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.