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Labour and Tories to clash on security after national service announcement

26 May 2024 4 minute read
Sir Keir Starmer – Image Gareth Fuller

Labour and the Tories will clash over security as campaigning for the General Election enters its first full week after the Conservatives announced plans to introduce national service.

In a keynote speech ahead of polling day, Sir Keir Starmer will say that “economic security, border security, and national security” will form the “bedrock” of the party manifesto.

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak will be hammering his message that the Conservatives will take “bold action” to deliver “a secure future for the next generation”.

The Tories have announced that all 18-year-olds would be made to undertake a form of “mandatory” national service if they are re-elected on July 4.

Teenagers would choose between taking a 12-month placement in the armed forces or “volunteer” work in their community one weekend a month for a year under the proposals.

Unserious

Opposition critics have dismissed the plans as “unserious”, with Labour saying the pledge would never come to fruition and amounted to “another unfunded commitment”.

Sir Keir will put security at the heart of his speech on Monday as the Prime Minister seeks to draw a dividing line with Labour over the issue, following his commitment to raise defence spending to 2.5% GDP by 2030.

“The very foundation of any good government is economic security, border security, and national security,” the Labour leader is expected to say.

“This is the foundation, the bedrock that our manifesto and our first steps will be built upon.”

It comes after Labour and the Tories traded insults about the party leaders on Sunday as each accused the other of absenteeism on the doorstep.

The Conservatives suggested Sir Keir lacked the “stamina” to campaign on Sunday, though pictures later emerged of him meeting voters in Brighton.

Meanwhile, Labour said the Prime Minister had been “holed up with his aides” and “hiding away in his mansion” after he returned to his Yorkshire constituency to meet local veterans on Saturday following a two-day tour of the UK.

Mocked

Both shadow work and pensions secretary Liz Kendall and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves were on Sunday dispatched for Labour to broadcast studios, where they mocked the Tories’ national service announcement.

“This is an unfunded commitment, a headline-grabbing gimmick, it is not a proper plan to deliver it, it doesn’t deal with the big challenges facing young people who are desperate to get the skills and qualifications they need to get good jobs, to have a home they can call their own,” Ms Kendall told Sky News.

Home Secretary James Cleverly insisted the programme was aimed at getting teenagers “out of their bubble” because too many “don’t mix with people of different religions, they don’t mix with different viewpoints”.

He said that nobody would be “sent to jail” for refusing to comply with the proposed scheme after questions arose over whether teenagers would be punished for not taking part in community work.

The Tories have said this volunteering could include organisations such as police, fire and NHS services or charities tackling loneliness and helping elderly vulnerable people.

The announcement faced an immediate setback on Sunday after it emerged that defence minister Andrew Murrison had ruled out a restoration of “any form” of national service just three days ago.

In a parliamentary written statement on behalf of the Government, the MP said it could damage morale if “potentially unwilling” recruits were forced to serve alongside armed forces personnel.

The pitch appears to be aimed squarely at older voters and ones who may vote Reform, a party which is targeting voters on the Conservative right.

But the Prime Minister is also seeking to draw a dividing line with Labour on security and defence following his pledge to raise defence spending to 2.5% of gross domestic product by 2030.

Labour has said it would meet the target when economic conditions allow.

Both leaders are understood to be hitting in battleground areas across the South East on Monday as campaigning ramps up in its first full week.

Sir Ed Davey will be north of the border launching the Scottish Liberal Democrat campaign with Scottish leader Alex Cole-Hamilton.


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Rhufawn Jones
Rhufawn Jones
19 days ago

Ddylai’r un Cymro neu Gymraeg wasanaethu ym myddin y goresgynwyr.

Jeff
Jeff
19 days ago

Sunak wants to force teenagers to work in all the places they have wrecked. They want free forced labour.

As for security, we have their last 14 years. Johnson would never have got security clearance had he not been PM. The state of that party, they put a massive security risk in charge of the nation. What did Johnson say to the ex kgb at that party. There is Sunaks security on show.

robin campbell
robin campbell
18 days ago

Where are the Union Jacks?

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