The UK has now a new defense secretary – and of course a new Prime Minister, the Conservative’s David Cameron – while an emergency budget with implications for defense spending looms, along with a possible review of recent procurement decisions.
The country went to the polls May 6, with neither of the two main parties, Labour nor the Conservatives, securing enough seats to form a majority government. Five days later, on May 11, the Conservative Party – which had secured the largest number of seats – and the Liberal Democrats agreed on the terms of a coalition government. Liam Fox, previously the Conservative Party shadow defense minister, becomes the Secretary of State for Defense in the new government.
At least he is no stranger to the defense portfolio, having been the shadow minister since the end of 2005. He is an unashamed Atlanticist, though as ministerial office has loomed he has publicly tempered this by identifying France as the UK’s key European partner.
Some in industry have voiced concern that European defense relations might be neglected by a Conservative administration.
The Conservative-led coalition will also conclude an emergency budget within the next 50 days with the aim of saving £6 billion ($9 billion) in near-term expenditure. There is no reason to assume that the defense budget will be excluded from the spending review.
The Liberal Democrats in their manifesto ruled out “‘a like-for-like’ replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons systems”. The Conservatives remain wedded to a submarine-based ballistic missile deterrent. This difference has so far been papered-over in the thinnest of language.
Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, becomes deputy prime minister, while other members of his party will gain ministerial posts as part of the coalition deal.
Picture credit Houses of Parliament