Cap’n Boris was in Nelson mode, but Keir Starmer couldn’t tell a blunderbuss from a bayonet: HENRY DEEDES watches Prime Minister unveil his defence spending plans
Parp the horns, Cap’n. Bandmaster, a soaring rendition of Rule, Britannia! if you’d be so kind. Boris Johnson had suddenly come over all Admiral Lord Nelson.
The Prime Minister was informing the Commons of his plans for the biggest defence splurge in 30 years. An extra 16.5billion big ones for our armed forces over the next four years. Whoa. Quite a few hand grenades that.
Once again, he was appearing via video link from the Downing Street bridge. Lots of boosterish talk about how he was going to beef up Britain’s military might. All very ‘Dear Leader’.
At the heart of the PM’s plan was a ploy to regain our domination of the high seas or, as he put it, ‘restore Britain’s position as the foremost naval power in Europe’. Fists double clenched, he added: ‘If there was one policy which strengthens the UK in every possible sense, it is building more ships for the Royal Navy.’
The Prime Minister informed the Commons of his plans for the biggest defence splurge in 30 years
Down on deck, backbench Tory matelots growled their approval. A satisfied smile slowly creeped across Defence Secretary Ben Wallace’s face. For a moment I hoped we might get an impromptu session of sea shanties.
He’s good at these speeches, Boris. Whatever our woes, he makes the future sound exciting. We heard about rockets and ‘inexhaustible lasers’ which would which render the phrase ‘out of ammunition’ redundant. Star Wars stuff.
Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer misjudged the mood. Like that scene in Bridget Jones’s Diary when she arrives for tea in a Playboy bunny outfit, he’d come to the wrong party. He claimed the PM’s review was ‘without strategy’. Sir Keir, I would wager, wouldn’t know a blunderbuss from a bayonet. Tossing aside the 40,000 jobs which would be created, Starmer indicated the money would have been better spent on green initiatives. All this after he’d announced blithely: ‘National security will always be Labour’s top priority’.
Boris looked ready to crawl through the television. ‘Of all the humbug…,’ he choked. He reminded us how only months ago Starmer campaigned for Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister. A crackpot who’d wanted to scrap our armed services and withdraw from Nato.
Starmer’s support for our armed forces up until now had been ‘very, very thin indeed’, said Boris. If anything, he’d more sympathy for those Leftie lawyers trying to prosecute them. ‘I don’t think I’ve heard so much phoney stuff in all the times we’ve faced each other,’ the Prime Minister snorted.
There was real vim in Boris’s response. He’d been anticipating Sir Keir’s criticism but it was a well-executed slap down all the same. As for Starmer, he’s had a poor week. That Jeremy Corbyn expulsion business, a tepid performance at PMQs and now this.
Casting aside the 40,000 jobs which would be created, Keir Starmer indicated the money would have been better spent on green initiatives
We expected sourness from SNP tellytubby Ian Blackford and naturally he didn’t disappoint. He dismissed the PM’s spending proposals as ‘vanity projects’. Scotland had no truck with weapons of mass destruction, he said. It was a peaceful nation. Anyone who’s experienced Glasgow at chucking out time on a Friday night might not necessarily agree. Boris denounced Blackford as a ‘veritable geyser of confected indignation’.
Labour MPs don’t like discussing tanks and bombs. They’d rather leave that nasty stuff to rackety organisations like the UN. Most of them concentrated on asking where the money was coming from. In particular, if it was going to affect the international aid budget.
Sarah Champion (Lab, Rotherham) got closest to extracting an answer from Boris when he told her he was ‘proud of our record’ on international aid. Yup, overseas aid is heading for a trim.
Old school Tories were delighted. Busy ex-defence minister Liam Fox said the review smacked of ‘promises kept, promises exceeded’. David Davis, once a reservist in the SAS, described it as the most intelligent defence briefing he’d seen in 25 years. Translation: Gizza job, Boris.