Malcolm Dunn, a regular commenter here, congratulates Liam Fox on his mastering of the defence brief at conference.
Liam Fox has been one of our busier Shadow Cabinet Ministers at this
conference, making a series of speeches on defence both at the main
conference venue and at various fringe meetings
At all of them he highlighted the manifold failure of Gordon Brown
and our part-time secretary of state for defence both in terms of our
government defence policy and also how this country treats its members
of the armed services, ‘the covenant’.
Far from having the joined-up government we were promised he pointed
out that our foreign policy and defence policy were completely
Our foreign policy has received more from our armed services than at
any time in the past thirty years at the same time as our defence
spending has fallen to the lowest level in terms of GDP since the early
He also made clear that it was difficult for the opposition to make
detailed changes to the Ministry of Defence budget as much of the
budget is classified for reasons of national security.
that an incoming Conservative government would hold an immediate
Defence Review and that an early priority would be the reformation of
three infantry battalions which have been cut by the Labour government.
On the treatment of the men, women and families of our armed forces
Liam was absolutely damning of the record of Gordon Brown, Geoff Hoon
and Des Browne.
Liam made the very valid point that the way we treat our armed forces is "a testament to the values of our society".
Currently service families often find themselves in substandard homes,
at the bottom of waiting lists for medical services because of the
constant moves involved in service life, with inadequate medical and
psychiatric care for wounded servicemen.
Fox promised to address this in detail. He promised to introduce
military hospital wards for injured servicemen, a beefing up of
psychiatric healthcare for traumatised servicemen and as "the covenant"
should exist not only between the government and the armed services but
the nation and the armed services that service families should not be
at the bottom of any queues for public services but the top.
Ths is to happen not only because it is the right thing to do but also
because it is one way of addressing the terrible problem of retention
that is currently besetting the British Army.
Other ideas put forward included asking councils to make their leisure
services free to the families of servicemen on active uty, welcome home
parades and allowing service men and women to wear their uniforms "off
base" so that the general public can see more of the men and women for
whom we should all be so proud.
I have been a constant critic of Liam Fox over the past eighteen months
as I felt that defence has not been given the profile it should have
been given by the Conservative Party. The conference has certainly
changed my mind. Liam came across as a passionate and well informed
advocate for our our armed services who I hope one day will make an
admirable Secretary of State for Defence.