Starmer blasts ‘ridiculous’ Tory claim Labour would be national security threat

Sir Keir Starmer has hit out at “ridiculous” Tory suggestions that Labour would be a threat to national security, after one minister branded him a “danger” and another claimed he would leave the UK vulnerable to foreign powers.

The Labour leader said he had been granted access to sensitive intelligence by the Government so it was wrong for ministers to now claim he would be a danger.

Speaking on a campaign visit in Aldershot, known as the home of the British Army, Sir Keir told reporters: “I think this is desperate stuff from the Tories.

“We are the party that was a founder member of Nato. If you go to Brussels and see the treaty there for Nato, it’s a Labour secretary of state that signed that and our support for Nato has been unshakeable since then.

“On the nuclear deterrent, we’re clear about the triple lock that we’ve put in place, not only the current deterrent but the future upgrades of that deterrent and the jobs that go with it.

“We have also – and this is why it is really desperate from the Tories – united with this Government, the Tory Government, on really important issues of national security.

“As a result of that, they have given me high-level sensitive briefings, so much do they trust us on national security.

“I’m very glad that they have and I do thank the Defence Secretary for facilitating that, particularly during Ukraine when they gave us very regular, very sensitive briefings.

“To now turn around and make this ridiculous claim just shows how desperate they have become going into this election. It does them no good.”

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer laughing while sitting at a table with cups of coffee alongside Labour candidate Alex Baker during a visit to a veterans’ coffee morning at Aldershot Town Football Club
Sir Keir Starmer, with Labour candidate Alex Baker during a visit to a veterans’ coffee morning, laughed off suggestions he was dangerous (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Veterans minister Johnny Mercer said only the Conservatives have a plan for veterans and can secure the future of the UK, before warning that a vote for Labour would “put us all in danger”.

Meanwhile security minister Tom Tugendhat told BBC Breakfast that the UK would be “more vulnerable to foreign pressure” under a Labour government.

Mr Mercer said: “We are the only party which has committed to the Help for Heroes Veterans’ Pledge showing that, whilst others pay lip service to veterans, we are firmly on their side.

“Sir Keir Starmer on the other hand can’t match our veterans’ pledges, protect old veterans from being hauled before juries nor back our defence spending increases.

“Only the Conservatives have a clear plan to support our armed forces and secure the future of our country. Don’t vote to let Starmer put us all in danger from Downing Street.”

This comes as Labour insisted it would champion the armed forces and increase defence spending.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer and John Healey
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer with shadow defence secretary John Healey (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The party has pledged to introduce a new armed forces commissioner, who would have the ability to investigate and report on issues affecting the lives of veterans, such as sub-standard housing, faulty kit, and poor discharge support.

Unveiling the plans on Armed Forces Day, the party said provisions would be made for the right to visit and inspect Ministry of Defence sites without needing prior approval from the Defence Secretary.

Sir Keir and shadow defence secretary John Healey spoke to veterans, including 93-year-old Purna Bahadur Gurung who served for 24 years, at a coffee morning at Aldershot Town Football Club.

Ahead of the visit on Saturday, Sir Keir said the role will “help to renew the moral contract with those who serve our nation”.

During a conversation over a cup of coffee, Sir Keir urged the veterans to let him know what they want to see change for veterans locally and nationally.

He said that he is committed to being a “government of service”.

Mr Bahadur Gurung told the PA news agency that he enjoyed meeting the Labour leader because he leads a “strong party” which “looks after the people”.

Legislation for the independent armed forces commissioner is expected to be brought forward in the first year of government.

Mr Healey said the Labour Party will look after the armed forces “just as they look after us”.

Ahead of Armed Forces Day, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pointed to the importance of increasing defence spending to 2.5% of GDP.

As part of the Conservatives’ election pledges, the party is proposing to commission an independent review of the medical discharge process, retain the Office for Veterans’ Affairs, and ensure veterans receive benefits and compensation.