You may argue that throughout its history the Royal Navy has been a guarantor of our liberty and protector of our trade – and you’d be right, as far as it goes.
However, as a prominent American scholar once explained so persuasively, history ended in 1991 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Hence neither our liberty nor our trade required protection any longer – they were thenceforth secure in perpetuity.
One might argue that Iranian flags hoisted on two British tankers in the Strait of Hormuz contradict this observation. That argument has some merit, but not much.
The problem is that, since those Iranian mullahs may be unfamiliar with current scholarship, they are unaware that history is no more. That’s why they refuse to get in touch with their feminine side, indulging instead in machismo posturing.
Hence we don’t need gunboats to retrieve our tankers and discourage any further piracy. All we need is an educational effort, ideally conducted by sensitivity coaches or perhaps group therapists.
Gone are the old days of the British Empire, when the Naval Defence Act of 1889 adopted the ‘two-power’ standard. It called for the Royal Navy to maintain a number of battleships at least equal to the combined strength of the next two largest navies in the world.
If we replace antediluvian battleships with modern aircraft carriers, applying the same principle today would mean we’d have to have 12 carriers, which is how many the top two navies, American and Russian, run between them.
Instead we have, in round numbers, one. Or, for all intents and purposes, none because our solitary carrier has no attack jets to fly off it.
In 1982, when history was still going on, we had four carriers, which enabled Margaret Thatcher to launch the South Atlantic operation. However, now history has ended, the dastardly Argies have abandoned their designs on the Falklands – or should have done had they followed the current scholarship.
In 1982, we also had 13 destroyers to today’s six, of which only two are operational, and their engines conk out in high temperatures. Since, as everyone knows, the climate in the Strait of Hormuz is near-Arctic, our trade has all the protection it needs, in the unlikely event that the programme of sensitivity training fails to do the job by itself.
In 1982, we also had 47 frigates, to today’s 13, of which six are currently in maintenance. The remaining seven are armed with the same missiles that were fired at the Argentines in 1982, which is perfectly understandable: since the end of history there has been no need to upgrade our naval armaments.
Just think of the savings we’ve realised. An aircraft carrier costs some £3 billion, a destroyer £1 billion, and even a cut-price frigate £130 million. The money thus saved can be put to a more productive and socially responsible use.
Ask yourself this question: Would you rather have four more carriers and two more destroyers or foreign aid, on which we spend about £14 billion a year, roughly the cost of those six vessels?
I know I can count you to provide the right, sensitive and socially responsible answer: the latter, and need you ask.
Or look at it this way. Would you rather spend £9 billion on three new carriers or on non-European immigration, which is how much we did spend on it last year?
Again, the question is purely rhetorical, as I hope you realise. And if you don’t, perhaps it’s you and not the Iranian mullahs who require sensitivity training.
Rather than seeking to match other countries in naval strength, we should be proud of our giant strides in sensitivity training and, for that matter, pop music, where we are indisputably among world leaders.
Our rallying cry should be not “Britannia, rule the waves”, but “Britannia, rule the raves”. There, that’s much better.