Starmer: Claim Labour is danger to security 'ridiculous'

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer meeting a veteran at a coffee morning at Aldershot Town Football Club
The Labour leader met veterans at a coffee morning at Aldershot Town Football Club [PA Media]

Sir Keir Starmer has branded Conservative suggestions that a Labour government would be a threat to national security as "ridiculous".

The Labour leader said the claim was "desperate" as he had been trusted with sensitive defence briefings by the government.

It comes after veterans minister Johnny Mercer said only the Tories had a plan to support the armed forces and a vote for Labour would "put us all in danger".

Parties are focusing their campaigning on defence in the last weekend before 4 July polling day.

Speaking on a campaign visit in Aldershot in Hampshire, known as the home of the British Army, on Armed Forces Day, Sir Keir was asked about the Tory claim Labour would put the country's national security at risk.

"I think this is desperate stuff from the Tories," he said, highlighting that the UK joined the Nato military alliance under a Labour government and the party's support had been "unshakeable since then".

He also pointed to Labour's support for the UK's nuclear deterrent, as well as the construction of four new nuclear submarines and any future upgrades needed.

"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," he said.

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

He added: "To now turn around and make this ridiculous claim just shows how desperate they have become going into this election."

Later on Saturday, Sir Keir addressed a Labour event in London, where he told party supporters the Conservatives could win the election next week if "we take our foot off the gas, if people think it's in the bag".

He said the party would need a "clear mandate" to deliver its plans if it forms the next government.

"Each and every vote is out there ready to be earned," he said.

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Earlier in the day, Mr Mercer said Sir Keir had not matched Tory pledges for veterans or to increase defence spending.

He added: "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."

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

He pointed out that Sir Keir's shadow cabinet included some people who had previously opposed the country's nuclear deterrent, Trident.

The Tories have promised to increase UK defence spending to 2.5% of national income by 2030, while Labour has committed to the target when economic conditions allow.

Keeping an Office for Veterans' Affairs and ensuring veterans get the benefits and compensations they deserve are also among the Conservative Party's election pledges.

Labour has pledged to introduce a new armed force commissioner, who would have the ability to investigate issues affecting the lives of military personnel like sub-standard housing.

The party has been keen to stress its support for the armed forces and the UK's nuclear deterrent, after the issue was used to attack the its previous leader, Jeremy Corbyn, in the 2019 general election.

Labour has sought to highlight that 14 former military personnel are among its election candidates, which it says is the largest number in modern history.

The Liberal Democrats also have an ambition to reach at least 2.5% of national income on defence, while the party has pledged to reverse cuts to troop numbers and improve military housing.

The Scottish National Party's manifesto includes a promise to scrap Trident and invest the money saved in public services and conventional defence.