HMS Elizabeth: A Jingoistic Symbol of Yet More War
It is time that we question whether such grandiose projects really address the threats to national security or actually increase them
‘Spectacular’, ‘mighty’, ‘astonishing’ – just a few of the many drooling adjectives used to describe HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Navy’s ‘newest and biggest’ ship which berthed in Portsmouth this morning. At a time when public services have been decimated by cuts you might have expected that there would be greater scrutiny over the construction of a £3 billion-pound warship, but no, the press were falling over themselves to praise it.
It was not just the usual tabloid press you would expect to be fawning over Britain’s ‘most advanced warship ever’. Every single mainstream newspaper and media outlet seemed to gush over what some of them have nicknamed, somewhat humorously, ‘Big Liz’. Every inch of text dedicated to the ship read like a regurgitated Royal Navy press release.
Articles from the Daily Star to the Guardian were full of classic jingoistic clichés about ‘well-wishers’ being ‘treated’ to demonstrations of aircraft which made Britain ‘ready for war’. This should really come as no surprise considering our armed forces are currently engaged in at least seven military conflicts around the globe from Afghanistan to Libya - but it should certainly be of upmost concern for a war-weary British public.
There was little mention in any of the reports of two noteworthy stories surrounding the vessel. Firstly, despite the nationalistic fanfare, the first operational deployment of Queen Elizabeth will actually be flying American F-35’s. It is quite unbelievable that the British public is being forced to subsidise the abundant US military and this raises serious questions over our military independence. Secondly, on the eve of the unveiling, an amateur drone enthusiast managed to fly a £300 drone onto the deck of the ship. With drones increasingly becoming the military aircraft of choice for all sides, it is unfathomable that such an expensive ship does not have defences against such transgressions. If it is as state-of-the-art as we are led to believe how could it be breached this easily by a member of the public?
Today’s grand opening ceremony, which included a champagne breakfast for military top brass, is just one in a series of unveilings from the Royal Navy marking Britain’s expanding naval presence across the globe. In January, it was announced that five British ships will be permanently stationed in Bahrain at the re-established HMS Juffair, which was first opened in 1935. Bahrain was recently described by Amnesty International as a country 'heading for total suppression of human rights’. Another recent announcement concerned a new deal of approximately £107m with BAE Systems and Babcock for ‘more than 10,000 different types of consumable items’.
Incidentally, those two companies (alongside another arms giant in Thales) were two of the three major benefactors of the £3 billion-pound worth of taxpayer’s money that funded ‘Big Lizzie’. It seems that time and time again these same monoliths of murder receive gigantic contracts for such projects with little public scrutiny and even less analysis of whether they are necessary.
Sixteen years into the so-called ‘War on Terror’, war and terrorism continue to flourish in line with the profits of those very same companies. It is time that we question whether such grandiose projects really address the threats to our national security or whether they actually increase them. This is something that Jeremy Corbyn acknowledged in the recent election campaign:
“Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services, have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries and terrorism here at home”
Unfortunately, contrary to Corbyn’s wise message - which the British public also agree with - what HMS Queen Elizabeth and a new base in Bahrain signal is a foreign policy of 'more of the same'. Aircraft carriers are tools of offensive war and HMS Queen Elizabeth will be of no use in dealing with the security threats that we do face.
Though the warship will not be in service until 2020 it was used to relaunch Theresa May’s return to the public spotlight. Highlighting her determination to ‘remain a fully engaged global power’ she may have been wiser to set her sights slightly closer to shore if she wishes to ever regain her almost absent credibility.
Whilst the Conservatives have continually increased military spending throughout their time in government they have also made unprecedented cuts to local services, something the people of Portsmouth know all too well. In December of last year, the city’s Tory council decided to enforce plans to cut council budgets by a further nine-million pound, with the cuts directly falling on adult social care and homelessness services. As this extortionate beacon of war docks on its shores the sense of outrage at such cuts will be even more acute.
Adding to the jingoistic rhetoric surrounding today’s ceremony Admiral Sir Philip Jones, the head of the Royal Navy, was quoted saying:
“In the years and decades to come, she and her sister ship will demonstrate the kind of nation we are – not a diminished nation, withdrawing from the world, but a confident, outward-looking and ambitious nation, with a Royal Navy to match.”
The last sixteen years of 'outward looking', 'ambitious' foreign policy have been disastrous. It is time for a change.