Labour to win ensured the motion topic “Defence” was debated at labour conference 23. There were only two CLP’s and only one motion within the topic and as one comrade pointed out the words are at least similar to words that have been put into the Ukraine topic, although I am of the view that these things are better debated separately. The motion states that Labour will continue to support NATO, the need for a nuclear deterrent and that its support the armed forces will be absolute, whatever that means. It also argues that’s a labour government will continue to meet the UK’s NATO commitments, 2.0% of GDP. It also states that a Labour Government will invest in the UK’s defence manufacturing capability, continue to support Ukraine, engage in a ‘new’ EU-UK security pact and develop the AUKUS partnership. It also commits to engaging in multilateral disarmament talks. I suggest its selection as a unique topic was designed to exclude other issues from debate. In this article, I review the debate and then make some criticisms of the way in which the issues are being handled due to an ignorance of the problems.
The debate was preceded with an address from Bodan Ferens , the founder of Ukraine’s Social Democratic platform and then opened by speeches from David Lammy (Shadow Foreign Minister) and then John Healey (Defence).
David Lammy spoke, starting by deploring the Hamas attack, standing for Israel’s right to defend itself, although putting this in the context of rescuing hostages and degrading the military capability, he also committed to support a two state solution. Was he channelling Penny Mordaunt with his calls to ‘stand up’ for the military and to ‘wake up’ on Europe? While his comments on Europe and the EU were aimed at the Tories they could equally be aimed at Starmer and Reeves, but he loyally repeated the mantra, of no return to the EU, or its single market but we will improve our relations with the EU. He ticked off a recognition to a new military pact with the EU; I am unsure that the EU will be willing to co-operate closely on security issues with non-members not bound to the EU’s charter of fundamental rights and there’s also the French and their suspicion of the US & NATO.
Healey, the shadow defence secretary, spoke next, he decried the Tory reticence to spend the agreed budget leading to delays in rearming the services…