The armed forces work to keep us safe – we must do all we can to support them – LabourList

On Armistice Day, our nation comes together to honour the incredible bravery and sacrifices of armed forces personnel from across the UK. This year, Britain marks the 40th anniversary of the Falklands conflict, the 70th anniversary of the first British nuclear test and the 80th anniversary of the RAF regiment and of El-Alamein. We remember all those we’ve lost in conflict through the years and who have made the ultimate sacrifice to keep Britain, the Commonwealth and our allies safe.

As remembrance events take place across the UK this weekend, we are reminded of why our armed forces remain an enduring part of the fabric of Great Britain. They represent the values the British people admire most: courage, integrity, loyalty, discipline and service. Remembrance also provides an opportunity for Labour to recognise how, over the past year, the defence of our nation has taken on renewed importance in an uncertain world.

Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine poses the biggest risk to European security since the Cold War. Our armed forces have shown once again just how indispensable they are to the nation’s security, playing a leading role in supporting Ukraine, coordinating supplies, supporting NATO allies on deployments to Estonia and training Ukrainian troops here in Britain. Under Operation Interflex, our service personnel have trained more than 6,100 people in the armed forces of Ukraine, who have continued to put pressure on Putin’s forces as part of an impressive counterattack.

In parliament, Labour will continue to back our armed forces. Our party is closely connected with the armed forces community and – whether it is our brave service personnel, forces families or veterans – we must continue to strengthen those ties.

Over the past year, Labour Friends of the Forces has done superb work in nurturing and identifying future candidates from a military background. Target seat candidates Gareth Derrick, a former Royal Navy Commadore, and Mike Tapp, a former soldier who took part in three operational tours, are two good examples of how Labour’s benches for the next general election will have more people who have served.

When Labour returns to power, we will always prioritise the first duty of any government – to keep the country safe. But we cannot stop there. As a party, we need to make the case to the public and the armed forces community the changes we will make to improve our armed forces at home and abroad.

A Labour government would maintain our unshakable commitment to NATO. In power, our NATO test would ensure our service personnel have the equipment they need to fight and fulfil our NATO obligations, along with making sure there are no funding gaps in ongoing major defence projects.

As we commemorate all our armed service personnel, we should also reaffirm Labour’s commitment to supporting our veterans and their families across all our communities. Championing our veterans is about people. Labour is committed to creating an environment where veterans can excel and those that need support can access it, with an approach based on empathy and empowerment.

In government, Labour would fully incorporate the Armed Forces Covenant into law and fulfil the moral contract our society makes with those who serve, including scrapping visa fees for non-UK veterans and their dependents if they have served for over four years. Our plan would also boost veterans’ mental health support by £35m, with a special fund for the British Afghan veterans and personnel in light of the recent withdrawal.

Just as our armed forces work to keep us safe and our country secure, we must do all we can to support them. During this period of remembrance, we encourage you to pay your respects locally – and share stories of those who served, and pay tribute to those who never came home.

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