Politics during the past month has been dominated by the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Labour Party. A veteran parliamentarian and established left-winger, Mr Corbyn was initially included in the leadership campaign having been nominated by a number of MPs as a means of broadening the field of candidates. His unlikely victory has sparked a frenzy of speculation as to the future of the Labour Party.
Mr Corbyn is a renowned pacifist and resolutely opposed to the nuclear deterrent. Indeed, his position on Trident is expected to cause ructions within his new shadow cabinet – with even his new Shadow Defence Secretary differing in her views from those of her party leader.
Mr Corbyn has selected Maria Eagle, a longstanding MP and former solicitor to the position of Shadow Defence Secretary, where she succeeds Vernon Coaker MP. Ms Eagle’s appointment has been welcomed by political commentators, but was the result of protracted discussions within the new Labour leadership – with reports the post was offered to a number of other parliamentarians before Ms Eagle.
Outside of the Labour leadership election, Parliament returned briefly to Westminster last month before again rising for the annual party conferences. Labour’s conference refused to take forward a motion on the future of Trident, suggesting the deterrent will be renewed when the decision comes before the House of Commons next year.
Prior to Parliament rising, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon insisted, during a speech to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), that he would staunchly resist effort to further cut the size of the Armed Forces. Indeed, Mr Fallon went as far as to suggest the size of the Royal Navy workforce could be increased in anticipation of the new aircraft carriers coming into service.
During the past month, and despite the brief period in which Parliament was in session, the DPF has been in contact with numerous parliamentarians to request and arrange briefings ahead of the publication of the Strategic Defence and Security Review. We have also been in contact with members of the press.
The political approach
As noted above, Maria Eagle has been appointed as the Shadow Defence Secretary, succeeding Vernon Coaker. Mr Coaker has been a great supporter of both the MDP and DPF, and we thank him for his support and wish him the best in his new brief as the Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary.
We have contacted Ms Eagle to request an introductory meeting as a means of briefing her on the work of the Federation and role of the MDP ahead of the publication of the SDSR. The defence correspondent at The Sun, who is highly regarded within the MoD, has suggested the SDSR will be published in nine to ten weeks’ time – meaning it is likely to be released early in December.
Prior to its publication, the Federation is continuing its consultation and engagement with the Minister and his officials. We are also contacting parliamentarians from all major political parties to arrange briefings for when the two Houses return on 12 October. This includes contact with the Defence Select Committee to arrange briefings for its members.
By way of follow up to the Federation’s parliamentary reception in July, one of the attendees, Jack Lopresti MP, tabled a series of parliamentary questions as a means of encouraging ministers to make statements about the role of the MDP. We are very grateful to Mr Lopresti for tabling these questions, and while the Minister’s response with expectedly brief, given the upcoming publication of the SDSR, the questions have served as a reminder to the MoD that there will be considerable parliamentary scrutiny on the future role of the MDP.
Also as a product of July’s parliamentary reception, National Chairman Eamon Keating has been invited to speak at a Royal United Services Institute conference at the end of the month. Representatives of RUSI were in attendance at the Federation’s reception.
The conference, which will on resilience within the MoD workforce and role of the private sector in delivering certain services, will provide an excellent opportunity for Eamon to highlight the importance of the MDP to influential defence opinion formers and policy makers.
We are additionally organising a series of briefings with national defence correspondents to update them on the work of the Federation ahead of the SDSR’s publication.
We would like to again thank those members who have contacted their local MPs. We will shortly be circulating suggested correspondence to this end once again, the purpose of which will be to remind and brief parliamentarians ahead of the SDSR’s publication.
We would again remind members that any correspondence is subject to MDP regulations.