As the vaccine rollout in our area continues apace – with over half of adults in Somerset having now received a vaccine - the tragedies attendant on COVID are now slowing. But as we emerge, blinking, into a post-Covid world, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the very real external threats our country continues to face.
Much of our focus over the last year has been on those NHS and care staff who’ve kept us safe amidst unprecedented pressure - no-one will ever forget the heroic role they’ve played in first mitigating, and then pushing back the ravages of COVID-19.
But alongside that domestic resilience, it’s important to remember the vital role our military play in keeping us safe. And I’ve been delighted by the Government’s determination to meet our NATO obligation – hitting not merely the 2% of GDP spending level, but increasing the defence budget by at least 0.5% above inflation for every year of this Parliament (representing an extra £24.1 billion over the next four years).
And as the Government embarks on a new Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), we’re going to see the need for our defences to keep pace with the metamorphosing threats posed by our adversaries. And that may lead to the necessity for discomforting decisions to be made – ensuring that our spending on each branch of the services is proportionate to their utility in keeping the country, its citizens and its values safe.
In 1926, Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig scoffed at the mushrooming use of mechanisation in warfare, prophesying that “as time goes on, [we] will find as much use for the…well-bred horse” as in the past.
And since the last review in 2015, we’ve seen drone technologies advance at a frightening rate, cyber-warfare normalised as a means of applying pressure on a state-to-state level and proxy wars continue to rage.
This global pandemic has not acted as the proverbial common enemy, pulling humanity together and smoothing out differences. Instead, it has, in many areas, deepened divisions, entrenched suspicions and provided a rationale for oppression of a type that would usually be unthinkable.
We owe our troops an enormous debt of gratitude for continuing to keep us safe. And there’s no better requital for their sacrifice than to ensure they’re given the appropriate tools to do exactly that.