BUCF Endorses YBF ‘Get Behind Our Troops’ Campaign

The YBF Campaign ‘Get Behind Our Troops’ launched in 2008 was formed in response to a nasty collection of anarchists and socialists who came together in campuses across the country with the intention of banishing all reference to our armed forces on university campuses, these groups include: Kick ’em off Campus. Such odious campaigns are designed to banish all references to the military from UK campuses and is an insult to those that have fought and died for their country. This ban were it imposed in Birmingham would ensure that military groups such as the OTC, URNU etc, military guest speakers and military recruiters would all be barred from campus. I am endorsing this campaign in order for BUCF to promote the work of our forces on campus ensuring such a motion never reaches our own Guild Council and if it does we have a campaign platform to fight it. My support for this campaign however extends for beyond campus politics and is concerned with the state of Britain’s relationship with its forces today.

Personally I find it disgraceful the way some politicians and swathes of the public treat our armed forces today with such indifference despite the fact we seem to be calling upon them more and more frequently to serve in increasingly dangerous situations with faceless enemies. That criticism  however is not exclusively held for New Labour. Indeed whilst I was heartened to hear Cameron pledge to restore the bond between armed forces and country which I wholeheartedly encourage, I was supremely disappointed to hear him refuse to explicitly condemn Labour’s scandalous treatment of our troops which extends far beyond insufficient funding levels and had hoped to hear him pledge to increase funding himself. Having said this I recognise he faces a similar dilema to Margaret Thatcher in 1979. When Thatcher came in borrowing was at record levels and she could not committ herself to increasing funding because frankly the country was on its knees (deja vu).

However not long after the election of Margaret Thatcher, the Chief of the Defence Staff was able to speak of “this government’s tremendous gut feeling for defence” and between 1979 and 1986 defence spending increased 26%. Were it not for the increase in spending, were it not for that gut feeling and that priceless boost to morale, the task force would not even have sailed let alone been able to retake the Falklands and I am confident that in time Cameron will put the forces back at the heart of Tory party policy. This New Labour government by contrast have an inexcusable contempt for our forces, despite their hollow rhetoric every PMQ’s when the names of another service man or woman who fell doing this governments dirty work are read out. The fact is funding for the Armed Forces has been run down progressively over the past ten years under New Labour’s stooges who produce what can only be described as bloodstained budgets cutting defence expenditure whilst at the same time committing them to overseas operations. Indeed by contrast to Thatcher’s spending hikes, as a percentage of national income defence expenditure is lower today than at any time since the early 1930s.

Now I can almost feel the critics amongst you almost jumping out of your chairs to say “but the Tories were cutting defence spending in the early 1990’s”… and you’d be right (although not to the same degree). The difference was we were operating in a different world. Our big threat, the Soviet Union, had collapsed we werent committed to lengthy wars abroad. All of a sudden the world looked forward to a New World Order post Soviet Union free of the scourge of war and communism. In hindsight it was a mistake to cut our funding, which I acknowledged above when I said this criticism is not mutually exclusive to Labour, but there is no justification for the cuts that we have seen since. The rundown in military spending has continued in earnest year on year, even after Britain had been committed by Labour to a war on two fronts in the Middle East. The Afghanistan war is now in its eighth year; it has lasted longer than the First World War and Second World War yet there has been no surge in funding to match the surge in commitments. Tony Blair was responsible for the original decision to support the US invasion of Iraq, but Gordon Brown, as Chancellor, was an assenting party. He accepted the arguments for the war, as many of us did, but would not agree to pay for it.

Labour have exploited and betrayed our troops. Just as they have exploited and betrayed our country. Therefore in that light I am delighted to endorse YBF’s ‘Support our Troops’ campaign which I hope will be one of a very long line in pushing for greater gratitude and support to be directed towards our brave men and women on the frontline. It is vital that we recognise the perilous and selfless work that our armed forces do to keep us safe and promote our ideals of freedom and liberty abroad. We, indeed the world, owe the British armed forces past and present an eternal debt of gratitude and BUCF will do all it can to ensure that the Universityof Birmingham will never accept abhorrent groups such as ‘Kick em off campus’ on our campus.

BUCF will be holding campaign days to ‘support our troops’ in the next term and the next academic year.

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18 thoughts on “BUCF Endorses YBF ‘Get Behind Our Troops’ Campaign

  1. Pingback: Birmingham University students back troops «

  2. Well done Dan you’ve done it again.

    First you talk of defence cuts in the early 1990s, completly ignoring the fact that these cuts started in 1986; well before the fall of the Soviet Union. And even if you were correct in suggesting that these cuts started in the early 90’s why did the Gulf War not deter your Tory government?

    When Thatcher became PM, defence spending was rising and by 1997 it was falling at a fair rate. But as any good economist knows, the percentage of GDP spent in a particular area is far more telling than the amount in real or nominal terms. In 1979 Britain spent approxiamtly 4.3% of GDP on defence. By 1990 it was 3.9%. And by 1997 it had fallen to 3%. (Incidently, the cost of social security increased dramtically over this period in both real and percentage terms.)

    It is true that defence spending has fallen since then as a percentage of GDP, but in real terms it has risen while in 1997 it was falling both in real terms and as a percentage of GDP. So infact Labour has a much better record in defence spending than the Tories.

    Moreover if we look at defence spending as a share of national income, the conservative record is inferior: Over the ten years from 1997, defence spending has fallen by a little under 1% of GDP. In the ten years preceeding 1997, it fell by about 1.5% of GDP.

    To return to spending in real terms, last year it was approxiamtely £36bn. If we were to revise spending to its level when Thatcher left office it would be £33bn, and if we reduced it to its 1997 level we would have to cut defence by 25% down to just £27bn.

    Now let me join you in condemning the actions of those who wish to ban the armed forces from jobs fairs etc. Words cannot begin to describe my contempt and if I’m honest out-right hatred for the NUT for their stance on military recruitment. People like that should think themsleves lucky that British servicemen and women fought for the rights that they enjoy. Part of me wishes they hadn’t had their freedom defended because frankly I don’t belive that they deserve it.

    However this in no way reflects the view or the record of this government and to suggest that it has contempt for our armed forces is not only as demonstrated ignorant, but offensive.

    I look forward to hearing any Conservative proposals on how they wish to increase defence spending while reducing government borrowing and in David Cameron’s words ‘paying down the national debt’.

  3. Jack this isn’t a history lesson and by the sounds of it you need to get out more reeling off ll these facts and figures which I would like to know where you have got your sources from :P

    As I indicated in the post there are faults on both sides. However that does not excuse Labour today. You say defence spending fell in the late 80’s but by that point Jack the Iron curtain was showing signs of collapse and Thatcher was sure war was well and truly off the cards.

    Furthermore we werent committed to two very real wars abroad like we are today. Defence spending today is lower than at any time since the 1930’s. FACT. Forget the GDP… Its only because New Labour towed our economic line that there has been any economic strength in this country!

    The fact is our troops are demoralised and underfunded, being involved in the URNU myself and having friends in the OTC and family in the Navy, I know full well in just what contempt this government is held for what they are doing to our forces.

    They are committing them to wars abroad with inadequate funding and equiptment. On that point there can be no discussion. Incidently reffering back to our terrrorism debate perhaps you should look at this when you say Thatcher didnt do anything to ‘deny them the oxygen of publicity’:

  4. I was being flippant because I am incredibly frustrated aboutt his situation. It is a matter that matters very deeply to me having family and friends in the service as I said. Sod the economics. This is the problem with some politicians today they all hide behind their economic figures and fail to listen to the people and see the problems they encounter daily. People are just a statistic to politicians today it seems.

    Ive seen the disgraceful way our troops are treated first hand, ive met injured service personelle and women. Ive been to visit family and friends in military hospitals where they have to almost BEG to recieve proper care. So we’ll look at the facts shall we. Britain now has 208,310 military personnel — 46,790 fewer than in 1997. The Army has a manpower deficit of 2,730, the RAF 1,830, the Royal Navy 1,040 and the Territorial Army 990.

    In the last 12 years we have also lost a THIRD of our attack subs, warships and aircraft carriers — as well as 479 armoured vehicles and 168 planes. This is whilst we are committed to two wars abroad. Spending has been cut. FACT. Troop morale is at record lows. FACT. Were committed to two underfunded and ill equipt wars abroad. FACT.

  5. Look Dan. I have no doubt about your sincerity. But for you to say ‘Forget GDP’ or ‘Sod the economics’ when you were the one who brought up spending figures is plain ignorant.

    Moreover, I want to stress that I agree entirely with our opposition to the Kick ’em out campaign. It’s a disgrace and offensive.

  6. Yes well I let my passion get ahead of me sometimes. What I am trying to point out, in a non-eloquent fashion, is that Labour have betrayed our troops in more ways than one. I have no idea what Jack is getting at with his figures or where he is getting them from. Every publication I have ever read says defence spending is lower than at any time since the 1930s.

    He somehow disputes this. That combined with my own experience of the sub-standard care our troops recieve boils my blood and the ‘red mist’ descends. I know full well economics is important. But even government figures show that 2.5 per cent of the UK’s GDP, or around £32 billion, is spent on defence compared with 4.4 per cent in 1987/88. I also know full well that from what I can see Jack’s statistics fly in the face of everyone elses… including the governments! So perhaps I should have said ‘sod Matthews economics’ lol.

  7. That may well have been more accurate. I haven’t looked into the figures myself nor have I got time at the moment. I’ll leave that you and Jack! But please don’t say things like ‘sod the economics’. It makes us look silly.

  8. Oh, and another tip. Thatcherite propaganda and the facts have an ocean-sized gap between them.

  9. To say Thatcher cut spending is wrong. Here are the figures for Defence Spending under Thatcher:

    In 1979 government spending on defence was £11.3 bn, 1980 it was £13.5bn, 1981 it was £14.6bn, 1982 it was £16.7bn, 1983 it was £16.2bn, 1984 it was £17.4bn, 1985 it was £19.1bn, 1986 it was £20.1bn, 1987 it was £20.4bn, 1988 it was £20.9bn, 1989 it was £21.5bn, 1990 it was £23.3bn

    Increasing year on year to record levels. Spending was up, troop morale was up. Maggie was and remains adored by many in the forces inlcuing my C.O. As the Chief of Defence Staff put it “Thatcher had a tremendous gut feeling for defence” That is not Thatcherite propaganda that is fact.

  10. The amount of money may have gone up, but did it stay the same or go up as a portion of national income (or, as a percentage of GDP). For example, Thatcher may have increased spending from £11.3bn in 1979 to £13.5bn in 1980, but did this keep up with GDP? Because it might be that although the budget went up in nominal terms it may not have gone up in relative to the size of the economy.

  11. For example, Jack says:

    “In 1979 Britain spent approxiamtly 4.3% of GDP on defence. By 1990 it was 3.9%. And by 1997 it had fallen to 3%.”

    If this is true and my hunch is that it is, then it shows that the amount the Thatcher and Major governments allocated to defense relative to the size of the economy actually declined over the 18 years.

  12. The basis for my ‘hunch’ is that over the last hundred years I think there’s been a pretty continuous decline in the portion of GDP the UK allocates to defense. This is well documented in work on shift from the ‘Warfare to Welfare State’.

  13. Dan in the absence of war, as was largely the case with Thatcher/Major,then it is likely that defence spending will indeed decrease as a percentage of GDP but the investment remained high. However the rate of decline we have seen under Labour, despite the fact they have committed us to more wars than Thatcher and Major combined!, as a percentage of GDP is unacceptable. The Tories have always been more competent on defence investment than Labour, even the forces themselves understand that!

  14. Just to add my two pennies worth.

    I was barely 3 years old in 1986, why bother discussing 20+ year old records, Conservatives are able to hold different opinions now than they did in the past.

    Labour are in power and have been for a long while, Cameron has argued they have broken the military covenant and I’m tempted to agree with him. if it was Conservatives in power betraying our troops then I would be complaining about that too.

    (within reason) I’m not concerned about ‘arbitary’ levels of GDP spending, its outcome that matters. I’m happy so long as our soldiers have the right equipment and support they need to do the job we ask of them. They don’t.

    If Labour could manage this on 0.5% of GDP I wouldn’t care, and conversely If spending had to rise to 5% then so be it. Personally I suspect the real problem is epic mismanagement and slightly bizarre priorities, such as spending £2.3 billion on new whitehall offices at a time when barracks are in a most dilapidated state.

    A great blog on military matters I think is:

    http://defenceoftherealm.blogspot.com/

  15. Dan, you say that this isn’t a history lesson but you were the one who dragged Thatcher into this and wrote quite a bit about the 80’s. In any case, if you’d bothered to do your homework the lesson would have gone much more smoothly.

    You say that the Iron curtain was collapsing in the 1980s by way of an excuse, but that must have been a rather silly risk to take especially considering the new threats that were emerging in the middle east. And why did you describe this period as “…the peak of the Cold War for god sake…” if the communist block was collapsing? You used the 1980s to justify increases in US defence spending and now claim that they justify conservative cuts. (!?)

    Besides this, most of the cuts were in conventional forces which have little relevance to the Soviet Union. If one were to make defence cuts due to the assumption that the soviet union was collapsing, surely it would make sense to make those cuts in the area of nuclear weapons and long-range weapons. And if defence was becoming less important, why was that very issue a central plank of the conservative 1987 election campaign?

    You ask where I got my sources. The IFS have produced an excellent paper on this that you might want to read.

    You erroneously claim that defence spending is at its lowest point ever when in fact it is higher now than in 1997. (May I ask what your sources are).

    “Its only because New Labour towed our economic line that there has been any economic strength in this country! “ So you agree with all our economic policies of the last ten years? I’m delighted that we have your support. I thought you were of the view that this recession is a result of this government’s policies. Now that you are suggesting that these are your parties’ policies, we better give the Tories their share of the blame.

    “Sod the economics. This is the problem with some politicians today they all hide behind their economic figures”

    I am sure that we would all like to put infinite money into our armed forces, but we can’t. Politics is about how we take our passion and convert it into practical action. We can’t avoid numbers when we are talking about funding. And when it comes to the issue of healthcare for our troops, I support the funding that goes into our NHS and it would be nice if you did the same.

    I think your use of the word ‘FACT’ is one of your more amusing quirks. Maybe if you increase the font size, it will become even more convincing. Troop morale is hard to measure, and I have met a number of soldiers who have a positive outlook.

    “…it is true that defence spending may have risen by 10 per cent. in real terms since 1997…” -Bernard Jenkin MP for North Essex (Con); if you want another source. You ask why it is that your sources tell you that defence spending is at its lowest point since the thirties. Well they don’t. If you actually read those sources properly, you would see that they refer to defence spending at its lowest point since the 1930s as a percentage of GDP. But that doesn’t matter does it? After all we’ve all been instructed to “Forget the GDP”. Strangely though you are now falling back on the very approach that you want us to forget.

    You went on to compare defence spending as a percentage of GDP now with in 1987/1988. Not only do you want us to ignore the 10 years of Tory government between 1987 and 1997, but the measure of funding that you favoured earlier (real terms) shows defence spending higher now than it was in 1997.

    Now if your confusion between real terms and ‘percentage of GDP’ was bad, the imbecility that followed was frankly unbelievable. You introduced the measure of funding that is least valid: ‘nominal terms’ which takes no account of inflation or economic growth. In fact you may not realise it but there are very few instances where any kind of government spending has been cut in nominal terms. ‘Cuts’ usually take the form of sub-inflation increases or possibly sub-growth increases; not nominal cuts. Thatcher did increase the numbers; but after 1986 it was by less than inflation.

    If you don’t want to discuss the funding or the history then don’t bring either of those subjects up in the first place.

    Many of us want to support increases in defence spending and oppose the fringe-groups who attack out troops. But while doing it, no one should throw around terms like ‘blood stained budgets’ when they don’t have even a basic grasp of the facts.

  16. Even though I wholeheartedly disagree with you in regard to Thatchers record on defence spending/troop morale, I will pass over it in the interests of brining this pointless debate to a conclusion. Say you are right about the Tories, say you are right that Labours record on defence is soooo much better than us, then lets just have a look at Labours record shall we? Because surely you dont believe that our mistakes justify your own over the last 11 years?

    In 2008 Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the Army, took the unprecedented step of publicly pleading with the government for better treatment of our armed forces. That clearly shows, from a man who is actually involved and has a far greater insight than you or me, that ‘the powers that be’ believe things are not right in the forces. He accused the government of investing in the wrong places and highlighted the fact that the lowest-paid soldiers in the British Army are on an annual salary of £12,572, while a traffic warden’s basic pay is £17,000. Does this seem right to you?

    The MoD protested that if a private is serving on the front line in Afghanistan or Iraq, associated bonuses can push his or her salary up to £22,000 a year. I take the point. It must be quite heart-warming to know that in exchange for risking your life in the heat of battle at the behest of our Government, you can claw your way up to a salary that hovers just below the national average! Well done Labour.

    You also didnt acknowledge my point that for over a year when Gordon Brown took over, the government didnt seem to think, in the middle of two wars, that Secretary of State for Defence was a full time position and forced Des Brown to double up as Minister for Scotland! Can you not even accept that that is completely unacceptable and a flagrant disregard for the position and thus for the forces?

    The central point is Jack that whatever mistakes we Tories made in regard to defence spending etc they pale in comparison to Labour. Labour have spent a pitiful 2.5% of our national GDP on defence spending when we spent 4.4% in far les luxurious economic conditions of the 80’s. In other words we gave more of what we had… despite the fact we werent actually committed to any wars in the way we are today! So we call on our forces less and gave them more… while Labour call on them more an give them less.. hmmmm…

    This is what I cant get my head around Jack; how you can justify or defend the fact that this government has spent a pitiful amount of GDP on Defence Spending whilst at the same time has committed them to more operations than any government in living memory? They are poorly funded, poorly equipt and poorly supported both during and after their tours of duty.

    In addition youve got to look at how the money is being spent. Yes the figure spent on defence would have gone up, obviously, but not relative to the wealth of the nation and what we could and should afford. I would say that 4-5% of national GDP is a perfectly reasonable level of investment while 2.5% most certainly is not particularly when youre throwing money around willy nilly like spending £414000 compensating an RAF typist with a sore thumb while troops losing Limbs get a mere £8000.

    Furthermore the idea of a career in the forces no longer seems an intriguing prospect for ordinary Britons following Labours devaluation of it and ruthless cuts. As it stands in terms of troop figures there were 101,360 full-time personnel in 1997 to 99,460 in 2007 while the Royal Air Force has seen offensive squadrons fall from 16 to 11, and the Navy has lost eight destroyers and six frigates. Soldiers’ leave and training has also been squeezed. Again I hasten to add… this is all when we are more committed to overseas operations than at any time in recent memory.

    This is an indefensible record Jack and of course Labour massage their figures in the best way they can. But these ‘troops’ youve spoken to… surely they acknowledge how overstretched and underfunded they are if so Id like to know which bloody regiment theyre in because it is certainly not in line with any of the prevailing opinions ranging from the likes of the Army Chief of Staff or troops on the ground.

    Even if you dismiss everything i have said… the fact is we could and should spend more on our troops. Whatever we are spending clearly is not enough no matter what figures and percentages you throw at me. The reality whether you accept it or not is this government has broken its covenant with the armed services and has sent them to fight a war on two fronts while ruthlessly cutting back on spending. Military hospitals have been closed and the ones that still exist such as RAF Headley Court which deals with severely injured and limbless servicemen has to struggle for funding. Well done Labour.

    In the interest of concluding this debate I want to get you back to the central and underlying point of this campaign. We want better treatment and funding for our troops… I take it we can count on your support in that?

  17. I’m detecting a pattern here. You and another contributor to this site like to dredge up the past, spout the usual myths about the Iron Lady and then when it gets refuted begin the usual climb-down with things like “It’s not my place to make suggestions”, “We’ll leave it there” or a suggestion that mistakes in the past do not justify mistakes now.

    I respect Richard Dannatt’s opinion much as I respect that of Gen. Mike Jackson who disagrees with him. We would all like to see increases in army pay and I notice that you still haven’t explained how this would be financed.

    You pose a question about the lowest level of pay being £12,572; “Des this seem right to you?” Well the answer is yes. The MOD was quite right to point out that this figure is misleading because it does not reflect what an individual in Iraq or Afghanistan would earn. If someone works in stores in an army base or as a junior to a supply officer in the navy (or as an RAF typist), there is no way that that should entitle them to as much money as a serviceman in Iraq or even the salary of a traffic warden. In any case we are now increasing military pay at a faster rate than the rest of the public sector. If you doubt my sincerity concerning this, I refer you to the argument I had with Tom Hyner several months ago over public-sector pay.

    I disagree that Des Browne’s duel role shows a disregard for the military. Minister for Scotland is a position that involves much less than it did prior to devolution. If you truly believe that a duel role for a minister shows a disregard for one of his portfolios than perhaps you can explain this:

    “We will keep the position of Secretary of State for Scotland with the holder of that position also having an additional UK role within the Cabinet.”- Conservative Party Manifesto 2001.

    I would like to know if you have any insights as to which portfolio the Conservative Party had in mind.

    You then returned to the issue of funding, making a comparison with the 4.4% of GDP spent on defence in 1987/1988. Again you want people to forget the ten years following that when spending on defence fell, not only as a percentage of GDP but in real terms. Under Labour, defence spending as a percentage of GDP has reduced at a slower rate than your government, and has actually increased in real terms. Under Labour we have real-terms increases. You say that we gave more of what we had in the 1980s to defence, but again you are reverting to an historical comparison. The problem is that this raises the question as to why your government allowed that to fall at a faster rate than this government. Ultimatley, what ever measure you use, defence was cut more by the Tories than by Labour.

    Spending as a percentage of GDP is a product of not just changes in spending, but changes in GDP. (This goes some way to explaining why government spending increases as a percentage of GDP during recessions.) (This has been Norman Lamont’s defence over accusations of over-spending). When we consider the strong GDP growth of the ten years from 1997, it’s hardly surprising that real term increases in defence spending were hidden in the percentage figures. What is worrying is that the slow-down in economic growth in the early nineties did nothing to prevent a reduction in defence spending as a percentage of GDP during the Gulf war.

    You keep referring to the fact that we have a state of armed-conflict in several parts of the world. This makes me even more relieved that we increased spending on defence and I do have to stress that we should try to fund our military at all times war or not. We increased funding a while before the Iraq war (conspiracy theorists take note) which is actually more important than increasing funding during a war. A large percentage of defence spending is capital spending which is a long-term consideration.

    You say that the government has committed a pitiful amount of GDP on defence when in fact the world average is 2%. I should also point out that we have arguably the second largest defence budget in the world. Excessive compensation settlements are a disgrace but isolated examples cannot be used to suggest that our armed forces are held in contempt by the government. Moves have already been made to rectify this and we must understand that amending the compensation culture is legalistically difficult.

    “Whatever we are spending clearly is not enough no matter what figures and percentages you throw at me.” Welcome to the economic problem. In any case, you raised the percentages; not me.

    I believe that an increase in defence spending would be wise and compatible with sound economic policies. I’m glad to see that you support the idea of higher public spending. As you said earlier, it’s also a matter of how that money is spent. SO the question is; by how much do we wish to increase spending and how much of that should take the form of pay increases.

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