X Close

Britain doesn’t want to go to war Eighty years after D-Day, the nation's mood has changed

At the going down of the sun..(Credit:Furlong/Getty Images)

At the going down of the sun..(Credit:Furlong/Getty Images)


June 6, 2024   5 mins

The differences between the two main parties in the UK on most foreign policy questions are matters of almost imperceptible nuance. As we were reminded in the first election debate, both Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer are united in their support for Ukraine, are committed to Israel’s continued right to self-defence and share an increasingly hawkish attitude towards China.

Unfortunately for them, this is at odds with the electorate: a new poll of British voters by UnHerd, conducted by Focaldata, reveals a notable realism towards foreign policy that is not reflected in either of the main party platforms. This is just one of the big issues facing the nation that isn’t being properly interrogated in the general election campaign, and it is the focus of the first instalment in a polling series that will seek to understand the views of UnHerd Britain.

Eighty years on from D-Day, our headline finding is a clear scepticism towards foreign adventures and an unambiguous focus on British national interest, a view which markedly differs from the prevailing liberal interventionism of past decades. A majority of voters (52%) believe that “British foreign policy should be focused on what is in Britain’s interests, even if that is not in other countries’ interests”, compared with only 30% who believe that “British foreign policy should try to make the world a better place, even if it has costs for Britain”.

UK voters: foreign policy should be based on national self-interest
Which of the following comes closer to your view? 

This more “realist” option is preferred by overwhelming majorities of Reform and Conservative voters, but is also the preference of people planning to vote Labour, at 45% to 36%. Only Liberal Democrat and Green voters tend the other way, preferring a more idealist foreign policy.

"These findings highlight the conundrum that awaits a future Labour government."

When it comes to overseas conflicts in general, only 7% of voters think that Britain should be more engaged than it currently is, while 44% think it should be less engaged, and 36% think we should keep roughly the current levels of involvement. Again, in a powerful sign of how ideas of British imperialism are no longer in favour on the Right, 64% of Reform voters want less engagement and this is also the preferred position of Conservative voters (44% compared with 42% who say “about the same”). In fact, there is support across all parties, with the exception of Labour, for a reduction in Britain’s engagement in overseas conflicts; Labour voters narrowly opt for the current level of engagement (41% to 39%).

Do you think Britain should be more or less engaged in overseas conflicts?
Polling text

These findings highlight the conundrum that awaits a future Labour government: while its voters are broadly the most supportive of idealistic British involvement in overseas conflicts, the party also contains a strain of passionately anti-war Leftists. The “progressive realism” coined by shadow foreign secretary David Lammy to describe Labour’s approach is best understood as an attempt to square this circle.

The thorniest issue for Keir Starmer will be Israel. Labour voters have a far more critical view of the current war in Gaza than their leader. Asked who they blame for the war, Labour voters choose “the Israeli Government” ahead of Hamas, while British voters in general blame Hamas ahead of Israel. Endorsement of the ICC’s prosecution proceedings against Benjamin Netanyahu is at 53% among Labour voters; only 14% oppose it. Starmer has voiced support for the arrest warrant, and one assumes he would comply with it if issued.

Right-leaning voters, when asked about the conflict, would prefer to disengage entirely rather than taking a tougher stance on either Israel or the Palestinians — this is the preferred option among both Conservative and Reform voters. But Labour voters fall narrowly alongside more progressive voter groups such as the Greens and Liberal Democrats in believing that “the UK should take a tougher stance on Israel”. Once again, disengaging from the war is the most popular option among British voters in general.

British voters: UK should disengage from Israel-Hamas war
British voters

This move towards "realism" extends also to the escalating standoff between the United States and China. Asked what British policy should be towards the standoff, 41% would align with the US; notably however, it is not a majority. Most voters think the country should either be aligned with neither (37%), or China (5%) or aren’t sure (15%).

Do you think the UK should align itself more with the US, China, or neither?
British voters

There is an exception, however, to British voters’ more isolationist mood: Ukraine. Most think that the UK’s level of involvement is about right, or could be further increased. Only a minority of voters would prefer a reduced role or none at all. Voters would reject, if offered, a peace treaty in which Russia would gain possession of eastern provinces of Ukraine and Crimea, and there is even substantial support for the UK allowing Ukraine to shoot missiles into Russian territory (40% compared with 22% against) and allowing British troops into Ukraine to help train Ukrainian forces (39% support compared with 34% against). However, any suggestion of British troops engaging in active combat against Russia is dismissed entirely, by absolute majorities of all political party voters.

Attitudes to Ukraine
British voters

Questions of distant wars, however, only become the defining political issue when citizens are asked to fight in them — and on this question, the results of the UnHerd Britain poll make concerning reading for any government. We asked parents whether they would be prepared to send their children into battle for a range of causes, and the numbers of those who would are vanishingly small. Only 15% would consent to their children taking up arms to defend Poland from a Russian invasion, 14% to defend France from invasion, 9% to defend Ukraine from further Russian attacks, and 7% to defend either Taiwan or Israel. Overwhelming majorities, between 71% and 82%, would object to their children being called up to defend any of these causes.

Would you want your children to fight in the British Army in each of the following circumstances?
Polling Text 

Even in the event of a direct invasion on British soil, only 21% of parents say they would want their children to fight to defend the country, 67% of parents say they would not want them involved and a further 10% are not sure.

These results confirm a sobering reality that has not been reflected in the election campaigns yet: there is a strong antipathy to military engagements of any kind, and if a new war should arrive, it is not at all clear that Britain could muster an army even to defend itself.

As the election campaign progresses, UnHerd Britain will be investigating other questions of public opinion missing from the campaign. See full results of today's poll HERE.


Freddie Sayers is the Editor-in-Chief & CEO of UnHerd. He was previously Editor-in-Chief of YouGov, and founder of PoliticsHome.

freddiesayers

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

95 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Nell Clover
Nell Clover
11 days ago

Earlier in the week I visited London. On a cloudy but warm afternoon I stood and watched six police officers turn up to a street disturbance. I say police officers, they may as well have been social workers. With zero presence, their toolbox for dealing with the incident included wishful thinking, standing well clear, and running away when approached. It was pathetic. The stand off only ended when a fourth police car arrived and two stocky chaps, one tall, one not, got out and confidently marched into the melee.

The police weren’t always like this. Once upon a time many officers would have delighted themselves handing out a slap to an unarmed scumbag threatening people in broad daylight. Watch video footage of 100s of policemen in essentially lounge suit uniforms with ties scrapping with striking miners in the 80s.

Indeed, the public weren’t always like this. My mild mannered father would have struggled to stand and watch police be given the runaround. Somewhere within him there’d be an urge to step in and help. I’d be far less sure.

Even I as a child in the 80s and 90s being just a nuisance in the street could expect a policeman or a random stranger to collar me. Adults today would sooner pretend my children don’t exist than make eye contact with them, let alone say something to them.

All of these anecdotes point to a society that is more emasculated, weaker and less effective than it was. There is a strong antipathy to engagements of any kind, and if trouble should arrive, it is not at all clear that many Britons could muster the courage even to defend themselves.

Peter B
Peter B
11 days ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Agree totally about the police. We had a small illegal rave around here very early on Sunday morning. Police informed and came to investigate. The music didn’t stop (I think it simply restarted half an hour after they told the ravers to turn it off). Police doing what they do best: nothing. It’s increasingly just another state-funded performative activity.
Not convinced that people have changed that much though and that our gut instincts are that much different from the past. I think it’s only the lack of leadership from the top (and active discouragement) that’s changed.
I’ve recently come to the view that we’ve generated so many laws and regulations in the past 30-40 years that it’s impossible both for us to know them all and for the police to either know or enforce them. The inevitable result is selective enforcement. And the distinct possibility (I suggest probability in most cases) that if you do something illegal, you’ll get away with it. Overlaid with a layer of subjectivity – certain groups are cut greater slack than others.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
11 days ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

About twenty years ago, my dad witnessed youths trashing a bus stop and a police vehicle was within range and was indicating to pull out of the road in the opposite direction of the trouble, so my dad knocked on his window and asked him to do something about it. The officer decided to teach my dad a lesson instead. He rounded up the youths and brought them as an audience to him then illegally breathalysing my dad, who A) hadn’t been drinking and B) wasn’t even driving! He wrote in the report that he had witnessed my dad coming out of the nearby pub, however CCTV proved that he was lying.
Cherry picking conflict isn’t a new thing for our police force, whilst there are many good honest people who sign up to do right, many sign up for the position of power it puts them in over good honest people.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
7 days ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

The days when the Police had 6ft plus, well built sergeants from the Armed Forces who had boxed and been in combat are long gone. The advanatge of employing ex sergeants is that they have military pensions so less tempted by corruption, had exerted authority previously so not interested in power.

0 0
0 0
10 days ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Thank goodness things are moving in the direction you déplore. A slim ray of hope for better mutual understanding. There are other good signs. Check out this week’s Stronger Things conference organised by New Local.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
10 days ago
Reply to  0 0

Mutual understanding meant three people were assaulted as six police officers watched impotently.

George Venning
George Venning
10 days ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

This is interesting Nell, not sure I see the relevance though…

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
10 days ago
Reply to  George Venning

I’ve broadened the conclusion the author arrived at by paraphrasing it to point to a more generalised aversion to engagement of any sort. The anecdotes serve to support my extension of his conclusion.

Claire D
Claire D
8 days ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

I disagree with your last point.
I would say it is quite clear that many, if not most Britons certainly could not muster this courage.
And why would they?

People need a reason to fight.
To defend the nation State and their ancestral homeland. (See Ukraine)
Since successive govts have tried their best to dismantle Nation state and characterise the concept of an ancestral homeland as nativist and fascistic – What is there to fight for?

Diversity?
The EU?

Hardly stirs the blood.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
11 days ago

I’m a fan of Freddie Sayers, especially the way he conducts interviews for Unherd, but there’s some contextual issues in this piece. Here’s just two:
To begin with, he seems to conflate ‘engagement in overseas conflicts’ with ‘imperialism’ – the two things are absolutely not the same.
Secondly, asking parents whether they’d wish to see their children engaged in defence of the country during an invasion really has to be put into further context. As it is, the question appears to be pretty neutral, and no parent wants to see their children put at risk for a neutral idea. If the question was: “Would you wish your children to be engaged in defence of the country during invasion by a foreign power that’d already invaded Western Europe and taken its citizens away to work them to death as slave labour” i suspect the answer might be somewhat different!

Last edited 11 days ago by Lancashire Lad
Peter B
Peter B
11 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

I’ve noticed that a number of the UnHerd authors come across much better in the interviews and discussions than they do in their written pieces. Their writing usually seems to have less nuance, conext or explanation and start directly by stating an extreme or polarising position which tends to trigger reactions rather than insights or discussion. I feel that in some of these articles they aren’t really doing themselves justice.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

The writing is often sloppy and full of grammatical errors too. Too often it feels ‘constructed’ or ‘corralled’ in the sense of a bunch of not necessarily consistent packages shoved in the corner in a pile. While someone ticks off a list.

Paul
Paul
10 days ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Perhaps using ChatGPT to knock out the first draft? If they’re not doing this already, it won’t be long before they do.

0 0
0 0
10 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Not surprising that people confound Imperialism with foreign wars when our rulers conflate the two. Since 2008 when the US abandoned it’s successful policy of working with Russia to set it up as an adversary, conflict became inevitable and not only in poor manipulated Ukraine. Imperial schemes preceded and prefigured foreign war.

The idea that Europeans now need to focus on open ended conflict with Russia to defend our freedom is a half truth designed and disseminated to conceal the fact that the aim of Washington’s Imperial scheming is to keep us away from Russia’d resources and markets and shackled to funding US debt.

That was the objective which Leo Strauss and Neocons down to Nuland preferred to shared security, trade and investment. We are entitled to ask why and demand a better answer than Russia is a threat because whatever of that may come about has been the choice of our masters. Why do they prefer things that way.

Last edited 10 days ago by 0 0
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
10 days ago
Reply to  0 0

“Neocons” is now just becoming an absurd boo word – George Dubya Bush isn’t in the White House. The idea that American policy is fundamentally to stop us Britain and other European countries trading from a friendly Russia is too silly for words. They didn’t even manage to stop a military weak power Germany, becoming extremely reliant on Russian oil and gas – well after the illegal annexation of Crimea (just imagine the reaction were Israel to do anything similar)

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
10 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

“Neocons” are merely those who follow policies set out by the original Neocons…the policies still exist and are as dangerous as ever, despite the absence of the originators.

And the policies are being enacted.

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
8 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Your usual rubbish I see, try reading more.

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
8 days ago
Reply to  0 0

Excellent post OO, I totally agree, the USA has been, still is and will be a manipulative menace, it is no way to behave and a disgusting way to treat ‘allies’ if we ever were of course. What has China ever done that was bad to us? Oh I forgot allowed us to benefit from buying goods at low labour costs, USA doesn’t like that now…

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
10 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

You are supposing a heck of a lot there! It couldn’t really be simpler – most people, Right or Left, would prefer for Britain to be conquered than for their children (not even themselves!) to fight. Ok, it is a theoretical question, but two of the most obvious potential adversaries, Russia and China and not exactly known for their liberal and tolerant policies towards anyone. Teaching kids to hate their country and assume it is responsible for most of the world’s ills over decades, together with an understandable preference for an easy life, has consequences.

Rob C
Rob C
8 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

The leaders of Russia and China do not hate the British people. The leaders of Britain do.

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
8 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Fool! We have already been ‘taken over by the USA, our Culter now is brain dead kids on social media, drugs and ultra processed food, that’s not from China or Russia! See if you can guess where it came from?

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
10 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

That’s an important distinction to make. To be perfectly blunt, people prefer peace over warfare in general. In any given period of peace, I would expect a large majority to support continuing that peace and avoiding unnecessary warfare. I suspect you’d get similar results to this survey if you asked these same questions to people in the US, or Canada, or India, or Japan, or anywhere else, with some caveats based on national interest (i.e. I wouldn’t expect Japanese people to want to align with China). Wars in the ancient era tended to be a result of local rulers vying for resources, with the most successful able to build long lived empires. Wars in the modern era are far more complicated, both because our societies have become more complex, and because there are more varied forms of government. Particularly in democratic nations where the people wield considerable influence over their leaders, the leaders can’t simply decide to go to war because they want to. Like ancient autocrats, Putin and Xi don’t have to consider their people’s opinions. Leaders in democratic nations do, and there generally has to be some egregious provocation before the people will support a conflict. Nobody in the US wanted to go to war with Afghanistan on September 10, 2001, but twenty four hours later nearly everyone did. I can’t imagine what a provocation for a war that UK citizens would support might look like, and neither can they.

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
8 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Not your usual insightful self Steve?
Putin and Xi don’t need to consider their people’s opinion, maybe because Xi hasn’t started any wars?
You think in the Anglosphere we have a say in what the elites and USA war machine does? Really? So Vietnam, Iraq and Ukraine etc were the result of ‘democracy’? USA Is no democracy as you know full well. They are the biggest tyrant out there, the founding fathers would be turning in their graves. (I think your account has been hacked by Peter B or Harry Storm maybe?) 🙂

Claire D
Claire D
8 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Engaging overseas conflicts.
(Presuming ones we have no direct material interest at stake)

Not the same as Imperialism.

Are you sure?
The ‘World’s policeman’ aspect is quite imperialist and flows directly from what’s left of our status as an Imperial power.
All that’s left is an attitude towards others nations that we know better and have some right (based on who knows what) to engage.

RA Znayder
RA Znayder
11 days ago

So a country that declared “there is no society” and then engaged in 40 years of class warfare cannot find a population willing to fight wars that won’t benefit them? How unexpected..

Of course this won’t be too different in other Western countries.

David Morley
David Morley
10 days ago
Reply to  RA Znayder

I thought something similar. Nothing in the poll about people seeking a better deal under new management rather than going off to fight them. I’m half serious.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
11 days ago

As Trotsky said, you may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
11 days ago

And of course, Trotsky was sincerely speaking for the entire 0.1% of the population that he at that time represented.

0 0
0 0
10 days ago

As now.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 days ago

He didn’t say it. So luckily he was speaking for no-one in this instance. Quote first occurred at a rally in Cleveland in 1941 , by a popular woman author, and it would prove true for the USA by the end of that year.

Last edited 10 days ago by Dumetrius
Paul
Paul
10 days ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Do you have the name of the author?

Stuart Bennett
Stuart Bennett
11 days ago

I obviously don’t think we should start conflicts overseas. But there are circumstances where we ought to support allies or strategically important nations in defending their own country from aggressors. Ukraine being one of those. In the case of an invasion of the UK if conscription were required then it should be honoured by everyone. Pacifism is just the willingness to let other people die to defend your way of life. You’re not brave, you’re a coward.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
10 days ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

I’m not sure it’s the case that pacificists lack courage.

Rather, that they lack any meaningful ideas about what to do when others are using violence.

When it comes to war, they are the ‘Don’t know/prefer not to say’ ones. Not all that much help, really.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 days ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

If there are pacifists here, it’s probably because the EU’s adventurism in the Ukraine doesn’t sound like a very good idea to many people.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 days ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

Can you imagine a scenario where the USA would – for even a minute – permit Mexico to ally with China and receive Chinese aid, Chinese weapons and allow Chinese troops on Mexican soil?

Yet that is the situation we expect Russia to accept.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 days ago

Was said by an author, Fannie Hurst, at a rally in Cleveland, OH in 1941. No proof LT ever said it. He did say something similar, but about dialectics.

Paul
Paul
10 days ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Ah, thank you.

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
8 days ago

Sure, if by ‘war’ you mean megalomaniacs like the US elites…

Last edited 8 days ago by Carl Valentine
Danny Kaye
Danny Kaye
11 days ago

So the UK should “disengage” from the Israel-Hamas conflict … how exactly is it “engaged”? It’s not like it gave to Israel 5 billion $ worth of arms as it did to Ukraine.
I suppose it means to not even give the lip service of saying that Israel can defend itself against invaders. Which is pathetic, until you see that the majority of the British wouldn’t even want to defend Britain against invasion – making it infinitely more pathetic.

j watson
j watson
11 days ago

Doesn’t feel like any great revelations here. One suspects if a similar poll undertaken a few years before WW1 or WW2 would have elicited similar sentiments. Whether this reflects a solid inter-generational set of beliefs that get passed on I’m not sure but possibly.
The realpolitik is UK security remains heavily dependent on the US. That is not always well understood by most and in part because it’s not something greatly shared for security reasons as much as national pride. But it’s the reality. And thus has to influence how we react to US policy.
Doesn’t look like the Poll asked much more about deterrence and whether to maintain peace folks support stronger deterrence. Much might depend on the phrasing of the questions

Last edited 11 days ago by j watson
Peter B
Peter B
11 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Precisely. You’d have got similar answers in 1938 when Chamberlain returned from Munich.
They asked the wrong questions and so nothing was learned: garbage in, garbage out.
Another reminder that we need leaders who are signposts rather than weathervanes (to use Tony Benn’s phrase). You cannot lead by slavishly following polls or focus groups – where as you correctly point out much depends on who writes the questions. Not that any of our current “leaders” are listening.

RA Znayder
RA Znayder
11 days ago
Reply to  j watson

I wonder if its true that people were unwilling to fight around the time of the world wars, thought. One of the political undercurrents of postmodernity was that nationalism was a disease of modernism, which led to the world wars. Roughly speaking, postmodernity abandoned the certainty of grand narratives for pluralism. This seemed to work very well in synergy with the neoliberal tendency towards globalization, multiculturalism and mass migration. Although I suspect that the underlying reason for embracing these ‘values’ was mostly a desire for cheap labor and capital accumulation.
Anyway, I suppose that all of this led to three problems for elites, who all of a sudden want to protect national interests. First the population feels structurally alienated and atomized by the cultural and societal changes of the past decades. Especially the “somewheres”. Second, it is hard to sell warmongering myths in a postmodern society that had supposedly reached the end of history. Third, people are simply more worried about internal threats such as the declining standards of living. Elites don’t create a lot of goodwill either by hoarding all the assets and wealth, preventing an entire generation from achieving basic middle class objectives like owning a home. The same elites that then want these people to fight.

Last edited 11 days ago by RA Znayder
j watson
j watson
11 days ago
Reply to  RA Znayder

All a bit high-brow that RAZ.
Mid 30s massive peace movement in the UK during a period of great depression and poverty. Churchill still overwhelmingly seen as war monger going to get more young killed until Oct 38 when penny started to fully drop.
Pre WW1 UK one of few Countries didn’t expand it’s Army and no Conscription or even mass reservist mobilisation. Faith put in a Navy to help keep a distance and we stay out of it.
So both times things changed didn’t they.
I’d also suggest you take a trip to somewhere like the Menin Gate or Tyne Cot memorial. Or further afield Kohima or Alamein. Alot of foreign names – Indian, Muslim, African etc.
Too much trying to fit the unspecific ‘Elite critique’ into this I fear RAZ. We certainly had a much more pronounced elite in the past too and the nation rallied despite great prior divisions. I think sometimes folks on the Right, paradoxically, lack confidence and a grasp of history.

RA Znayder
RA Znayder
10 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Well, you are correct in that I am not so sure about what the popular sentiments were in the first half of the 20th century. I haven’t investigated it or seen any data. But I do think they were very different from our current situation. After all, even if some countries were reluctant to join the wars, many other countries were very eager to fight. Like Germany. That is not a sentiment you can recognize anywhere in the West today. Even the Russian morale seems to be very low. Although, sure, if troops actually march across the border today it will be different.
I don’t understand your last sentence though, who exactly is supposed to be on the right? It puzzled Marxists like Gramsci and Luxemburg why the working class abandoned their class struggle in favor of nationalism and war. As you write: elites were very dominant before the wars. There were also huge economic problems. Precisely this led to continuous class struggle which almost led to full blown revolutions during the 19th century and interwar period. But the eventual outcome of the turmoil were wars.This is a big reason why Western society became much more egalitarian after the war. Only to abandon the postwar consensus in the late 70s and restore upper class power.
Now that inequality is back at pre-war levels it might seem obvious that old situation returns. But my point was that this time the world is a much more confusing place. In my opinion the confusion originates from that neoliberal turn on the one hand and the postmodern condition on the other hand. The way Fredric Jameson foresaw and explained it. I think that this might have created a society in which many people feel too alienated to be fighting a war. Of course no one really knows. But still, consider that after te fall of the Soviet Union we had reached the end of history. We would all be trading instead of waging war.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
7 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Good comments. From 1860s there was extensive criticism of Prussian Militarism, Po W wife was Danish. From 1905 main pre- occupation of liberal government which comprised Quakers and Labour Party Pacifists was welfare, votes for women and Ulster, not Germany.
The word Elites not much use in the UK. There are the landowners who have strong ties to the Armed Forces, many in City who are ex Armed Forces. The non military are the wealthy lawyers, software types , academics and generally leftward upper middle class types. Similar to the 19th/20th century Liberals such as Asquith.
Gerald Grosvenor, 6th Duke of Westminster – Wikipedia
Philip Sidney, 2nd Viscount De L’Isle – Wikipedia
Roland Walker – Wikipedia

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
11 days ago

A colleague and I were discussing the possibility of national service and she told me that her grandfather had lied about his age in order to fight in WW2, I pointed out that there was probably a good portion of 14-15 year old males today that would be happy to do the same because it would be deemed preferable to sitting in a classroom. No parent wants to see their child come to harm, regardless of age. However, it’s rarely their choice.

Alex Cairns
Alex Cairns
11 days ago

Of course parents don’t *want* their (presumably adult?) children to be involved in a war. What kind of lunatic wants war? This does not mean that should it be necessary, their children, and they themselves, would not step up and do what is needed and necessary at the time.

Nick Faulks
Nick Faulks
10 days ago

So the Greens would fight to make the world a better place. Of course, they think it would be a better place without Israel in it.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
11 days ago

Yep. Our governments really are not ‘our’ governments any more. We require rapid evolution away from them, and toward new parties that work for us.

Last edited 11 days ago by Andrew Boughton
A D Kent
A D Kent
11 days ago

Interesting results, but the question regarding ‘our involvement’ in conflicts rather rely on how much ‘we’ really understand about how involved our Establishment really is. I’ve a feeling the public are somewhat clueless on this issue.

Peter B
Peter B
11 days ago

A disappointing article which also reveals a sad lack of awareness about Britain’s history and how we secured our national interests in the past.
He’s fallen for the mythical “realist” label to describe policies which are neither realistic nor in our national interest. There’s little point saving a little money and effort now if you’re going to be faced with a far bigger bill in a few years time.
And there is no prospect – or need – for us to get directly involved in the fighting.
In the 18th century and Napoleonic Wars, we did a lot of our best work by subsidising European states to do the fighting on the continent for us. And we paid that money precisely because it was in our national interests at that time to maintain a balance of power on the continent.
The situation with Ukraine is conceptually similar. We’ve judged that it’s in our interest to support Ukraine and done what’s necessary (on the whole) while staying out of the actual fighting.

A D Kent
A D Kent
11 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

The war in Ukraine was never about a ‘balance of power’ it was about weakening and then dismembering Russia.

Peter B
Peter B
11 days ago
Reply to  A D Kent

I didn’t say it was. That’s simply context for how Britain behaves.
Russia started it. They invaded. Twice. 2014 and then again in 2022. Plus plenty of times before that if you go back further.
Russia re-colonising Eastern Europe is certainly not in our interests. We’ll also end up with Russia muscling in on NATO countries if we don’t draw the line at Ukraine.
It really is that simple.
Russia’s quite capable of dismembering itself. It doesn’t needs any help from us there. Nor should we get involved if this is what ends up happening. What happens within their toxic state is their business.

Dennis Learad
Dennis Learad
10 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

Howzit boet
if you don’t understand why Russia made a military incursion into Ukraine then you need to get out more. Russia is not our enemy the enemy is the USA Warmonger and its arms industry; we are just a vassal state of the USA Warmonger and will be like Ukraine cannon fodder and when the USA Warmonger watches from afar in its own country that has never seen death and destruction in its own backyard how Russia will annihilate the foolish NATO European countries then it will sit down and discuss the spoils with Russia.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

You seem to take leave of your senses when you get to Russia, which is a pity as you’d made a bit of sense in some earlier points.

George Venning
George Venning
10 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

“Russia started it” is pretty childish.
Like it or not, Russia is a major military power which had seen a hostile alliance play grandmother’s footsteps towards its borders for 20 years. It’s reactions to this were initially diplomatic – asking the US and Europeans to stop. When that didn’t work, they want to small border disputes (the annexation of the Donbas, Crimea and South Ossetia) which secured their access to the black sea and made it impossible for either Ukraine or Georgia to join NATO (you can’t join NATO if your borders are disputed for the obvious reason that it would instantly trigger article 5).
Finally, when they did invade, it was with a force far too small to occupy the country and there were immediate negotiations for a peace deal amounting, essentially, to the regularisation of the status quo ante and a return to the Minsk accords. Kyiv was on the point of signing that treaty and the Russians already in the process of withdrawal when Boris Johnson was dispatched to scupper the deal.
I’m not saying that Putin is anything other than a thug. He is. I don’t like him any more than you do.
But, if you know someone is a thug (and we do) then you act with caution rather than endlessly provoking them and then feeding someone else’s kids into the meat grinder when you miscalculate.
And let’s not pretend that the West behaves differently when its “sphere of influence” is encroached upon. Remember the Cuban missile crisis? Where was all the nonsense about countries having an absolute right to choose what military alliances they wanted to be a part of back then? Revolutionary Cuba had already been the subject of attempted invasions, CIA-sponsored terrorism and amateur bombing runs for years when they got into bed with the Soviets. It had every incentive to reach out to the Soviets. The decision to station missiles in Cuba was intended not only to safeguard Cuba but also to neutralise the advantage that the Americans had sought by stationing their own nukes on Moscow’s doorstep in Turkey.
Did the Americans accept Cuban territorial integrity and enter into treaties and arms limitation talks? No, of course not, they went bananas and drove the world as close as it has ever been to Armageddon. The whole incident is now generally remembered as a brilliant knife edge negotiation in which the Soviets blinked. It wasn’t. McNamara admitted towards the end of his life that he had got critical assumptions wrong (the warheads were in Cuba all along) and at one point the US navy tried to force a soviet nuclear sub to the surface by dropping depth charges. The sub, unable to communicate with Moscow and understandably believing that it was under attack, very nearly launched its missiles.
My point being that “they started it” is the language of the playground.
Major military powers should be spending at least as much of their time actively de-ecalating potential military conflicts as they do jockeying for advantage.
Moreover, if the US didn’t waste so much money on “defense” it would be better able to counter the real challenge to its hegemony – which is economic. The US spends 2.9% of GDP on defence, China spends 1.7% – less than all us peacenik Eurofags are supposed to. If America cut its defense spending to Chinese levels they’d have half a trillion dollars a year to spend on keeping their industries afloat .

Last edited 10 days ago by George Venning
Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
7 days ago
Reply to  George Venning

What makes more sense is increasing the standards of selection, training and testing. In any organisation the lowest standards of competence and industriousness control overall effectiveness. What percentage of the USMC could pass the Royal Marines Commando training?
There is an Indian saying ” What could be stopped by 300 in the morning could not be stopped by 3000 in the afternoon. ”
Is what is needed are members of the Armed Forces of the standards of the RMC but 10,000 in number with air mobile artillery and tanks who can intervene in a matter of a few hours ?

Jürg Gassmann
Jürg Gassmann
11 days ago

How can it be surprising if voters drift to alternative parties if the mainstream parties’ platforms do not differ in a matter that is of great concern to voters?

0 0
0 0
10 days ago

Good stuff, as far as it goes. People need to remember more. Eighty years ago Fascist Ukrainians attacked their compatriots until Russia marshalled enough force to put things right .

Now that’s happening again under conniving, murderous Zelensky who pursued civil war when elected promising peace. Any idea such as BoJo or Biden put forth that we should align with him twists the duty to defend freedom so out of shape it’s unrecognisable. And betrays the values on which it’s supposed to be based.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 days ago
Reply to  0 0

How did Zelensky pursue civil war? Last I saw it was Russia invading Ukraine that precipitated war. You do know Ukraine is a separate sovereign state from Russia don’t you?

John Tyler
John Tyler
11 days ago

The headline and opening paragraph were enough to put me off reading the piece. Correlating ’wanting war’ with standing up to bullies, thieves, rapists and murderers is disingenuous and utterly disgraceful.

Geoffrey Kolbe
Geoffrey Kolbe
11 days ago

What polls do not tell you is the context in which the question was put – which is why polls are so often wrong. If the question “Would you want your children to fight to defend the UK from invasion?” had been put to the population in 1938, you would probably have got a similar response.
Why? Because having to defend this country against an armed invader is a tacit admission that the government did not do its job in preventing it in the first place – either by negotiation or due to the inadequacy of the navy/airforce in preventing an invasion.
However, once the enemy boats are coming across the sea, I think such a question would get a quite different response!

Last edited 10 days ago by Geoffrey Kolbe
Michael Clarke
Michael Clarke
10 days ago

After more than twenty-five years of the West thrashing international law (which led to the sickeningly hypocritical use of the term RBIO), it is hardly surprising that the British public is not keen on further illegal and criminal overseas adventures. “Focal” is the Irish for “word”. I wonder where Focaldata came across it.

George Venning
George Venning
10 days ago

“Dog bites man”
Were we really expecting to find the British public champing at the bit for more wars?
I mean, its not as though any of the conflicts in which we have involved ourselves recently have gone that well is it?
Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan – all disasters. Meanwhile the two major conflicts currently pre-occupying us, are currently going very badly indeed.
In Gaza, the Israelis seem unable to complete their stated objective of wiping out Hamas without killing so many children that they turn the entire planet agains them (US and UK excepted). In Ukraine, where our beloved Boris Johnson insisted that plucky Zelensky should turn down a peace deal two months into the conflict, half the country is in ruins, no terms anything like as good as those originally on offer seem likely to emerge and there is an on-going risk of the conflict broadening out.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 days ago
Reply to  George Venning

Fair comment, except Isreal – agree Hamas have played a PR blinder and managed to get everyone against isreal but who put those children in front of combatants and Israeli bullets? I’ll give you a clue: it wasn’t the IDF.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

If they get away with it, and it seems they have, who is going to make them pay for that?

H W
H W
10 days ago

How would a trigger warning be done in combat? In the era of WW1 and WW2 the virtues of honour, patriotism/nationalism/racism, service, self sacrifice, stoicism, self control, and adventure were enforced and celebrated norms. These mental-emotional attachments made many teenage boys and young men voluntarily sign up to risk death. Things are very different now. Perhaps world peace will be the only happy byproduct of raising children in identity tribalism, oppression Olympics, self obsession, narcissism, brain candy, hyper consumerism, computer games and social media…

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
9 days ago

Occasionally, wars are unavoidable, but usually they’re not. I suspect the public are sick of politicians playing their silly geopolitical games, sending young men off to die in bizarre and remote countries that hate us and are, in fact, none of our business. Yes, it would be nice if we could make the whole world like Hampshire or Connecticut, but we can’t.
One of the plus points of Trump is that he sees these foreign adventures as the self-indulgent crepe that they are. His hands may have been on a porn star’s behind. Big deal. At least they’re not covered in blood.

Last edited 9 days ago by Damon Hager
Patrick Heren
Patrick Heren
10 days ago

Why do British picture editors nearly always illustrate articles about or referring to D-Day with pictures of American troops? Ignorance or laziness?

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
10 days ago

An Edinburgh man but born in Fife, my father was in the Black Watch, at the tip of the spear. And the heroes of D-Day bore no resemblance to today’s Svoboda, Pravy Sektor, National Corps, C14, Azov Brigade, Aidar Battalion, Donbas Battalion, Dnipro-1 Battalion, Dnipro-2 Battalion, Kraken Regiment, Freedom of Russia Legion, Russian Volunteer Corps, or any of the rest of those. Quite the reverse, in fact.

A few, a very few, of us have been right about Ukraine from the very start. Tomorrow evening, only parties that were still wrong about it will be permitted to participate in a televised debate, just as only they are ever mentioned in opinion polls.

Citizen Diversity
Citizen Diversity
10 days ago

Just 120 years too late.

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
10 days ago

Polls can only capture the mood at a particular point in time. Also, the questions asked are overly simplistic and do not account for buts, howevers and ifs that people might use to fine tune their answers if engaged in a discussion rather than a tick box exercise.

Paul
Paul
10 days ago

Putin needs to spread rumours that Ukrainians are actually Jews. That will cut down British support for Ukraine in short order.

John Riordan
John Riordan
10 days ago

“Even in the event of a direct invasion on British soil, only 21% of parents say they would want their children to fight to defend the country, 67% of parents say they would not want them involved and a further 10% are not sure.”

If it’s a direct invasion, you’re involved whether you like it or not.

Ex Nihilo
Ex Nihilo
10 days ago

While large discrepancy between predominant views of the British public vis a vis its leaders on the subject of engaging in war is noteworthy, it begs the question of how analogous polls might turn out in China, North Korea, or Iran.

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
10 days ago

I was a bit shocked to learn that nearly half of people would stand by and let the country be invaded rather than have their children (or perhaps themselves) fight in such a circumstance. However, remember the so-called ‘King and Country’ debate at Oxford in 1933, where an overwhelming majority voted that they would not ‘under any circumstances’ fight for K and C. Only a few years later those young people signed up in droves to fight against the Nazis.
Nobody wants to do it until the time comes.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 days ago

So 85 years ago we were just as complacent – although Chamberlain gets a bad rep (legend has it that after the Hitler summit he walked into no10 and said “gentleman, we must prepare for war”, it seems we are falling into the same trap.

What happens if Poland is invaded? Germany will follow, surely after some weasel-y words and nonsense treaties. You can’t placate a bully with words and legalities, you have to show strength and stand up to them.

I honestly am amazed the general populace can’t see this. I get the cynicism of previous misadventures and the likes of Blair and Cameron have much to answer on this, but this is next level. The US is in decline and the vultures sense blood, we must look strong together or it will be worse in the long run. But I am but one drop in the ocean of public opinion so let’s see what happens.

Another D Day in the 2060s beckons I am sure – look up the shocking statistics for lives lost in a single day. That is the result of complacency and the price we paid. I don’t want to pay that again.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
10 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Chamberlain instigated war, at a time when he determined Britain had sufficiently re-armed to have a chance, and that Germany had not sufficiently re-armed to fight on two fronts.

His whole aim was to ensure Britain was not left out of a coming world order which seemed to favour the USA, USSR and Germany at the top table.

And his gamble was right, or at least fortunate, and he attained his goal, for a time anyway.

How we determine when the UK lost its place at the top table is a different matter. Many would say 1956, in which case Chamberlain’s quest for war might seem pretty futile, if it was merely to have eked out a further 18 years.

But events and outcomes, and a judgement about who was on the right side, overtook Chamberlain’s concerns, because of what he cannot have known about the sheer awfulness of the Nazis.

And Chamberlain’s real reasons for starting war are more or less irrelevant to the story Britain tells itself.

Peter B
Peter B
10 days ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Except Chamberlain didn’t start WWII, did he ?
You do know that Germany and Russia jointly invaded Poland in 1939 to kick off WWII ?
We had a treaty commitment to protect Poland in 1939. Mermany and Russia were well aware of this. It wasn’t a “choice”.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

Precisely, thought was an odd revisionist comment too. Whilst chamberlain may have realised we needed to re-arm, he did it too late. Had the air force, army and navy been at a decent strength in the first place, would Germany have risked contemplating invading Poland? Hitler moved cause he saw we were weak, same with Putin today

Being reactive to bullies is costlier than being proactive, but the electorate doesn’t seem to have got the memo

Arthur King
Arthur King
10 days ago

Sticking their head in the sand is what the UK did in the 1930s when it was obvious that Mr Hitler was preparing for war.

Zoe White
Zoe White
10 days ago

hi

Bernard Brothman
Bernard Brothman
9 days ago

I would have liked to see the results of asking fighting age (17- to 28-year-olds) citizen whether they would be prepared to go into battle for a range of causes and see the results.

Bernard Brothman
Bernard Brothman
9 days ago

I would have liked to see the results of asking fighting age (17- to 28-year-olds) citizen whether they would be prepared to go into battle for a range of causes and see the results.

Bernard Brothman
Bernard Brothman
9 days ago

I would have liked to see the results of asking fighting age (17- to 28-year-olds) citizen whether they would be prepared to go into battle for a range of causes and see the results.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
7 days ago

Very revealing polls. The Ukrainian proxy war is led by the media in Europe and yet the people themselves are by-and-large completely agnostic — those being the people living in countries without an aggressive border with Russia.
Still, my opinion is that a Cold War (or more) with communist China alone could very easily be sold to Western voters today. One with Iran less easily, which problematises the wider Middle East scenario.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
7 days ago

Briefly, if you’re a white native Briton, you feel that this country is not working for YOU. It’s working for the newly arrived black fellow from Nigeria, the brown guy from Pakistan, the Asian chap from southeast Asia. Why fight for a country that will not fight for you?

John Murray
John Murray
10 days ago

“Chat GPT please produce an Unherd article as if written about British public opinion in June 1939.”
I mean, you may not want to go to war. British public opinion may not want to go to war. But sometimes . . . .

Bob Ewald
Bob Ewald
10 days ago

Only 21% would want their offspring to defend the homeland. The UK has surrendered. A disgrace.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
11 days ago

So the British have become cowards again? That’s not a good sign…

elaine chambers
elaine chambers
11 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

or just pacifists?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
11 days ago

Same diff

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
11 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Oh, I see! You’re just an idiot!
Carry on!

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
11 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Remind us of when the British were cowards before, there’s a good boy

Basil Schmitt
Basil Schmitt
10 days ago

Me and CS agreeing, the world has gone mad! Honestly mate, I respect you for writing your opinion even if it’s always lambasted in the comments and I almost always disagree.