For sixty years, the Munich Security Conference has traditionally been the forum for international decision-makers and experts to discuss security challenges. Whereas the World Economic Forum at Davos discusses climate change and diversity, the Munich Security Conference discusses nuclear security and global conflict hotspots. The focus is usually on German and European responses to global and regional challenges. German strategic policy is a mess; wrong about Russia for years, and slow on weapons. Yet next month the German elite will hold its famous conference attempting to tackle the big geopolitical questions with a straight face. With Scholz in a ridiculous foreign policy mess, Germany’s leadership is lost on foreign policy.
Scholz has been craven on Ukraine. Even today as Britain sends Challenger tanks he will only send Leopards if the US (which has done more than anyone) sends Abrams. While the organisers are not publicly calling it an antidote to the Munich Security Conference, the London Defence Conference clearly aims to be. An invitation-only two days in London at Bush House, King’s College London – for leaders, policymakers, boffins, military and media-types. The insurgent British alternative Conference launching today is being chaired by Lord Salisbury and run by Iain Martin. Britain is the biggest military power in Western Europe – an event of this kind makes sense.
Sir Keir used a Times interview this morning to try and rebrand Labour’s reputation on defence after the disastrous years of Jeremy Corbyn. He tells the paper that Corbyn was “wrong on NATO and emphatically wrong on the Salisbury poisonings”; on Ukraine he says it’s “very difficult to find a dividing point” between Labour and the government:
“I’m absolutely convinced that among the tools in the Russian armoury is divide, divide, divide. The more they sow division, either between us and our allies or within [the] country, then only Russia benefits from that.”
While Sir Keir has proved he’s able to talk the centrist talk, as on other issues he’s failing to walk the walk. While espousing bellicose views to the media, he continues to have an appointed “Shadow Minister for Disarmament” in his shadow cabinet, a role created by the white flag-waving member for Islington North in 2016 and a title held by the same man happy to serve as a defence minister under arch-abstentionist Corbyn, Fabian Hamilton.
The role of shadow minister for disarmament was created by CND supporting Corbyn to create a “change in attitude” in Labour’s foreign police approach; a change in attitude that will tonight see Corbyn speak at a ‘Stop the War’ meeting seeking to blame NATO for the crisis in Ukraine.
If Sir Keir wants voters to take him seriously, perhaps he should ditch this Trotskyist shadow cabinet role and stick to the bread and butter defence policies the public want to see…
Boris has appeared in the Commons this afternoon via Zoom to outline the details of the defence spending review in much of the press this morning. The £16.5 billion new spending over four years will fund: a new artificial intelligence agency; the creation of a national cyber force; and a new “space command,” which will be capable of launching a rocket in 2022.
Perhaps the element that will stir up the biggest wave of patriotism is Boris’s pledge to upgrade the Royal Navy and “restore Britain’s position as the foremost naval power in Europe”. Specifically by once again overtaking the French – one way to quell Thatcherite objections to big spending. Which is odd, because Britain is already the foremost naval power in Europe, ahead of France in almost every category. Let’s see the BBC try and scrap Rule, Britannia from next year’s Proms…
Despite Brexit, it appears the ERG still has big sway over Government. Yesterday, its Chairman Mark Francois made headlines when threatening the head of the armed forces Sir Nick Carter with a visit from Cummings if they didn’t sort out their procurement procedure. As if by magic, last night it was revealed Dominic Cummings does, in fact, have plans to visit top military bases after all, including:
The Sydney Morning Herald, who obtained the internal communications about the planned visits, also claim Cummings has already visited MI5 and MI6 twice already.
Close up photos of Cummings arriving at Downing Street appear to show the PM’s top adviser has now finally been given top DV (developed vetting) clearance, allowing him to view top-secret files without supervision. That’ll set Cadwalladr off…
What will super forecaster Francois predict next?
Jeremy Corbyn will snub the national celebration of Armed Forces Day – again. Guido hears the PM and Gavin Williamson will be in attendance at the major national event in Llandudno this Saturday. Last year the Labour leader chose to attend the Glastonbury festival instead of the commemoration. He tweeted an old photo of himself alongside veterans in a weak attempt to cover for the snub…
A Labour spokesman confirmed Nia Griffith will represent Labour. This year the event is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors and is particularly poignant as it marks ten years since the day was renamed from Veterans Day in order to honour all current and retired members of the armed forces. Busy day at the allotment?
Jeremy Corbyn is in Govan today arguing that all Royal Navy ships should be built in the UK. It is thought a £1 billion contract for three Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ships could go to a foreign shipyard. Currently the Navy builds warships in UK yards but non-combat ships can be built abroad…
Labour’s appeal sounds uncharacteristically patriotic – though it is union influence which is driving Corbyn. The GMB has been running a campaign on the issue. There’s just one issue…
Veterans for Britain and UKIP point out that Corbyn’s plans are not possible because of the EU’s Defence Directive. David Banks from Veterans for Britain explains:
“Although Mr Corbyn will cite the ‘defence exemption’ (Article 346 TEU), this does not provide a general exemption from international or EU-wide tendering for government defence contracts. The exemption is only for the most sensitive items of manufacture where an EU-wide tender would put national security interests at risk. The EU tightened these rules further in 2016. The only way to achieve what Mr Corbyn is (rightly) demanding is to leave the EU Defence Directive. The directive stifles UK options in procurement, jobs and strategic capability.”<>
UKIP Defence Spokesman Mike Hookem adds:
”While I agree these RFA ships should be built in the UK; Article 346 of the Treaties demand that military procurement contracts are open to tender across the EU. While there is an exception clause, only the most sensitive items can be guarded for domestic contracts. RFA ships are none front line vessels and therefore, do not qualify as sensitive. Labour either don’t understand EU rules on military procurement contracts or are deliberately trying to mislead the public.”
Jezza all at sea on on this one…
UPDATE: Major-General Julian Thompson, commander of Royal Marines landings in the Falklands War, said:
“We would urge all parties to take a detailed look at the effect that EU policy has on UK interests in this area. We also should not remain associated with a joint EU strategy which would stop the UK making key democratic decisions about preserving essential skills, securing strategic sites, and safeguarding jobs. That is what’s currently being proposed by DExEU civil servants and negotiators via their bid to stay in the EU’s pervasive defence industrial plan, EDIDP.”