Keir Starmer has launched a new Labour Friends of the Forces engagement programme on Armed Forces Day, declaring that he is “proud of my country and proud of those who serve it”.
The Labour leader will reboot the scheme – originally founded in 2011 – today with a virtual roundtable joined by members of the service community to “open up Labour again to our armed forces”.
The party says this will be the first of several online events to be hosted “in every region and nation with veterans, active personnel and forces families” to connect them with Labour decision-makers.
Commenting on the launch, Starmer said: “I am proud of my country and proud of those who serve it. I want to open up Labour again to our armed forces, their families and veterans across our country.
“Today’s event marks the start of an exciting new dialogue with forces communities with an ambitious new Labour Friends of the Forces scheme.”
Labour Friends of the Forces is an existing membership organisation. Its stated aim is to “demonstrate the value Labour places on the defence community” and “help the service community to come together”.
Starmer said: “As we celebrate Armed Forces Day, I say thank you to our forces communities for the role they play both at home and abroad. I will make sure we listen to you and learn from you.”
John Healey yesterday called for the end of a “decade of decline” in the armed forces, highlighting that “almost every government target for full-time military personnel has been missed” in the last ten years.
Commenting today, the Shadow Defence Secretary said: “Armed Forces Day celebrates the pride we share in the excellence and professionalism of Britain’s service men and women.
“They represent the values the British people admire most – integrity, discipline and service. As Britain faces a period of greater global risk and conflict, I want Labour to hear their voices and views, and I want them to play a bigger part in our party.
“We’ve got to understand the hopes and aspirations of the Armed Forces community, as well as the problems they face after a decade of declining numbers, morale and pay.”
Since 2010, military personnel in the British Armed Forces has fallen by a quarter. Ministers pledged in 2015 to maintain more than 82,000 military personnel, but Labour has highlighted that the number now stands at 73,750.
The party has called for the government to devote a chapter of its upcoming defence and security review to military personnel, overhaul the country’s covenant with serving forces, and champion the armed forces in public.