24th Apr 2024

Strength is a choice. Our Prime Minister has chosen.

Sometimes the world changes overnight. Ten days ago we had gone to bed with the news that an armada of drones and missiles were already in the air, due to strike Israel from around two o’clock in the morning UK time. And yet by morning they emerged from the fears of the darkness to find virtually no damage to their country.

Pretty much all of the 300 weapons had been intercepted and destroyed. Iran had done its worst and Israel had done its best. It had stood up to the determined and deluded leadership of its bigger undemocratic bullying neighbour and survived. It should be celebrated by all democracy loving countries. Britain has been right to stand alongside our ally. It’s defence, and of other nations such as Ukraine, has direct bearing on our national interests. Israel’s ability to defend itself, and later its targeted and limited response against Iran, showcased its capabilities. Those abilities gave it strategic choice, deterrence and diplomatic capital.

You don’t have to be a big country to be a powerful one. Israel has just under 10 million people with has a GDP of US $525 billion. There are lessons to be learned by how such a small nation can mount such a formidable defence. She chose to consistently spend around 5% GDP defending herself. Her economy is strong not despite its investment in defence. It is strong because of it. You can see the investment in training, technology and infrastructure. You can see it in foreign policy, education and social welfare. It’s population and economy are thriving as a result.

Ten days ago the world did change overnight. But it did so because of years of preparation by Israel. We should be proud of her long-sightedness and ability to find long-term consensus on defence policy. We could look to Israel’s example, but we could also remember our own. It is not just our own freedom we have secured time and again. The British people place a high value on our ability to defend at home and protect our interests overseas. We have not followed the trend of other European nations and have kept defence spending strong. That spend must keep pace with the challenges and competitors we face. We have ambitions to be the most resilient nation on earth, to remain relevant to our allies, protect our interests and project our influence.

The Royal Air Force too saw action the night of Iran’s attack. The war in Ukraine is the biggest Europe has seen since the Second World War. At home we face daily cyber-attacks from hostile actors, often backed by hostile states, and the threat to our people from terrorism is ever present. These obvious threats to our interests, combined with the aftermath of a global pandemic, have left people feeling worried and vulnerable. No words, only action will assure them. The announcement of steady annual increases in defence spending and reform will not only deliver the security Britian needs, but also resilience and growth. This will mean an extra £75 billion over the next six years. This will confirm our place as the biggest defence power in Europe, and second only to the USA in NATO. It gives our armed forces and the industries that support them the certainty they need to deliver the capabilities required.

Strength is a choice. It is a choice the Prime Minister has made.