The coalition government of centre-right Conservatives and more centre-left Liberal Democrats that emerged from Britain’s general election on 6 May 2010 soon pledged itself both to severe cuts in public expenditure and a major review of the country’s defence posture. Now, four months after the election, both issues are colliding with a vengeance.
The outcome of the “strategic defence and security review”, announced by the ministry of defence in July 2009 and now well underway, promises to be very painful for the country’s armed forces. But how does the immediate political concern with money-saving relate to the larger security questions that are at stake in considering Britain’s long-term future as a country and as part of a global community?
Before the election, both the then Labour government and the Conservative Party sought to address the United Kingdom's long-term security concerns in respective “green papers”; each document reflected current thinking by addressing climate change and related issues. Labour’s paper went further in its global analysis (see "Britain, let's talk about security", 9 May 2010); but there was a shared acceptance that the world was entering a more fragile and uncertain era where global warming and the exclusion of many millions of people from sustainable economic life were becoming drivers of insecurity (see "A world on the margin", 20 May 2010).
The conclusion drawn from this welcome awareness, however, was that keeping Britain secure in such circumstances could best be guaranteed by consolidated military projects (and sustaining alliances such as Nato); a real focus on preventing or containing the problems in the first place was absent.