A perennial problem for Opposition leaders – and particularly those that have never been in Government – is how they put forward their party’s defence credentials. They haven’t been in the high-level security meetings; they don’t have access to all the confidential data; and they haven’t made any of the key decisions. Why in a time of crisis should the public depart from the status quo?
On the surface, Cameron’s speech today was about how NATO should evolve for the 21st Century. But he also used it to reassure voters about the Tories’ security nous. His method for doing that? Name-dropping. Here’s one passage that jumped out at me:
"The blunt truth is that the NATO mission in Afghanistan has thrown up some fundamental problems which NATO leaders simply must face up to in Bucharest.
These range from…
…competing and un-coordinated chains of command, which Senator McCain and I spoke about when he was here;
- and difficulty in working with other organisations such as the UN and EU, essential to delivering a comprehensive approach, a point I have discussed with Chancellor Merkel."
So that’s one US defence guru (and would-be President) and one world leader in two sentences. And there are a few other mentions throughout the piece. The message from Cameron is loud-and-clear: "I’m already part of the international matrix which will defend Britain against terrorism. I’m in the know". If McCain wins the presidency in November, then Cameron will be able to make this boast even louder.
P.S. The speech also has a bit of Eurosceptic bite:
"Part of the reason for [the European Security and Defence Policy's failings] is a pre-occupation with process over substance, which has contributed to a feeling that the EU is more interested in bureaucratic empire building and less in making the hard choices – like spending more money – that would actually deliver greater military clout."