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Sunak claims Starmer win would embolden Putin as election battle hots up

13 May 2024 5 minute read
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak prior to making a keynote address at the Policy Exchange think tank. Photo  Carl Court/PA Wire

Rishi Sunak warned giving Sir Keir Starmer the keys to No 10 would leave the country less safe and embolden Russia’s Vladimir Putin, in an early indication of bitter general election battles to come.

The Prime Minister claimed Labour’s refusal to adopt the Government’s plan to spend 2.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) on defence sent the wrong message at a time when the world was facing “one of the most dangerous periods we’ve ever known”.

The highly personal attack on Sir Keir Starmer came as Mr Sunak attempted to revive Tory hopes with his party more than 20 points behind in the opinion polls and licking its wounds after a local election mauling.

Sir Keir rejected the attack, saying “I know first-hand the importance of national security” from his role as director of public prosecutions.

Dangers

Mr Sunak said that despite the dangers over the coming years, there was also opportunity and voters will have a choice between the Conservatives’ “optimistic” view of the future and Labour’s “doomsterism”.

In a speech to the Policy Exchange think tank Mr Sunak said he remained “confident” that his party could win the general election as it was “the only party really talking about the future” and offering “bold ideas and a clear plan” rather than “lofty platitudes”.

The Prime Minister’s wide-ranging address warned of threats over the next five years from an “axis of authoritarian powers” including China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, extremists seeking to sow division at home, fears about new technologies such as artificial intelligence and global forces imperilling people’s financial security.

He said: “People want to know that they have got someone in charge who understands these dangers, because only if you understand what’s happening can you be trusted to keep us safe.”

Civil service cuts

Mr Sunak has set out a plan to spend 2.5% of GDP on defence by 2030, with the money largely coming from slashing the size of the Civil Service.

Labour has said it wants to raise defence spending to 2.5% of GDP, but has not set a date for achieving that target and would carry out a defence review if it wins the election.

Mr Sunak said: “I believe that we will keep this country safe and Keir Starmer’s actions demonstrate that he won’t be able to do that.”

He added: “The Labour Party and Keir Starmer not matching our investment on defence spending emboldens our adversaries.

“What do you think Putin thinks when he sees that? That he thinks the West isn’t prepared to make the tough choices to invest in their security?

“Because Russia’s economy has mobilised for war, he is continuing to be aggressive, we need to meet that aggression with strength.”

Mr Sunak also accused the opposition of attempting to “depress their way to victory” with “talk of doom loops and gaslighting and scaremongering about pensions”.

He said: “They have just one thing: a calculation that they can make you feel so bad about your country, that you won’t have the energy to ask what they might do with the incredible power that they seek to yield.”

‘Anxious’

Mr Sunak acknowledged that the public felt “anxious and uncertain”, but denied that this was all due to “14 years of Conservative government”.

But while he painted a picture of a difficult period ahead, the Prime Minister also pointed to significant opportunities presented by transformational technologies such as AI, adding it was “incumbent upon us to make this a period not just of great danger but of great progress too”.

In his speech and question and answer session, Mr Sunak:

– Stressed he would not let the European Court of Human Rights derail his Rwanda asylum plan, saying “if the Strasbourg court make me choose between the ECHR and this country’s security, I will choose our country’s security every single time”.

– Kept the door open for Boris Johnson to play a role during the election, saying the party was “a broad church” and the election was not a choice between “this Conservative and that Conservative” but against Labour.

– Again refused to rule out a July election, saying he did not want a debate about “process and timing”.

Mr Sunak concluded: “There are storms ahead. The dangers are all too real, but Britain can feel proud again, Britain can feel confident again, because with bold action and a clear plan, we can and we will create a secure future.”

Sir Keir said the Tories offered “chaos and division” and “we can’t afford another five years” of that.

He told reporters in Wolverhampton: “The first duty of any government, particularly an incoming Labour government, is national security, the security of the country, and that would be my first priority.”

Sir Keir said Mr Sunak’s speech was “his seventh reset in 18 months”.

“That really shows you that the choice as we go into this election is now pretty clear: It’s a choice between a changed Labour Party that puts the country first and party second, or continuing with this government, the chaos and division that’s been going on for so long, caused so much hardship.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: “This Conservative Government is out of touch and out of time and Rishi Sunak must do the right thing and give the people a general election.”


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Jeff
Jeff
9 days ago

This was awful. Policy Exchange as well, they are very quiet on who funds them. So, NHS in the UK, ruined and disapearing into private ownership. People on the bread line cannot get help, food banks at the highest use and largest tax burden since ever. Disabled? The Tory party are attacking you. Poor? The Tory party are already attacking you. Want freedom? The Tory party are already removing rights. You are fine if you chuck a bung to the Tory party, get a peer and all sorts of other benefits, cant mone about that. The biggest most dangerous single… Read more »

Riki
Riki
9 days ago

There is something seriously wrong with this, man! Wow, that hurt to say, calling him a man, more like a monster. These elections we have a choice between Darth Vader or Freddy Kruger. Lovely!

Rob
Rob
9 days ago
Reply to  Riki

At least Darth Vader turned back to the good side before he died.

Annibendod
Annibendod
9 days ago

Rho nerth i mi. Oes ynys rhywle fe all y Gymry dianc iddo?

GCJ
GCJ
9 days ago
Reply to  Annibendod

Mae yna weriniaeth o fewn 3 awr o Gaergybi sydd wedi dianc o grafangau’r anghenfil dros y ffin!

Tiocfaidh ár lá

Annibendod
Annibendod
9 days ago
Reply to  GCJ

Gobeithio’n wir Gaz! Wi methu goddef y gawod o gachu hwn am lawer fwy.

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
9 days ago

He might call himself British but his ideology is Indian and by that i mean the class system in India there are far more classes and far far worse than the class system in this country if you are born in the lower classes in the gutter so to speak you are never allowed to rise out of it he is of the top of the tree very very rich they treat they lower classes like dirt and he is trying to do it here

GCJ
GCJ
9 days ago
Reply to  Dai Ponty

Having worked in Asia I can confirm that business practices in many Asian countries leave a lot to be desired and would certainly not be acceptable in Europe. One cannot help wondering how much these cultural differences influence the judgment and strategies of people in high office outside their mother country.

Rob
Rob
9 days ago

Quote “incumbent upon us to make this a period not just of great danger but of great progress too”.

In other words if Labour wins the election, Skynet will take over and we will have a nuclear confrontation against the machines 😀

As for the ECHR, maybe Sunak should be reminded that it was Churchill who established it in the 1950s to preserve human rights across Europe after WW2. Our human rights are are non-negotiable.

karl
karl
9 days ago

Considering the man is calling my kids a pre war generation, he can shut up. Tories have created far more dangers. He has destroyed public serives as Chancellor, caused pointless friction with the neighbours and is part of a generation of politicians who have snuggled up to make Londond rich with Russian money.

hdavies15
hdavies15
9 days ago

Sunak trots out some stale fib about Starmer – why bother ? Plenty wrong with Starmer without making up some petulant childish swipe. Maybe he does that because Starmer’s real defects closely resemble his own. Too close for comfort ?

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
9 days ago

Tories are scum! To describe them as in the gutter would be to elevate them to a position far higher than where they reside!

After 14 years of tory government in westminster, and 45 years of neoliberalism, there is very little left worth keeping safe.

If I was made to take up arms against an enemy, it is the tories I would be targeting!

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
9 days ago

The Tory book of lies is so enormous, it takes a taxpayer funded crane to move it.

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
9 days ago
Reply to  Fi yn unig

The list of lies is so long, if you started reading them from the moment of the big bang, today you’d still be on page one!

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
8 days ago

This sort of rhetoric is just the beginning from this atrocious party. It will say anything to stay in power. However, it’s too late, the public are sick and tired of the lies, ruined economy, growing poverty and inequality. Enough is Enough – they’ve got to be obliterated at the next GE.

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