Dan was called to ask the Prime Minister a question on Wednesday but there was plenty of preparation and thought that went into it.
I knew as I travelled down from Barnsley on Sunday evening, that this week was always going to be busy. It started with a fantastic visit to Colegrave Primary School in the Olympic Borough of Newham. I was visiting as part of the Newham-Barnsley Partnership and was treated to a guided tour of the children’s art and design work and a small video presentation. It was my first visit to a school outside of Barnsley and I would like to thank Headteacher Christine Alexander and Deputy Head, Katie Parks, for their efforts in putting together a great event.
Once I got back to the cut and thrust of the Westminster bubble my staff and I began planning our approach to how we would take on the government on the issue of the SDSR. We decided the best way to tackle the problem was to take on the Prime Minister head on at PMQ’s today.
The Strategic Defence and Security Review is an area I care deeply about. Firstly because I am a British citizen, proud of our country and I have a vision for where I see the nation in the future. Secondly, because I am an ex-soldier with friends in the military and I have a vested interest in their future and the way that they are treated.
That is why I felt it was both right and important, to use my first question to the Prime Minister to ask him, not to review the entire SDSR, but to order a new chapter to be added. To ignore the Arab Spring and simply carry on as if it never happened is dangerous and morally wrong.
The Prime Minister’s comment that the Defence Chiefs should “do the fighting and I’ll do the talking,” summed up his arrogance and total lack of humility. At this time of cuts, at this time when soldiers are being made redundant when they are on active service in Afghanistan and Libya, what we they do not need to be hearing, is the Prime Minister’s message that you can serve but cannot be heard.
Morale in the Armed Forces is at the lowest I have ever known. I have it on very good authority that 105 Colonels have applied for just 25 redundancy places. People wanting to leave the armed forces because of a lack of vision, capability and desire from political leaders to engage with military leaders in constructive dialogue, is having a damning impact.
We have to address this. If we don’t, Britain’s role in the world is under threat. That will be Cameron’s legacy and our children’s burden.
This is a fight that Ed, Jim, the Labour Party and I will continue to fight, week in, week out. As I said in my question, “those who serve are the lions of our country and we must always do what we can to repay their debt.” I have no intention of giving up this fight.