The British parliamentary election 2015 offered us with an interesting case study about a general election in which state security did not figure as an election issue at all. Anyone who followed this election, whether British or not, should have noted this peculiar phenomenon. Basically, the British people failed to have any constructive debate about the size, composition, function, and future of its armed forces and constabularies. Even at the more conceptual level preferred by politicians while campaigning (i.e. those magnanimous pronouncements that sound good but mean little), it was impossible to identify a single soundbite hinting at the scope and scale of UK state security over the next few years. This is indeed a bewildering issue, not to mention an abandonment of one of the tenets justifying the very existence of the modern state and democracy.
Common sense would dictate that to any average politician willing to become a Prime Minister (or President) the thousands of votes originating in uniformed personnel and civilians working in defense and police-related areas would matter. Yet, think again, as these people’s voices were simply ignored. Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.
You might ask yourself, what the relevance of debating the future of the armed and police forces was. In simple terms, by not debating the issue any party winning the election and forming a government has been granted a blank check from the electorate regarding state security. A compromise, a social contract with the British people, was never outlined. Is that what the British people want? The answer is no, but this is what just happened.
To add some context to the issue, perhaps it is pertinent to bring to the forefront some security concerns that should have been at least mentioned during the campaign, but were not.
- At the international level, we must remember that the UK is one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the other ones are China, France, the Russian Federation, and the United States). The UNSC’s primary role is to ensure the maintenance of international peace and security. The unwillingness of the key party leaders (David Cameron and Ed Miliband) to discuss UK state security and its projection abroad during the 2015 campaign has undermined this historical and critical role. Even if David Cameron and Ed Miliband (or the other party leaders) intend to neglect this role, they have the moral obligation to express their intentions to the British people and key NATO partners. The UK used to punch above its weight. Over the last five years, however, it seems that the UK is running on fumes and only willing to play a marginal global security role.
- The mushrooming of the ISIS (The Islamic State) terror movement currently poses the greatest threat to global security, and national security in the UK. Many of the young people who have been recruited by ISIS were born, have lived, or have links to the UK. Understandably, the current UK threat level for international terrorism is SEVERE, as well as the current threat level for Northern Ireland-related terrorism. By severe, it is meant that ‘a terrorist attack is highly likely.’ Would that not be enough to force a frank debate between politicians and the British people about the scale and scope of defense, homeland security, and law enforcement ? Peculiarly, the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) and its leader Nicola Sturgeon were approached by David Cameron and Ed Miliband (and various English newspapers) as a threat to the stability of the country, i.e. in lieu of dealing with real security problems and threats.
- The big elephant in the room is that the policies of PM David Cameron and the Conservative party have practically turned the British Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force into simply ceremonial forces. The onslaught has continued unabated since we wrote about these ‘Shrinking Forces in an Age of Uncertainty.’ How can you continue to play a role as a permanent UNSC member or a key NATO partner with such minuscule forces? How can you proactively deal with the raised terror threat when the UK government continues to slash policing budgets with no coherent justification for it? How can you creatively orchestrate a cyber-security strategy when the director of GCHQ wants the social media giants to do the cyber-policing job on GCHQ’s behalf? What role the private security and the private military industries should play to compensate for the growing gaps in the UK security apparatus?
Many more questions come to mind. However, this is a fruitless exercise, as the UK general election has left us behind without any opportunity to debate these and many other highly relevant security concerns. Hence, the UK general election 2015 campaign was about the future of the British state, but without any vision of state security. This has set a dangerous precedent that we will all learn to regret sooner than later.