THERE is a lot at stake for Britain's Armed Forces in the forthcoming Strategic Defence Review. However, that does not justify the bidding war that is currently taking place in public. On Monday the Chief of the General Staff, General Sir David Richards, opened hostilities with a barrage on behalf of the Army's role and requirements. Yesterday the First Sea Lord, Sir Mark Stanhope, fired a broadside in support of the Navy's “hard power” and there are RAF aircraft waiting to display the unique contribution they can make to Britain's defence. This should not be happening in this way. The Army must take the main blame because it has become excessively and politically opinionated in recent years but the others should not have responded.

It is a major flaw in Britain's political system that Defence is a political rather than a bi-partisan issue. Are the differences on Defence between the two major parties so great that they cannot co-operate at all times in this area and ring-fence it from political point scoring? Of course, the needs of the Armed Forces are directly related to Britain's view of its place in the world but surely, even over foreign policy it should be possible to find common ground between the parties. Until some such collaboration is possible the heads of the three services will be inclined to calculate which party is the more likely to favour its needs and run the risk of becoming involved in political infighting.


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