Campaign against military spending heats up

Government priorities questioned after huge hike in military spending

Friends are speaking out strongly against the government’s recent decision to hike military spending by £16.5 billion. In a statement to the House of Commons on 19 November, Boris Johnson committed to the significant new funds for the UK’s armed forces as part of the government’s 2020 Spending Review.

The sum amounts to a real terms increase of £24bn when combined with the already declared increase of over £7bn by 2024-25, according to the UK network for the Global Campaign on Military Spending, of which the Northern Friends Peace Board (NFPB) and Quaker Peace & Social Witness (QPSW) are members. The network called the amount ‘a staggering sum to spend on weaponry at a time when the health, care and social systems of the UK are in crisis after ten years of government imposed austerity’.

Campaigners also tweeted their objections using the hashtag #UKDefundWar, started by the UK branch of the Global Campaign on Military Spending to raise awareness of the issue.

Paul Parker, recording clerk of Britain Yearly Meeting, tweeted: ‘Increasing military spending only moves us further away from [a fairer and greener society in which every human life is sacred]. So disappointing/worrying to see such lack of imagination from UK Gov.’

The spending was also roundly condemned by peace campaigners such as Kate Hudson, from Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, who said it shows that the government is ‘completely out of touch with the real threats to Britain’s security’.

‘In the face of the climate emergency, the coronavirus pandemic, and a major economic downturn… Boris Johnson seems to have opted for a cold war tribute act.’

Andrew Smith, of Campaign Against Arms Trade, said: ‘Only a matter of days ago the government was telling us that there wasn’t enough money to feed hungry school students during the holidays, but now it has found an extra £16 billion to add to what was already one of the biggest military budgets in the world.’

Quakers in Hebden Bridge are also taking action on the issue of swords into ploughshares, linking it in particular to food security. Friend Geoff Tansey wrote for the Rethinking Security website: ‘It seems blatantly obvious that defending people’s fundamental needs cannot be achieved through devoting such huge amounts of resources to military spending.

‘It cannot defeat the Covid-19 virus. It cannot deal with the other great long-term, slower-acting threats to human security – climate change, biodiversity loss and growing inequality. It is also clear that arms spending and exports help fuel conflicts that in turn increase food insecurity.’

You need to login to read subscriber-only content and/or comment on articles.