For those with a strong interest in the defence of the realm, which should include us all, the defence sections of the various party manifestos make depressing reading. An interesting exercise, if it were possible, would be to read the relevant sections after removing all references to the party which wrote them and them sort them into order of preference. I suspect that UKIP would top the list in many cases. It could be argued that documents produced by parties with no chance of forming a government are not so much manifestos as statements of desire, but somebody in UKIP has the right idea on defence.
The main concern we should have about the documents produced by the main parties is the constant reference to the ubiquitous 2%. It should have been established by now that this arbitrary figure accepted by NATO cannot possibly be used as a benchmark for sufficient expenditure for our defence needs. Part of the reason for the severe gaps in equipment, manpower and capability is this blind faith that 2% is sufficient. It isn’t, and never will be. To adhere to any fixed percentage must be a nonsense.
In General Elections most people vote for the party which will be the best for their standard of living. Cynical possibly, but I believe it to be true. Very few, if anybody, votes for the party which has what they consider to be the best defence policy.
So, what use are manifestos? They contain commitments which the government must deliver but, essentially, they provide a foundation upon which bodies like UKNDA must continue to insist the politicians build until we have brought our armed forces back to the kind of levels we need.
Whoever wins the election there will be much work to do.