By Claudia Webbe MP
On 23rd March 2020, the day Britain started its ‘lockdown’ due to Coronavirus, UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ appealed for a global ceasefire amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In a powerful statement he said “The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war.”
On my first appearance (see here), I questioned former US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power on my firm belief that such a global ceasefire is necessary during the current global coronavirus crisis.
This would create the conditions for the delivery of lifesaving aid and to bring hope to war-torn places that are among the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as it spreads to new parts of Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.
As part of this campaigning effort, a cross-party group of MPs recently wrote (see here) to the Secretary of State for Defence demanding action towards a Global Ceasefire, and it is important we keep up campaigning pressure on this issue.
Dominic Raab pledged that the UK was backing the ceasefire on 19th April but amongst peace campaigners there is great concern that little action seems to have been taken in this direction.
in mid-April it was revealed that BAE Systems was still flying supplies and equipment to assist the Saudi operations, and in early May the coalition launched over 100 air strikes on Yemen.
Additionally, some have even called for an increase in military spending during this crisis.
To take one example, former General Sir Peter Wall recently made calls for huge increases in the military budget, arguing that an increase is needed to prove “from America’s perspective that Britain has the resources to make it a credible player on the world stage and a worthwhile ally.”
This shows you that for all the Tory rhetoric about “taking back control,” large parts of the British political, military and economic establishment are actually committed to even further outsourcing our foreign policy and security to the increasingly erratic and reactionary Trump administration.
This seems to be the case no matter how much it costs the taxpayer and with little concern about what those resources may be better spent on.
Surely this crisis has shown how other threats to our security (such as pandemics) have actually been under-prioritised by the British Government?
The reality is that Britain already has the sixth biggest defence budget in the world and it is the fourth largest area of government spending, meaning that s 5p in every tax pound is going towards the military. To put it in a very much relevant context, this is equivalent to just under one third of total health spending.
Furthermore, the military budget has increased in recent years both in absolute terms and relative to GDP. The Tories have also committed to raising the military budget by 0.5% above inflation annually during this parliament.
Looking at these issues in detail, a recent audit of British military activity and spending comparing it to spending required to stave off the current crisis. It found that “the obscene financial cost of war is starkly apparent, and the redeployment of tax-payers money has never been more urgent.”
As part of demanding our Government fully takes part in the Global Ceasefire we should demand that the government draw up a plan to withdraw troops from war zones and reconsider this recent hike in the military budget.
People and health should come before profit and war.
- You can sign the Stop the War Coalition have petition here to encourage the British government to act on the call for a global ceasfire.
- Claudia Webbe is the MP for Leicester East. Follow her at https://www.facebook.com/claudiaforLE/ and https://twitter.com/ClaudiaWebbe
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