[A few days after I wrote this blog it became clear that Gavin’s criticism of China which is referred to at the end of this blog had led to the Chinese nation terminating talks with Gavin’s colleagues about free trade with us which are supposed to be a way of us replacing the trade deals we have with the EU. The information regarding this is published in this article entitled “China cancels trade talks with UK in protest over Defence Secretary Williamson’s speech”] According to Gavin Williamson, speaking yesterday on the theme of Defence in Global Britain we are the fifth largest economy in the World. This is clearly at odds with most credible assessments of our economy which suggest we are the sixth or seventh largest economy as a result of growth in both India and France. Even if he is right and the rest of the economic assessors are wrong, it was not a helpful element to raise when he was speaking about our role in the context of “important to start off by asking the question why do we fight? It is fundamentally, to protect our people, protect our interests, and, of course, to defend Britain.”
Now of course a great many people would argue that protecting our people and defending our nation will be achieved not by fighting but by building alliances, the sort of alliance that our people have just by a slim majority voted to leave. Indeed Gavin referred to alliances after he had referred to fighting. “in such an uncertain age, like-minded nations must come together to increase their own security”. In the light of this it is surely vital that Gavin and his colleagues review their plans because leaving the EU will clearly take us further away from nations who we already share values with. Later on in his speech he got very confused (or was being dishonest) when he stated “As a nation, we’ve never shied away from acting even if that has meant standing alone as we did in the darkest hours of the Second World War” Now it is clear that on many occasions we have certainly shied away from acting on behalf of weak people such as the wars in Yemen and Syria, but the idea that we stood alone during World War 1 or WW2 is a terrible misunderstanding. Our alliances during the two World Wars involved a significant number of European as well as Commonwealth nations and we perhaps need to reconsider such issues in the light of the speech he made. Instead of planning to leave the EU with all of the challenges that are clearly unresolved, perhaps it is time for Parliament to stand up and make a case for remaining part of a reformed EU, by identifying what a large number of those people who voted to Leave dislike and set out to reform those elements. Of course there are people of a certain age or approach who argue that Germany (or Japan) present us with challenges today, but these people cannot expect society to follow their anger, even though it is understandable.
Gavin also used his speech to argue that attacking China which he mentioned at least once and attacking Russia which he mentioned many times was the way forward but if people were invited to vote regarding wars with China or Russia this is unlikely to attract a majority, particularly as China is seen by Gavin’s party as one of the places to grow our economy and Russian people own large parts of London and some of our other cities! Although these two nations and the need for conventional warfare took up a large proportion of his speech, he also made this statement “The boundaries between peace and war are becoming blurred. Our adversaries are increasingly using cyber-attacks, subversion and information operations to challenge us and the rules-based international order. We need to bring together our strategic capabilities. We need to integrate them more effectively and a greater agility to meet the demands of this increasingly contested environment.” It is clear that such a comment needs to challenged. In one sense the boundaries between peace and war have always been blurred throughout our human history as demonstrated by the actions of Lord Haw Haw during World War 2 or the behaviour of Delilah in her attack on Samson at the beginning of history! It is certainly true that we need our nations strategic capabilities to be enforced, but this will not take place unless we can resolve some of the issues that his Cabinet and Party seem to have got into difficulty over in the last 32 months.