry, and of course would be faced by a 10, 20, 30, 40 year backlog of poor and late dentistry. Inevitably inadequate oral hygiene & inadequate dentistry lead to false teeth – but in the 21st century false teeth should be the very last resort – not the cheap option

    Then I would consider offering some insights into how cancer and cardio thoraxic treatments can be improved

    But health care (and pharmacy) has become a dynamic wealth creating industry, where actually finding remedies or cures is not the real aim – where is the profit in that. The pharmaceutical industry needs (wants) 10-20% of the population on prescription drugs
    Where is the incentive for alternatives here?

    The hip replacement industry still leaves a lot to be desired, butchery would be too harsh a word, but I do feel that anyone who is operating on a human being, should do so with the same love as if they were operating on their son, daughter, wife or loved one.

    As far as dentistry is concerned, dentists want to earn more than jewellers, but dentists whether private or nhs don’t seem to have the same pride in their work or respect for peoples teeth as jewellers used to have.

    I’ll try not to diversify into other fields, so as not to turn my comments into rants, but I do feel that from where I’m looking at things should be taken on board by the BMA, RCS & MRC – who often are cocconed in their own self-congratulotary bubble.

    Last time I went to a meeting of the Board of Trustees at Addenbrookes, £100’s of millions were banded about (to impress the impressionable) and promises of miracle cures for cancer and the wonders of heart surgery were extolled as de facto ‘here’ – but not once was the word ‘patient’ mentioned – or the needs of the other 95% of patients.
    And dentistry didn’t even merit a mention.
    Yet dentistry clearly afflicts more people than cancer, except the 1/3rd of the population in need of serious labour intensive & time consuming dentistry, are below the radar.

    What is the difference between £12,000 of surgery for a thousand patients of one affliction
    and £2,000 of surgery for six thousand patients with another affliction?

  5. The argument of limited resources no longer holds true
    It is simply one used by those who have more to distance themselves above those who have less.

    I admit to being a bit simple economically, but I simply don’t believe this to be so. History tells me that whnever we have failed to recognise that our resources are finite and need to be carefully manged we run into trouble. This applies to Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow, Labour tax and spend governments and arguably to our current tendency to exploit global resources, (especially the USA and petrol). I don’t see that the principle is different with government money

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