Shadow Defence Minister Liam Fox MP was our guest at a Power Lunch in Westminster this week. It's not a job that anyone envies him. If the Conservatives win the next election they will inherit not only a wrecked economy, but a defence apparatus that's outdated and starved of funds.
We've not had a strategic defence review since 1998, despite the fact that the world has changed a lot since then, and the threats are both larger and very different. To some extent, we're still fighting the cold war. But now we have to contend with energy supply, a bullying Russia, an Iran that wants to be first in a regional nuclear arms race, a divided nuclear Pakistan... It's clear that we need frequent and regular defence reviews if we are to keep on top of a changing and complex defence problem.
Gordon Brown never financed Tony Blair's military excursions adequately – which is why we had troops being killed because they couldn't find any body armour to borrow, or spare parts for their tanks and their few helicopters. Meanwhile, other NATO countries are happy for us to provide their insurance, without paying an adequate premium. So we're overstretched and under-supplied, and when Russia re- arms and starts parking troops next to the Georgian oil pipelines, or stakes a claim in the Arctic, or surrounds Norwegian oil rigs, or when Iran starts playing with nuclear fission, we have neither the forces nor the stamina to stand up to them. But our own security demands that we should.
Sorting that lot out is not going to be an enviable job at all.