The Tories are failing our British military - it no longer values or supports them' - William Clouston

Rishi Sunak speaks with soldiers

'Homelessness of military veterans is a scandal,' says William Clouston

PA
William Clouston

By William Clouston


Published: 15/06/2024

- 12:00

William Clouston is the leader of the Social Democratic Party

Yesterday's D-Day commemorations were a poignant reminder of how much we owe to Britain's military heroes. The airmen, seamen and troops who took part in the historic Normandy landings knew what they were doing.

They bravely and selflessly put their lives on the line to defeat the evils of Nazism. Many fell on that day and many more suffered injury. If you listen to veterans' accounts, you'll realise that warfare is chaotic and hellish - but sometimes necessary. Many of the heroes of 80 years ago said very little about their experiences after the war preferring, instead, to build their lives and pass over the war in silence. Understandable.



Events in Normandy bring to mind the question of how modern Britain views its military and veterans of more recent conflicts. Sadly, things are not as they should be.

To many people the British military is a source of pride and a symbol of national competence. In a state with many government institutions struggling to perform basic tasks the professional excellence of our armed forces stands out. We rightly look up to it. But do we reciprocate? Do we properly support the Army, Navy and Air Force - as well as its personnel and veterans? I think not. Let's examine the evidence...


Despite the UK being a key pillar in NATO's defence structure, successive governments have starved our military of resources. In 2023/24 total defence spending stood at £54.2bn equating to about 2.3% of GDP.

While this marginally exceeds the NATO spending target of 2% of GDP - a better position than many European NATO members - it is inadequate given the threats Britain now faces in an increasingly unstable world.

Britain is now very exposed. We have two large Queen Elizabeth aircraft carriers but, absurdly, we lack the accompanying surface vessels to protect them in any serious air carrier fleet operation. Our army is perishingly small. It now comprises just over 75,000 full-time personnel and is struggling to sign up new recruits and a preoccupation with 'diversity targets' is unlikely to help this situation.

In fact, the feeling among many of the white working classes - historically the very backbone of the British military - is that the country's establishment no longer values them and actually holds them in contempt. In such circumstances - why would you sign up?

LATEST OPINION:

Homelessness among ex-servicemen and military veterans is yet another scandal. There can't be a major town or city throughout the land which is free from ex-army men homeless and sleeping on their streets.

What grates among patriotic voters is that our government seems to find literally billions of pounds to house illegal migrants who have not paid a penny into our social system and yet allows veterans of recent armed conflicts go without a roof over their heads and a hot meal in the evening.

I believe successive governments response to the military is yet another example of where our elite progressive ruling class is completely out of touch with popular sentiment.

There is a way to correct such a misalignment... it's called a general election and I urge voters to think hard, back Britain's military and vote accordingly.

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