The following article was published in the recent Independence magazine and is written by neighbouring UKIP Beaconsfield Chairman, Tim Scott (Below left, in Uxbridge recently with Derek Clark MEP)
During the Falklands War of 1982 Britain was able to deploy a substantial Task Force led by two aircraft carriers,23 frigates (out of about 55 total), eight battalions of Infantry and Marines, plus all the supporting arms and back-up. The RAF was also able to make a vital and morale-boosting contribution to hitting Port Stanley airfield with its Vulcans.
Today, we have no aircraft carriers, only 19 frigates in total, our Army will soon be half the size it was then and we have no medium/long range bombers.
The Conservatives claim to be the party of defence, supporting our Armed Forces.I believe that they can no longer claim this, and it is UKIP that must now take up this mantle. David Cameron pays lip service to “defence being the first duty of any Government”. Despite this, the Coalition has targeted defence as an easy area for cuts.It is not a service people rely on from day to day, and our troops are forbidden to strike or protest.
Britain has always punched above its weight militarily.We still have some of the best Armed Forces in the world.They defend us at home and abroad,protect our trade routes,provide humanitarian and disaster relief,and help with peace-keeping,anti-piracy and drug-running operations.
A relatively minor recent deployment such as Libya seemed to impose a large strain on our reduced forces. HMS Cumberland, returning home to be scrapped, had to be diverted to help. HMS Liverpool, the first Navy ship to be fired upon since the Falkands, has also since been scrapped.HMS Westminster, which can carry 40 missiles, was sent to Libya with just 4!
Above – Avro Vulcan bomber similar to those that carried out the RAF ‘Black Buck’ operations in the Falklands War. Retired in 1984, the RAF have no long or medium range strike bombers currently in operation.
As for our aircraft carriers, The Ark Royal was scrapped early (In 2011), despite having an £18m refit in 2007. Only the Illustrious remains, flying helicopters, and she will be retired in 2014. Two new large aircraft carriers are being built, but one will probably be mothballed or sold straight away. The earliest date for the other being ready is 2018. There are new ships and submarines,but not enough of them.
By 2020, our Army will be only 80,000 strong, half the size it was when I was in it.
Former Tory Defence Minister, Keith Speed, resigned with integrity over defence cuts in the 80s. Today’s Defence Ministers will see these cuts go too deep, threatening our domestic security and international commitments. Philip Hammond is now the eighth Defence Secretary since 1997, none of them with any military experience. Three served for less than a year (Reid, Hutton and Ainsworth). Contrast this with 1964-1974, when we had only two Defence Secretaries ; Healey and Carrington, both well-known senior politicians with military experience. Defence now appears to be a minor portfolio.
We should not assume that the Falklands are immune from Argentina’s attention, especially with their new-found oil and gas wealth. Despite the best efforts,bravery and professionalism of our forces, let us hope we don’t have to find out the hard way about the folly of our Government’s defence cuts.
Tim Scott and UKIP Beaconsfield can be followed on line at www.ukip-beaconsfield.com
Below – Godfrey Bloom MEP discusses defence at the UKIP Spring Conference 2012 (Using humour to convey a serious message)