Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins makes a provocative and persuasive argument. I say apply the same approach to corporate welfare, including agricultural subsidies.
I say cut defence. I don’t mean nibble at it or slice it. I mean cut it, all £45bn of it. George Osborne yesterday asked the nation “for once in a generation” to think the unthinkable, to offer not just percentage cuts but “whether government needs to provide certain public services at all”. What do we really get from the army, the navy and the air force beyond soldiers dying in distant wars and a tingle when the band marches by? Is the tingle worth £45bn, more than the total spent on schools? Why does Osborne “ringfence” defence when everyone knows its budget is a bankruptcy waiting to happen, when Labour ministers bought the wrong kit for wars that they insisted it fight? Osborne cannot believe the armed forces are so vital or so efficient as to be excused the star chamber’s “fundamental re-evaluation of their role”. He knows their management and procurement have long been an insult to the taxpayer. The reason for his timidity must be that, like David Cameron, he is a young man scared of old generals. […] There are many evils that threaten the British people at present, but I cannot think of one that absolutely demands £45bn to deter it. Soldiers, sailors and air crews are no protection against terrorists, who anyway are not that much of a threat. No country is an aggressor against the British state. No country would attack us were the government to put its troops into reserve and mothball its ships, tanks and planes. Let us get real. I am all for being defended, but at the present price I am entitled to ask against whom and how. Of all the public services that should justify themselves from ground zero, defence is the first.