Last weekend at the Labour Party Conference I had the privilege of sharing a platform with the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, Nia Griffith MP, as we debated Labour’s Defence and Security Policy. Our policy sets us apart as the Party who stands firmly by an ethical Foreign, Defence and Security Policy based upon the maintenance of a credible and well-maintained military.
The threats we face to British national security are complex and we have to simultaneously maintain our conventional forces alongside, and integrated with, a capability to respond to non-conventional threats. We face threats at home from cyber attack, homegrown and imported terrorism, and the manipulation of our democracy through sophisticated information warfare. We must also look far more effectively to the emerging threats to our security abroad whether that be the vacuum of governance in a failing state where terrorism can foment, or the hybrid warfare waged on NATO’s borders and in proxy wars in the Middle East.
The last 20 years have seen the British Armed Forces bent out of shape by expeditionary operations to Iraq and Afghanistan. The deep cuts to personnel and equipment programmes by the Coalition government have led to a hollowing out of our Forces. We need to redefine our place in the world as a country whose strength comes from our reputation as a reliable and highly capable partner, and whose ultimate goal is to maintain peace. We need to maintain a conventional joint response capability while simultaneously honing our ability to work in a multi-agency environment in the UK and overseas. Our priorities must be to prevent conflict and to rapidly stabilise areas where conflict has occurred so that those agencies who are better placed than the military to help re-grow good governance have the secure space they need to work in.
Labour commits to spend 2% of GDP on our military, and we don’t think these figures should be fudged as they have been under the Conservatives. We need to maintain an adaptable and well-resourced force as part of our suite of resources to face today’s complex threats. The military has recently been asked to go well beyond its core competencies to assist with civil governance, policing and international development. Labour needs to pull together a far more cohesive and comprehensive response to the contemporary threats to British national security.
Labour has confirmed its commitment to the wellbeing and morale of our Armed Forces and the wider forces family including veterans. Our five policy pledges are:
- Fair Pay – scrap the public sector pay cap, which has seen a 5.8% real terms pay cut for the starting salary of an Army Private soldier.
- Decent housing for forces and their families – end the growing reliance on the private rented sector.
- A voice for servicemen and women – consult on creating a representative body, similar to the Police Federation.
- End privatisation – root and branch review of outsourcing and a clear presumption in favour of pubic delivery of public contracts
- Support for forces children – better access to schools with dedicated local authorities admissions strategy for the particular challenge of frequent school moves.