In a speech on Friday, Labour’s shadow defence secretary John Healey said the party’s commitment to Nato is “unshakeable” and support for nukes “non-negotiable.”
It was the latest move by Keir Starmer to show it has buried the left wing politics of previous leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Healey pitched the speech partly as an attempt to win back votes. Starmer and his allies believe that Labour lost the general election 2019 because it was too left wing—and that Corbyn’s opposition to war and nuclear weapons were unpopular.
In a swipe at Corbyn, Healey said he wanted to “restate Labour’s core principles on national defence and security”. He said it was “so that voters, service personnel and the defence industry can see where we, the new leadership of the Labour Party, are coming from.”
But the speech—given to the RUSI military think tank—was also designed to reassure top generals and security officials.
Healey promised them that Labour would support increased spending on the military—including building four new nuclear submarines. He also hinted at more resources demanded by security services for use against Russia and China.
And Healey said he wanted to bolster Britain’s standing as a military power in Europe, as a counterpart to the US. “As the USA pivots to meet the long-term challenge of China, Britain’s military leadership in Europe will become more essential.” he said.
Healey’s promises of money for the military comes as Labour looks set to oppose tax increases for the rich in the Tories’ budget next week.
Tory chancellor Rishi Sunak could promise a rise in corporation tax—a tax on businesses—in the budget next Wednesday.
Yet Starmer said in parliament this week that “now is not the time for tax rises.” This followed a speech last week in which he tried to show bosses he would act in their interests.
Ludicrously, an anonymous “senior party source” said calling for tax rises for the rich is the same as backing austerity. “It suggests you can fiddle with taxes and spending to pay off debt accumulated in an economic downturn,” the source said. “It’s the mirror of the argument George Osborne made a decade ago.”
Yet the difference between taxing the rich and making cuts is whether the rich or ordinary people pay for bosses’ economic crises.
Labour wants to fudge the question by pretending the two are the same. But eventually it has to take a side—and Starmer is desperate to show he’s chosen the side of the bosses.
“We won’t spend money we can’t afford” he said last week. But as Healey promised, Labour is happy to spend money on weapons and war.
Unions shouldn't back arms bosses
The GMB union welcomed Healey’s promise to back nuclear weapons and the arms industry.
GMB national officer Ross Murdoch said, “We welcome the Labour Party spelling out clearly its long-standing support for building four new submarines at Barrow and all future upgrades.
“We also welcome calls to ensure the highly skilled manufacturing jobs in the defence industry and wider supply chain are kept and nurtured in Britain.
“It’s common sense that we build on the skills, jobs, apprenticeships and prosperity at home.”
Union leaders—especially in Unite and the GMB—support the arms industry because they say it protects jobs. They helped right wing Labour MPs push Corbyn into keeping Labour’s support for nuclear weapons.
Yet the billions spent on war and nuclear weapons would be better spent on creating new, useful jobs, such as building wind turbines, solar panels or green public transport.
It’s a disgrace to argue that trade unions should support building weapons to kill ordinary people abroad so as to protect jobs in Britain.