Our feeble response to Iranian hostility stems from decades of government neglect

That the next Prime Minister will start his term in crisis is beyond question. But how ironic if the bigger emergency turned out to be not Brexit but another war in the Gulf. The past few days have had a surreal air to them. A foreign power has kidnapped a British-registered oil tanker and its crew in broad daylight. And yet still as a nation we seem more obsessed by what our likely Prime Minister-to-be got up to at Oxford 35 years ago…

Iran has little reason to quake. The Foreign Secretary’s response sums it up: don’t worry, he told us, there were no Britons among the Stena Impero’s 23 crew. So that’s alright then – foreign powers are welcome to seize British boats so long as we have outsourced their crewing to the Philippines.

The government has responded feebly to Iran’s hostile act because it knows it doesn’t have the firepower properly to respond. There was plenty of warning – Iran had already tried to seize another tanker, the Heritage, an attempt happily thwarted because we happened to have a frigate, the Montrose, close by. But the Montrose is the only naval boat we have in the Gulf. It can’t be everywhere. Just one extra frigate would allow us to operate convoys. But we can’t spare one…

We have ended in this position for a very simple reason.  It is politically much easier for governments to cut defence spending than it is to trim health, education and social budgets.  Who even notices, still less cares, if another frigate gets sent off to the knacker’s yard and is not replaced? Yet close a hospital, or reduce nursery places, and the sky will fall in for the politicians involved. Hence defence spending as a proportion of GDP has quietly slumped from six percent in the 1950s to two percent today. 

Read The Full Article At The Daily Telegraph