Jeremy Corbyn: ‘There’s Always Money for War, but Never for Our Public Services’
Just prior to last week’s Spending Review, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced £16.5 billion over the next four years in new defence spending over the next four years, ensuring Britain’s role as Europe’s biggest military spender (and the second biggest spender in NATO) at this time of the national and international Coronavirus crisis.
This is the biggest increase in such spending in decades, and as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament have said, “In the face of the climate emergency, the coronavirus pandemic, and a major economic downturn, the Government is spending billions on weapons systems and extending sabre-rattling to outer space.”
This Tory Government has the wrong priorities – they prioritise mega profits for capital over the future of our climate, they prioritise nuclear weapons over protecting the international development budget, and now they are prioritising the projection of military power over dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
In terms of immediate priorities, many people will rightly simply not understand the Government’s decision to sharply increase the military budget during the COVID-19 health emergency.
We also mustn’t forget that at the start of this pandemic we had insufficient equipment, staff and infrastructure to control the spread of the virus and save lives.
And each week we still see more stories now – over eight months into the pandemic – of the national crisis in social care and hospitals having to cancel essential operations due to underfunding.
It seems there is always massive amounts of money to be found for wars and weapons of war but not for our essential public services including the NHS.
The Stop the War Coalition has put these sums in perspective, outlining that “£21.5 billion equates to almost twice that required to enable the current social care system to cope with expected demand and be properly staffed over the next four years, or it could provide funding to build 60 new hospitals.”
Additionally, compared with many other European countries, we are spending more on weapons and less on tackling climate change, with the recent Government pledge of £12 billion to combat climate change, paling in comparison to others.
Furthermore, this massive increase is on top of the defence annual budget of £41.5 billion – and on top of a Tory manifesto commitment for that budget to rise by 0.5% above inflation every year.
We also must demand to know if this increase in military spending will include additional spending on the Trident nuclear weapons system, the renewal of which is already a colossal waste of resources which could be better spent elsewhere.
If this is the case, it must be challenged. As CND’s recent report argues in detail, the huge security challenges and crises of our time – so exposed during this Covid-19 pandemic – the reality is that nuclear weapons can never keep us safe and our security would actually be best served by scrapping Trident.
It is also important to note that – contrary to some of the spin in parts of the Tory-supporting media – much of this money will be spent on increasing Britain’s offensive military capacity.
With regards to offensive military capacity, there is also much concern amongst peace campaigners about the announcement of a new ‘space command’ as part of the MoD funding package, which appears to be about following the US lead in terms of the militarisation of space, which would have deeply dangerous international consequences.
A new arms race based on using new technologies as the basis of potential weapons of mass destruction – in space or otherwise – offers no hope for humanity.
Instead we need to be prioritising dialogue to reduce international tensions, and working together to solve the great crises of our time, which are also threats to our security.
Poverty, human rights abuses, environmental destruction and disease are all security threats, yet neither the Government here or the international community are putting enough resources into tackling them.
And now the British Government has taken the disgraceful decision to cut international development spending in last week’s Spending Review, which hamper international efforts to tackle these threats and make us all less secure.
This decision feels like it is more about Boris Johnson appeasing his followers on the right of the Tory party and in the right-wing media than it is about our security or what is best for Britain.
We must then raise our collective voice for change. Internationally, this means those of us campaigning for peace and disarmament must use the 2021 review of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as an opportunity to push our demands back up the agenda.
Here in Britain the next strategic defence and security review is due this year, and we need to argue for an end to wasteful spending on nuclear weapons, through defence diversification and with greater public procurement in Britain to protect jobs and industries.
Let us build up the public pressure for a change of priorities – and put our planet plus people’s health and livelihood first.Published on December 2 2020 at https://tribunemag.co.uk/2020/12/jeremy-corbyn-theres-always-money-for-war-never-for-our-public-services