Keir Starmer seeks to rebuild Labour armed forces ties with ‘ambitious’ engagement programme
The move by Sir Keir will be seen as an attempt to move on from the Jeremy Corbyn era.
Keir Starmer has vowed to “open up Labour again” to Britain’s service personnel and their families.
As the party marks Armed Forces Day, the Labour leader is relaunching its ‘Friends of the Forces’ scheme, promising to “link those in the forces and forces communities directly with Labour’s decision-makers”.
Some critics of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused him of failing to do enough to signal his support for the military in the run-up to the 2019 election.
Former Grimsby MP Melanie Onn, who lost her seat last year, said after the election defeat: “There were concerns going back to not singing the national anthem, not feeling as if he was for our armed forces.
“There is a big ex-armed forces population in Grimsby and people felt that he was standing up for other people and not standing up for them.”
Labour is now promising to launch what it calls its “most ambitious programme of engagement” with service personnel and their families, with Sir Keir holding a virtual roundtable to meet veterans and their families.
That will be followed by events “in every region and nation”, the party said.
In a message to mark Armed Forces Day, Sir Keir 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.
“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.”
That view was echoed by Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey, who said Britain’s service men and women “represent the values the British people admire most - integrity, discipline and service”.
The frontbencher added: “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.”