Lib Dems commit to 100,000 strong army in manifesto

Lib Dems commit to 100000 strong army in manifesto
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In their 2024 manifesto, the Liberal Democrats have announced they will reverse Conservative Government cuts to the Armed Forces and, in the same breath, pledged to increase regular troop numbers by more than 100,000.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey, launched his party’s manifesto in London on 10 June 2024, ahead of the UK General Election due to take place on 4 July. In a stroke of political acknowledgement to the days of the US President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’, Davey has put forward his guarantees “For a Fair Deal” for Britain.

Since the end of the Cold War the size of the British Army has shrunk from what it once was, presenting a significantly reduced threat perception as the service pivoted toward a counter-insurgency force structure and performed global peacekeeping and humanitarian roles.


However, since the onset of the Russo-Ukrainian war more than two years ago, the force has faced overwhelming demands for military readiness.


Army levels under the Conservative Government

In 2015, the Conservative Government set a goal to increase British Army personnel to 82,000. However, this was scrapped in 2021, when the previous Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced that the Army would actually be reduced to 72,500 service people.

As of 1 January 2024, UK Government statistics indicate that there are 72,480 trained regular service people in the British Army. This fell from 75,770 people a year earlier.

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Furthermore, in those 12 months (between 1 January and 31 December 2023) there was a decrease of 890, or 8% of the service, compared with the previous 12-month period.

The Lib Dem manifesto has also labelled Conservative cuts to the Army by 10,000 as “irresponsible” and “negligent.”

MoD funding and the ‘party of defence’

Despite this stagnant level of personnel over the last several years, more funding has been made available to the Ministry of Defence.

It is upon this basis that the incumbent Conservative Government has styled itself as the party of defence. When Wallace resigned in August last year he told the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that he was proud of making the Ministry of Defence more “modern [and] better funded.” He warned that “we must not return to the days where defence was viewed as a discretionary spend by government.”

Moreover, Sunak has also pledged that defence spending would reach 2.5% of GDP by 2030, having introduced a pledge in April to provide £75bn ($95.3bn) to defence over the next six years. Although, this figure has since been criticised as misleading, with some commentators stating that the figure will actually be a £20bn increase in real terms.

In addition, a new policy for national service was recently introduced by Sunak, perhaps to bolster this perception in the run-up to the election.

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