A portrait photo of Kate Hudson
Dr Kate Hudson
CND General Secretary
Kate Hudson has been General Secretary of CND since September 2010. Prior to this she served as the organisation's Chair from 2003. She is a leading anti-nuclear and anti-war campaigner nationally and internationally.

In this election, Labour and Tory leaders have been falling over themselves to commit to vast sums of money for the military – including nuclear weapons. But is this good economics – and good for the country? Economist Michael Burke sets the matter straight in this final guest election blog.

Is more military spending, including nuclear spending, a good idea? And, if it is, where is the money coming from?

These are quite important questions. Yet we have been through an entire general election campaign without these questions even being posed, let alone answered.

A regular refrain from the media and from commentators is there is a ‘lack of detail’ about the plans of the two main parties. But they were never quizzed on why it is so important to increase military spending now, and they were never asked how the increases would be funded.

Because the consensus assertion on every aspect of social and industrial policy is that there is no money left. Yet when it comes to military spending, there is an exception. A very large exception.

In the two main parties’ manifestos there are a string of commitments to greater military spending.  In the Tory one, there is a bonanza of spending. There is a commitment to raise military spending to 2.5% of GDP, an increase of around £5 billion. This is described as “our NATO target” and is clearly part of a political campaign to strong-arm other NATO countries into matching that.

But that is only part of the overall Tory pledge, with commitments for £2.5 billion on their National Service plan, an extra £763 million for Trident modernisation as well as a clear promise of more funding for the Ukraine war on top of the £12 billion already provided.

The Labour manifesto is more modest. It says it will raise military spending to 2.5% of GDP as soon as resources allow. The ‘triple-lock’ on Trident is simply a commitment to maintain the system. There is too the promise of high-quality jobs and apprenticeships from military spending.

This all stands in sharp contrast to the lack of commitment of funding to tackle the crises in the NHS, schools and housing. Both main parties plan to cut public investment, despite an emerging consensus that the weakness of British investment is the principal cause of economic stagnation.

Specifically, the proposed extra £5 billion in military spending could be better spent on universal free school meals and breakfast clubs. Or it could be used to remove the two-child benefit cap. Or it could be used to uplift Personal Independence Payments in line with inflation, or some combination of these.

All of these have a wider benefit to society and add to genuine security. This cannot be said of military spending, and we need to confront the lazy assertion that it does.

In economic terms, what makes us more prosperous and more secure is when we increase the productive capacity of the economy.

We can use two very different examples; a child’s education and building a bridge. When we invest in those the economic pay-off is enormous. Over the long term (the lifetime of the child, the operational lifetime of the bridge) they provide an economic benefit far greater than the initial outlay. That is why they are defined as investment.

None of this is true of military spending. It is not, as often claimed, jobs-rich. In fact, as military spending is overwhelmingly directed to capital spending, it is jobs-poor.

And there is nothing productive about the military capital hardware produced. Unlike the educated child, or the time-saving bridge, or investment in a windfarm or and EV factory, the military equipment produces nothing productive.

Military hardware, by definition, is only capable of destructive power. Money spent on it is immediately wasted.

Claims on the job-creation powers of military spending are a myth. The MoD budget is just under a third of the NHS budget. But the NHS employs more than 12 times the MoD personnel. So creating jobs through funding services is four times more effective in the NHS than at the MoD.

The next period is unlikely to be either a peaceful one or a prosperous one. These two things are linked. But we could make choices which improve the outlook for both.