Tag Archives: defence

Will Sunak’s Latest Reset Work?

GK Associate Hugo Tuckett examines the Prime Minister’s recent speech at Policy Exchange and whether he can address the Conservative Party’s declining fortunes.

Rishi Sunak turns his attention to security in bid to tackle Labour’s poll lead.

Following a dismal set of local election results and the high-profile defection of Dover MP Natalie Elphicke to Labour, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has attempted to reset the political agenda. He used his latest relaunch at Policy Exchange, a Conservative-friendly think tank, to portray himself as the best leader to guide the country through what he described as the “dangerous and transformational” years ahead.

References were made throughout to ensuring the UK’s security in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. It was also telling that Sunak made a pitch to voters on the opportunities presented by artificial intelligence – an area where he will feel comfortable promoting his tech credentials against the Labour leader Keir Starmer, who is 17 years his senior.

It is not unusual for incumbent (and unpopular) governments to paint opposition parties as inexperienced and incapable at a time of potential national peril. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown famously argued “this is no time for a novice” in the wake of the 2008 financial crash amid David Cameron’s growing popularity. However, to go for this tactic right at the start of a general election campaign does suggest Sunak’s No.10 operation is running out of levers to pull to tackle Starmer’s seemingly unassailable lead in the polls.

Sunak’s pivot into security marks a clear distinction from his previous attempts to put the Conservatives on the path to election victory. At the 2023 Conservative Party Conference, he tried to paint himself as the change candidate and separate himself from the then 13 years of Conservative rule. Sunak was subsequently forced to adopt a continuity-focused strategy and defend the Conservatives’ record in office following David Cameron’s return as Foreign Secretary later that year.

The extent to which Sunak’s latest reset will work will depend on whether the electorate is still listening. The Conservative Party can highlight its commitment to raise defence spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2030, a pledge yet to be matched by Labour, who have adopted the looser definition of meeting the 2.5% figure “as soon as resources allow.” However, with Labour so far ahead in the polls and three changes of tack in less than a year, it does raise the prospect that the Prime Minister is trying to engage an electorate which is simply no longer interested in what the Conservatives have to offer.

Underfunded & Underprepared: Is Britain’s Defence Broken?

GK Adviser Felix Griffin dives into the challenges facing the MoD, from funding shortfalls to sluggish decision-making, and explores potential paths forward.

Incoherent strategy and a lack of funding is hampering progress

The UK’s Ministry of Defence finds itself grappling with a yawning funding gap, a rapidly evolving global landscape demanding a more responsive military, and an uncertain political landscape.

The biggest hurdle? Money – not just the lack of it but also how its spent.

Having fallen down the pecking order in the Chancellor’s recent budget, defence spending is set to receive no additional funding under the current government’s remaining tenure.

Meanwhile rising costs, particularly in nuclear deterrence and ambitious naval programmes, have created a staggering £16.9 billion hole in the MoD’s Equipment Plan – a shortfall which effectively handcuffs the MoD’s ability to modernise its equipment and carry out crucial projects necessary to maintain a robust defence posture.

There’s more to this than just money. Recent warnings highlight long-standing and systemic inventory failures in all three categories of inventory across the UK armed forces: Capital Spares, Raw Material and Consumables, and Guided Weapons, Missiles and Bombs. This raises a critical question: even with increased funding, would the UK be able to effectively equip its armed forces? The current evidence suggests not, presenting a deeper problem that needs addressing.

These issues point not only to a lack of innovation in procurement and strategic thinking, but also to sluggish decision-making processes that hinder the MoD’s ability to react swiftly to emerging threats.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps’s stark assessment of the current situation – a transition from a “post-war world into a pre-war world” – rings all too true. The war in Ukraine serves as a stark reminder of the impact of large-scale conflict in Europe, while regional instability in the Middle East and the ever-growing tensions in the Asia-Pacific all demand a more agile and capable military from the UK. These diverse threats, which are by no means an exhaustive list, require a comprehensive and adaptable defence strategy from the MoD; something which the most recent Integrated Review (2021) failed to deliver, even after it was refreshed in 2023.

With the possibility of a new Labour government becoming increasingly likely, the party’s stance on defence policy and spending adds another layer of uncertainty.

I attended a Policy Exchange event on 28 February, which saw Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, John Healey, articulate his party’s vision for national defence. While recognising outdated practices and the imperative to modernise, Labour’s defence plans appear largely underdeveloped, or at least under-communicated.

Despite outlining some interesting plans, including a new national armaments director and the enhancement of the Chief of Defence Staff’s role, Healey’s speech fell victim to his party’s commitment to fiscal prudence, lacking significant substance and ambition. Though highlighting the state of defence when Labour left in 2010, with comparatively higher levels of defence spending (2.5% of GDP), as well as better troop numbers and satisfaction (over 100,000 soldiers and 60% approval), Healey emphasised the need to streamline existing processes before making financial commitments, underscoring a cautious approach. Nevertheless, Labour’s emphasis on reform and strategic preparedness offers a glimpse into their aspirations for bolstering the nation’s security in an increasingly uncertain world.

Artificial Intelligence: ‘The Future of Defence Capability’