Defence cut again
Shortly after becoming Prime MinisterMr. Callaghan invited the Chiefs of Staffto dinner at
Downing Street. Thiswould have been a good opportunity toacquaint the Chiefs with the politicalconstraints upon Defence policy, asperceived by Mr. Callaghan's Cabinet.'The party', in the words of the lateMr. Anthony Crosland, being 'over',public expenditure must be cut severely,so as to counter inflation and promoteeconomic recovery, without whichadequate Defence expenditure in thefuture could not be assured. The ever-increasing preponderance of WarsawPact armed force over NATO, whichcould no longer be seriously disputed,could not convincingly, however, bepresented to the British electorate aseither a real, or an immediate threat totheir security. An attempt to do sowould play into the hands of the Marxistminority groups who were utilising ourimperfect political process to gaincontrol of constituency Labour parties,thus undermining the capacity of thepresent Labour government to governan increasingly hard-pressed country.In short, Defence policy must takeaccount of internal, as well as externalthreats to national security; and inseeking a balanced response, the require-ments of the home front must be givenfull weight.The Chiefs of Staff would have foundthis line of reasoning difficult to refute.Their principal concern would have beento agree amongst themselves upon thenature and degree of any immediatecuts in planned Defence expenditurewhich collectively they could accept,without feeling compelled, in the bestinterests of the country, to tender theirresignations. The Government, appre-hensive as ever of left-wing pressure, nodoubt proposed further cuts. The Chiefsthen dug in their toes. They wouldexercise their formal right of directaccess to the Prime Minister, with duepublicity, to represent to him the dangersto the country of the proposed furtherDefence cuts. Resignation could be heldin reserve. The
no doubt reflects somesuch sequence of events.
Keeping the kingdom united
Those who are now advocating resortto a written Constitution in order
keep the United Kingdom united, mightwell pause to consider how well theexisting system of institutionalisedcommon sense has served us. Therelationship of the military to thepolitical authority lies near the core ofthe body politic. Clauses in a Constitu-tion, however carefully drafted, are notlikely to prove a satisfactory substitutefor a tradition of conduct tempered overcenturies in the furnace of nationalcrises. It is a tradition that makes greatdemands upon the capacity of themilitary, and particularly their leaders,who must judge when, how, and to whatextent to exert pressure upon a govern-ment which may seem to be leading thecountry into danger.
It is a besetting sin of many well-informed and expensively educated, iftrendy, Britons to accept as equally validtwo mutually exclusive propositions. As,for example, that absolute social equalityand equal opportunity for all cancoexist. Or that children can do whatthey like, and also do what they are told.Or that Marxist socialism is compatiblewith British political institutions. For-tunately, the alternation of radicalismtempered by responsibility with con-servatism tempered by humanity has so