BEFORE the Thatcher revolution, many thought of Britain as ‘the sick man of Europe.’

Although our economic superiority had disappeared, frittered away by no industrial strategy, we were regarded as a stable and pragmatic parliamentary democracy with strong liberal values. Following judicious investment in military and diplomatic capacity, we punched well above our weight.

This is now all gone. The Conservative government is incapable of articulating a coherent vision post Brexit and has failed to show us how they are to mitigate the economic vandalism of Brexit due to a lack of imagination on their part. The worst of this is the decline in our defence capability. When our national air defence capability is limited to a couple of fighters, malfunctioning Type 45 destroyers, and army Rapier systems with a relatively short range, we know we are in trouble.

Defence spending has been declining steadily. The current two per cent NATO target is achieved by counting the intelligence agencies and pensions. Pensions, although I have a vested interest, do not provide additional military capability. Furthermore, successive governments, both Labour and Conservative, made commitments we cannot afford. Take the Royal Navy’s two aircraft carriers.

The Navy can only realistically man one of them with its escort vessels and the aeroplanes, so why have we got two?

My own service, the Army, is the hardest hit. There has been a drastic reduction in numbers and it is not capable of fighting a first class enemy.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence is considering slashing the Army’s helicopter fleet which is a key force multiplier.

This fails to inspire confidence. The army due to its colonial legacy has a lack of heavy equipment, for example tanks, in comparison with its peers on the continent let alone the US.

How do we move forward from here? The Defence and Security Reviews should not be excuses for politicallyinspired cuts. Yet the reviews need to be realistic and we should not aim to ape the US but establish our own path.

The problem may lie in establishing our path as that requires a vision that is currently sorely lacking.

Luigi Gregori, Charlton Road, Andover.