‘Britain will be fit to fight within the first year of a Labour government’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer renews commitment to militarism and Britain’s nuclear weapons

By Andrew Murray
June 3, 2024

BRITAIN will be “fit to fight” under Labour, party leader Sir Keir Starmer said today in a renewed commitment to militarism.

The Labour leader also toughened up his commitment to spending far more on arms, saying that under Labour the military budget would aim to reach 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product “as soon as possible.”

And he both pledged to keep the Trident nuclear weapons system, building four new nuclear-armed submarines with one always ready to launch missiles, and that he would be ready as prime minister to use it.

“The most important thing is that I voted in favour of a nuclear deterrent,” Sir Keir said.

“And my commitment to the nuclear deterrent is absolute.

“Britain will be fit to fight within the first year of a Labour government.

“We will carry out a new Strategic Defence Review. We are absolutely committed to spending 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence as soon as possible.”

In words that will chill people across the world, the Labour leader warned that Britain would continue to “play our part on the world stage,” usually code for military interventionism.

And in backing for Nato, Sir Keir pledged to rebuild “relationships with our allies.”

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) led criticism against Sir Keir’s bellicose posturing, with general secretary Kate Hudson pointing out that “this policy just mirrors that of the existing government — more war, more military spending and more nuclear weapons.”

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She said that it was “patently obvious this approach is not bringing peace and prosperity in its wake.

“On the contrary. Billions are being wasted that should be rebuilding our decaying public services and improving people’s lives.

“It’s time for a change of policy. The old one has failed — we need to look to the future with a vision to work for peace internationally, improve people’s lives and make us genuinely secure, not an impoverished nuclear target.”

CND estimates that the commitments made on Trident alone by Labour will cost at least £205 billion.

Scottish National Party leader John Swinney today branded Trident as “immoral” and told the BBC that it was “a false economy” because it would “never be used” and provides “no useful security to the UK.”

And Jeremy Corbyn, fighting for Islington North as an independent, said: “Nuclear weapons are a profound and existential threat to humanity. Instead of investing in weapons of mass destruction, we should be investing in our schools, hospitals and housing to ensure everyone can lead a happy and healthy life.

“That is what real security means.”

Independent candidate Andrew Feinstein, who is challenging Sir Keir in his own north London constituency, warned that “every single taxpayer’s pound spent on weapons is a pound not spent on our crumbling schools, on reducing NHS waiting lists, on tackling the housing crisis, spiralling rents and the inability of hard-working families to pay the bills.

“Nearly 40 per cent of children in this constituency are living in poverty. That’s over 12,000 children.

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“Yet Keir Starmer continually tells us he can’t commit to money for them, just money for more bombs and endless wars.”

Mr Feinstein also challenged Sir Keir to debate “Labour’s position on Israel’s genocide in Gaza” and his “refusal to back an immediate and permanent ceasefire and an end to UK arms sales to the state” in the constituency, which is shortly to hold Gaza Week.

Sir Keir was also under pressure to make it clear that Labour would halt arms sales to Israel.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) director Ben Jamal said: “Keir Starmer needs to make clear if he takes international law seriously.

“If he does, then the course of action is clear — a Labour government would end arms sales to Israel.

“The evidence of Israel’s crimes against humanity in Gaza is overwhelming. No ethical or principled government would continue to supply arms to a genocidal state.

“If Keir Starmer cannot commit to a Labour government ending the sale of weapons to Israel, then he is indicating a willingness to continue the UK’s complicity in the genocide taking place.”

The comments came as activists from PSC dropped a banner from Westminster Bridge, reading: “Keir Starmer: Will Labour stop arming Israel?”

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