MPs this afternoon backed the motion calling for the government to set defence spending at 2 per cent of GDP – though not in huge numbers. There were 37 votes in favour to 3 votes against, which is hardly a furious uprising.
This vote is a backbench vote, and so it is not binding on the government. Nevertheless, there are many good reasons why ministers should obey the demands of those MPs who did turn up – and listen to the concerns of many who did not. James sets out those reasons, as well as ministers’ reluctance to address them, in this week’s magazine.
Ministers might think they can ignore the issue based on the poor turnout at today’s vote. But many of those who didn’t turn up avoided the debate not because they don’t care about it but because they’re out campaigning and still plan to raise it as an issue once they’ve been re-elected. The trouble won’t go away.