One of the two former soldiers ejected from the Tory conference for heckling Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, today (Sat) hit out at defence cuts.
Addressing a crowded North West UKIP meeting in Salford, Cpt Joe Eastwood, who had travelled up specially from his home in Cambridge,
said, “Defence is not part of the budget package that can be played with.
“Strength in defence does not cause wars, it prevents wars. Spending on defence is what has kept us safe at home and will continue to do so.”
The 76-year-old veteran from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers was ejected from the Conservative conference in Manchester the previous weekend along with Col Ian Brazier after they heckled Defence Secretary Philip Hammond midway through his keynote speech over his plans to abolish their former regiment’s 2nd Battalion.
He pointed out that his regiment is world renowned by our enemies. “Our enemies must be laughing up their sleeves watching us getting ride of this wonderful battalion.”
Cpt Eastwood explained that he and Col Brazier had disrupted Philip Hammond’s speech as they feel so strongly about the government plans which shockingly will mean our fighting forces could all fit into Wembley Stadium.
“The cuts are Exchequer led, they told the Ministry of Defence how much money they could spend on defence and they had to cut their cloth. What a crazy way to deal with defence of the country.”
He also explained that his battalion – one of the best recruited in the country – had not initially been included in the defence cuts but were suddenly on the hit list after the Conservatives, running scared of losing Scottish voters, vowed that no Scottish battalion will be cut.
Cpt Eastwood concluded his speech, which received a standing ovation, by saying it was hoped that sense would be seen in time and a U-turn made.
A march is being held down Whitehall on March 15 followed by handing over a petition opposing the proposal to disband the regiment.
Paul Nuttall, North West MEP and deputy party leader, said, “I was thrilled that Cpt Eastwood made the long journey north to attend our training day seminar.
“His speech touched a cord with all present, who included several ex-servicemen, and we heartily agree with his views on defence cuts. It was an honour to meet him and sign the Fusiliers’ petition.
“We owe his generation so much and like so many he feels let down by the government. A Conservative voter since 1964 he said he ‘is now teetering’ towards another party, ‘one taking the position that the Conservatives used to do’,” added Mr Nuttall.