Peace group slams Jeremy Hunt’s ‘sickening’ scheme to increase defence spending

Jeremy Hunt
Fréa Lockley

A leading UK-based pacifist group has slammed foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt’s scheme to increase the UK’s defence budget, highlighting in particular his “sickening” hypocrisy.

Hunt’s speech is a kick in the teeth”

In a speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in London, Hunt called for the UK to increase its defence spending after Brexit. According to Hunt, since the Cold War, threats facing the UK have changed “markedly”. As the BBC reported, Hunt said:

it was “not sustainable” to expect the US to spend 4% of its GDP on defence while other Nato allies spent between 1% and 2%.

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The foreign secretary thus argued that the UK “should decisively increase the proportion of GDP we devote to defence”. This could cost “tens of billions”.

A press release from the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) said Hunt justified increased military spending with promises to “our great ally”, the US government. Hunt insisted that the US won’t be left to defend “democratic values” alone. But according to the PPU, Hunt:

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appears to be more concerned with the desires of Donald Trump and with a potential Conservative Party leadership election than with global security or the needs of the British people. 

PPU spokesperson Symon Hill said:

If you’re struggling to pay the bills, queuing at a food bank, or waiting months for a hospital appointment, your life won’t be made more stable or secure with tanks or aircraft carriers. Jeremy Hunt’s speech is a kick in the teeth for people struggling to make ends meet after years of austerity.

Hunt’s policies will not address the real threats we face”

The PPU also pointed out that the UK already has the seventh highest military spending in the world. And it insisted that pleasing Trump shouldn’t underpin British foreign policy. 

Hill, meanwhile, highlighted the hypocrisy of Hunt’s comments about “defending democracy”, saying they “would be laughable if they were not so sickening”. In particular, he pointed out that:

This is the same Jeremy Hunt who enthusiastically defends arms sales to the vicious regime of Saudi Arabia, while the Royal Air Force trains Saudi pilots preparing to bomb civilians in Yemen.

Yemen is currently the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN.

Hunt’s comments come shortly before International Conscientious Objectors’ Day on 15 May. People around the world will host ceremonies and protests to challenge war, conscription and militarism. The PPU advocates that money spent on armed forces should instead tackle the underlying causes of war. As Hill said, Hunt “claims that military strength brings peace”, but:

On the contrary, history shows time and again that if you prepare for war you are likely to get what you have prepared for. Hunt’s policies will not address the real threats we face to our security, including poverty and climate change.

Featured image via screengrab

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