UK election: Labour leader Starmer seeks to reassure voters over defence

Starmer says Labour the ‘party of national security’ and warns a new ‘age of insecurity’ has begun

Labour leader Keir Starmer (C) speaks during an event in Bury, England. Photograph: Cameron Smith/Getty Images

British Labour leader Keir Starmer pledged on Monday to secure the UK’s armed forces and nuclear deterrent as he sought to reassure voters before an election that the nation would be safe in the hands of a Labour government.

Describing Labour as the “party of national security”, Mr Starmer turned his campaign focus to defence, seen as a weak spot for Britain’s main opposition party under his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, a long-time supporter of nuclear disarmament.

With conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, defence is taking centre stage before the July 4th election. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said last month that only his Conservative Party could keep voters safe in an increasingly dangerous world.

Standing in front of 14 former military Labour candidates, Mr Starmer told an audience: “The people of Britain need to know that their leaders will keep them safe – and we will.”


“This Labour Party is totally committed to the security of our nation, to our armed forces and, importantly, to our nuclear deterrent.”

He made a commitment to a “nuclear deterrent triple lock” – constructing four new nuclear submarines, maintaining a continuous at-sea deterrent and the delivery of all future upgrades needed for those submarines.

National security is “the most important issue of our times” and will be Labour’s “solemn responsibility” if it enters government, Mr Starmer said.

The party leader opened his speech on Monday by remembering the bravery and courage of the soldiers who served on D-Day and “brought liberation to Europe” with their “individual and collective strength”.

He warned the world is “perhaps more dangerous and volatile than any time since then” as he said the “postwar era is over” and a new “age of insecurity” has begun as he gave a speech on Monday.

“This week and every week we will remember them and we will honour them,” the Labour leader said.

“National security is the most important issue of our times, something which is of course always true, and which for us, if we’re privileged to serve our country, will become our solemn responsibility.”

Even though Labour is far ahead in the polls, officials say they still need to convince thousands of undecided voters to back what Mr Starmer repeatedly calls a “changed party”, one which can be trusted on defence, health and tackling immigration.

The Conservatives believe they have a stronger defence offering, with a pledge to increase defence spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP a year by 2030 – a target Labour says it wants to match “as soon as possible”.

The Labour leader was again asked about his party's stance on the Gaza conflict, after Labour has struggled to hold on to the support of some Muslim voters in local elections.

“The best thing ... for everybody concerned is to press for that ceasefire immediately, straight away,” he said. “That has been our position for weeks and weeks and weeks and months.” – Reuters