Private Pike's Fantasy Bases
The Defence Secretary's recent comments regarding foreign UK bases should ring alarm bells says Murad Qureshi
Whilst the UK is consumed with Brexit, do not lose sight of what “Global Britain” means to some in the cabinet as a route out of the mess by harking back to our imperial days. Over the Christmas break Secretary of State for Defence, Gavin Williamson, mooted the possibility of two new foreign military bases - one in the Asia Pacific and the other in the Caribbean. Not since the withdrawal of bases “East of Suez” in 1968 under Harold Wilson have we heard such rhetoric.
Since taking office in November 2017 Williamson has demonstrated a gung-ho approach which leaves even some pro-military Conservatives a little concerned. Seemingly taking a leaf out of the Donald Trump handbook he enjoys creating controversy by making puerile statements on Twitter. One stand-out soundbite came in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning when Williamson said "frankly, Russia should go away, and it should shut up". Such comments have reportedly earnt him the nickname ‘Private Pike’ – frequently referred to as "stupid boy" in the classic comedy Dad’s Army - in the House of Commons.
His latest outburst shows he won’t be reining it in any time soon. In a sneakily timed interview with the Sunday Telegraph on the 28th of December, Williamson stated in relation to the “East of Suez” declaration that “we have got to make it clear that that is a policy that has been ripped up and Britain is once again a global nation”. Alarming to say the least.
There has been a growing focus on aspects of British military presence in Asia with British warships in the South China sea, new defence dialogue with Vietnam and increasing focus on cyber security & counterterrorism with several South-East Asian states within the Five Power Defence Arrangement (Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore & the UK).
Even the Financial Times suggested that a base in either Brunei or Singapore is not the best use of professedly scarce resources that the military currently have. As for a Caribbean base, it is anyone’s guess where that may be. Monserrat? Where all human life has left the island because of volcanic activity! Who knows?
Whatever happens watch this space as we hear more of what the Tories mean by “Global Britain”.