The secretary of defence, Phillip Hammond, has stated that he will resist any further cuts to the armed forces. He said that the government’s priority was that they should be ‘defending the country and maintaining law and order’. He has said that the welfare should be cut by 0.5% in order to keep the armed forces at their current level.
The problem that I have with these statements is that ‘defence’ no longer means what it meant in the past. If you want to protect the people of Britain from death and injury then invasion from foreign powers comes pretty low down on the list of things we need to worry about.
Let’s take a look at the number of people who have died from ‘War’ in 2011 − 14 people.
The number of people who have died from infectious diseases is – 484,367 people.
By some coincidence the number of people who have also died from heart disease is – 484,367 people.
How about people who have died from just ischaemic heart disease? – 64, 435 people
How about the common type of age-related diabetes? – 1889 people.
Malnutrition killed 65 people in 2011.
Over four and a half times more people died of malnutrition than died in war. In a developed country.
(All numbers from the ONS – a fascinating read, although perhaps not recommended for hypochondriacs).
It is well known that poverty massively increases your chances of developing heart disease. Looking at a few studies, poverty pretty much doubles your chances of developing heart disease.
Poverty is one of the biggest influences on poor health, if you are a poor child then your risks of becoming chronically ill and dying young are greatly magnified.
Don’t take my word for it – google ‘poverty health outcomes uk’.
Our new war, from what we need more defence against, is disease.
While I’m not going to argue that we disband the armed forces, our current threats are more terrorist than state-led. I doubt that the countries of the world are sitting around thinking ‘If only Britain didn’t have an army, we could roll in and conquer them completely’. I’d suggest that if you look at the reasons given for the most recent UK terrorist attacks – it’s because we have soldiers in Afghanistan ‘protecting British interests’ by shooting at brown people that we have idiots blowing themselves up on public transport.
No, our biggest threat to life in the UK is disease the risk of which is increased by poverty. Poverty can be countered by welfare, which Mr. Hammond would like to see cut, and by the NHS, which is having it’s budget slashed while large parts of it are being sold off to private companies who want to make a profit from your sickness.
We need our ‘army’ to fight against what kills more people – disease, and by extension, poverty. At the moment the ‘slack’ in the system of dealing with disease is pretty much non-existent. Look at when one kebab shop was delivered contaminated meat – Seventy people became ill and made the local hospital declare an internal major incident. I know – I was there.
Now imagine what it will be like when the last antibiotics stop working, or when an influenza epidemic hits. We need to be investing now in order to save lives.
So instead of welfare and the NHS budget being cut so that soldiers can continue to war on the other side of the world, we need more effort to remove poverty from Britain and we need an NHS that will be able to cope with the incoming health crises that are likely to be just around the corner.