When I was about 17 years old I was a member of the Peace Pledge Union, which means that it was possible that at 18 I was still both a declared pacifist and a member of the RAF. Perhaps I had taken very seriously the concept that our armed forces were indeed peacekeepers. I only mention this because I feel for Jeremy Corbyn, having to equate his obvious pacifism with his role as leader of the Labour Party, where he is expected to defend things he doesn’t really like, such as the military. But he’s missing a trick. This thought was inspired by the news announced yesterday (post parliamentary recess) that the RAF is to close more bases.
Two of these, RAF Linton on Ouse and RAF Scampton are in my region (if Scampton in Lincolnshire can be given that appellation). These are training bases, which means that they probably employ more BAE staff than ‘light blues.’ Between them they employ up to 1,000 people – in well paid jobs. I’ve never quite understood why the closure of military bases in rural areas hasn’t aroused the ire or campaigns that followed the closure of coal mines. But the impact on these local communities must be similar to the pit closures of the 1980s.
The closures are all about making savings apparently. The figure of £3 billion has been reported, so I guess bases further afield – what’s left of them – will be closed too. But compared to that, where are the savings being exacted on the Trident replacement programme, the cost of which already exceeds £3 billion and in the next 30 years will cost us many tens of billions? If I were Jeremy, I would see this as an opportunity – paying for something of wholly dubious merit is weakening our armed forces – we’ll end up with four subs we’ll never use and which have no strategic merit, and in order to pay for them all the rest is being denuded of capability. Jeremy’s summer campaigning should include him being seen with the conventional forces which have such a resonance with the public. This would show up the Tory tossers who represent these rural areas for what they are. Here’s two examples.
The Tory MP for Linton on Ouse is the estate agent Kevin (fracking’s good for you) Hollinrake. His website has this gut-wrenching statement:
I am saddened at today’s announcement of the closure of RAF Linton-on-Ouse. The RAF has confirmed that it would vacate Linton-on-Ouse by 2020 with pilot training being transferred to RAF Valley on Anglesey. I have been aware of the threat for some time and have held a number of meetings with the Defence Secretary, Ministers and senior Defence Staff to try to prevent closure, sadly to no avail.
The base has over 80 years of proud history, not least during World War II when its planes, pilots and aircrew took off for highly-dangerous long-distance bombing raids on Germany, Norway and other Axis military bases in Europe.
My thoughts are with the many staff and their families who have been based there over the last eight decades, and particularly the 300 service personnel and their families who work there today.
I am working closely with Hambleton District Council to make the best of the opportunities ahead.
Some people might say ‘what a wanker’ but I wouldn’t stoop to such abuse. The fact is he supports the closure, because he supports the government in everything it does.
Who represents RAF Scampton? None other than the permanently red-faced Mr Angry, Edward Leigh. He said (from his website):
I am saddened by news from the Ministry of Defence that RAF Scampton is to be sold off as part of cost-saving measures.
The base is home to the world-famous RAF Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows, the Mobile Meteorological Unit and No. 1 Air Control Centre. With over six-hundred personnel working on the base, including service personnel, contractors and civil servants, the planned closure will have a significant impact on local people and economy.
He’s saddened too! Some people I might suggest would call him a wanker as well, but there’s no place in this blog for such abuse, because we know, like Kev, he’s going to raise his little finger to do all he can to turn this catastrophe for 600 employees into a marvellous opportunity! And given Lincolnshire’s dire agricultural employment predicament after Brexit, no doubt some of those aircraft engineers, etc. will be able to turn their hands to tattie riddlin. Leigh is a vocal Brexiter so he knows all about what it’s like to get potatoes out of the ground whilst being paid peanuts for the privilege.
Labour should show its mettle and back our armed forces with full-throated enthusiasm – that would go a long way to neutralise the perception that Trident is all that matters in ‘defence.’
The Jewish Chronicle has reported that Margaret Hodge didn’t contain her outburst on anti-Semitism just to Jeremy Corbyn, but turned on Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton too. I was Fabian’s election agent in 1997, when he was first elected. He is Jewish and a member of Labour’s shadow ministerial team. As reported, one gets the impression that Hodge thought Fabian should resign from Corbyn’s team because he’s Jewish – the only one in said team. Now if I’d suggested that, it could easily be judged anti-Semitic. Why shouldn’t any other member of the team be asked to resign? Why just him? Fabian has come in for some stick locally for suggesting that there’s some ‘hysteria’ developing around this ‘row.’ Who’s whipping it up?