Conservative Diary

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The next Conservative government must rebuild our armed forces

The leader writers at the Daily Mail complain that both Gordon Brown and David Cameron issued tributes to Michael Jackson:

"Was it really necessary for Mr Brown and David Cameron to issue tributes, and for the BBC (one of whose TV reporters in LA donned a black tie) to indulge in such besotted coverage as on the Today programme, where Wacko Jacko's 'genius' was compared to that of Mozart and Beethoven? Truly, we live in a world which no longer discerns between those who achieve fame, and the few who are genuinely touched by lasting greatness."

I don't actually think there was anything wrong with the Tory leader's simple statement.  You can be sure that many would have been more unhappy in this 'age of Diana' if he had stayed silent (as this website did!).

Today, however, we pay tribute to people who really are heroes.  It's Armed Forces Day and on Platform Adrian Blair calls for much better medical and psychiatric care for our veterans.

Liam Fox and David Cameron have both campaigned for a renewal of Britain's military covenant and that is to be welcomed.  Too many soldiers return from service overseas to inadequate healthcare.  Too many young soldiers live in substandard accommodation.  Too many service families get poor education because of the schools system's failure to account for their circumstances.

None of these problems will be adequately addressed if the Tory government cuts the UK defence budget in a disproportionate way after the next election although that is exactly what is going to happen if the NHS - which has been showered with cash in recent years - is protected from spending restraint.  Time and again when we survey Tory members we find that they believe that our armed forces should be at the front of the queue when it comes to public spending.  They are right and - although MoD procurement needs to be overhauled - the Conservative leadership needs to listen to them.

Brown and Blair sent our armed forces to war on a peacetime budget (as the Chief of the General Defence Staff conceded this week) and the consequences of that have been personally disastrous for many of our under-equipped servicemen and internationally our reputation as a military power has also been damaged.

Defence of the Realm is the first priority of any government and it should be natural and instinctive for a Conservative government.

Tim Montgomerie

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