Keir Starmer – A stronger, safer, more secure Britain speech

Thank you, let me start by saying thank you Louise – for your service. What a fantastic contribution you will make to Parliament as the Labour MP for North East Derbyshire. And thank you John – for all your support and your leadership on this vital issue. 

Now, this week is the 80th anniversary of D-Day, so I want to start by remembering the bravery of those soldiers who sailed from the South of England to the beaches of France. The individual courage and the collective strength of our troops whose sacrifice that day turned the tide of the Second World War, brought liberation to Europe, and secured our freedom. 

This week and every week – we will remember them.

And we will honour them.

Some gave their lives so we could live freely. Others returned home to build a new Britain. We salute those who remain with us today and keep the memory of their fallen comrades alive. And we recognise with one voice, as a nation, that our debt can never be paid in full. 

But of course – we can honour their sacrifice with our decisions today. And we must. Because sadly, the world we live in today is perhaps more dangerous and volatile than at any time since then, and frankly, for my generation, that’s a shock. 

I mean, I remember vividly the day the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. I remember how I felt. A sense of freedom, of possibility, of peace. European countries once again free to choose their own futures, new allegiances being made, friendships forged out of the scars of war. 

And above all, a sense – as the wall came down – nothing like that could happen again. An end of an era. 

I didn’t think that in my lifetime I would see Russian tanks entering a European country again. The rumble of war rolling across our continent, soldiers kissing their children goodbye, desperate families fleeing across European borders in search of safety.

But in that moment, as we saw those pictures from Kyiv, I understood.

The post-war era is over and a new age of insecurity has begun. An era where the burden of history – for people and nations will once again, be heavier on our backs.

National security is the most important issue of our times. Something which, of course, is always true, and which for us, if we are privileged to serve our country, will become our solemn responsibility.

That’s not something I say lightly: the security and defence of our nation is personal to my family. Like so many families, I have relatives who served in the second world war. My mum’s brother, my uncle Roger, served in the Falklands on HMS Antelope. And I remember the terrible wait when his ship was bombed.

My mum’s fear as she sat by the radio every day, listening for news, and then the relief, a long week later, when we found out he had survived. So I know the courage, the service, and the sacrifice that allows us to sleep soundly at night from our forces and their families. 

I know it. I respect it. And I will serve it – with every decision. It is part of my story, and the reason why I said – from day one of my leadership – that the Labour Party had to change.

Change for a purpose. To respect your service, face the future in this dangerous world, and above all – to keep Britain safe. That is why, with my changed Labour Party, national security will always come first. 

That’s a message I took to Kyiv last year when I visited President Zelensky. A pledge of unwavering British support in the face of Russian tyranny. But we have to be resolute, not just in our support for Ukraine but also – in this era, at home. 

We must face down malign actors who try to attack and weaken our nation, and not just through traditional warfare over air, land and sea, but with hybrid threats – to our energy supply, cyber security, information warfare. 

Now – I would prefer if politics were kept out of this issue – even at this election. Throughout the whole of this Parliament. I have deliberately not been partisan over issues of national security. 

Yet just before this election, the Tories questioned this Labour Party’s commitment to national security. And I will not let that stand. The people of Britain need to know that their leaders will keep them safe – and we will. Furthermore, the truth is that after 14 years of the Tories, we are less safe and less secure.

You don’t have to take my word for it. The Tory’s own former defence secretary says the government has failed to take defence seriously. We have the smallest army since the time of Napoleon, at a time when other countries are firmly on a war footing.

So – even as we work tirelessly for peace, we have to be fit to fight. 

So let me be unequivocal. This Labour Party is totally committed to the security of our nation. To our armed forces. And, importantly, to our nuclear deterrent.

Just a few weeks ago I visited BAE Systems in Barrow-in-Furness. I was the first Labour leader to visit in 30 years.

I saw the nuclear submarines being made. I saw an industry that supports the local community and I met workers who are proud to be doing their bit for our national security. 

They deserve our full support, and they will get it. The nuclear deterrent is the foundation of any plan to keep Britain safe – it is essential. 

That’s why Labour has announced a new triple-lock commitment to our nuclear deterrent. We’ll maintain Britain’s Continuous at Sea deterrent 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Deliver all the needed future upgrades and we will build four new nuclear submarines like the ones I saw in Barrow. That won’t just keep us safe, it will also support good jobs and growth across the UK. 

One of my first visits after I became leader of the Labour Party was to Plymouth, the frontline of defence in this country. Devonport alone employs 2,500 service people and civilians, it supports 400 local businesses, and it generates around 10% of Plymouth’s income.

And when I was there, I met the shipbuilding apprentices – talented, ambitious young people. And I looked them in the eye and promised that I would fight for the future of Plymouth’s defence industry. And I will. 

Because it’s only by harnessing and supporting the strength of proud communities like Plymouth, Barrow, Aldershot, and so many more, that means we can safeguard our security and our growth for the decades to come. 

I mean look at Ukraine now. Industrial capacity is an absolutely critical part of security. So with Labour, Britain will be fit to fight. Within the first year of a Labour government, we will carry out a new strategic defence review. And we’re absolutely committed to spending 2.5% of GDP on defence as soon as possible, because we know our security isn’t just vital for our safety today, it’s absolutely central to our success for the future. 

National security and economic security must go hand in hand. 

And we also know that playing our part on the world stage makes us stronger and better off at home. So make no mistake: I am absolutely committed to rebuilding relationships with our allies. I went to the Munich Security Conference back in February, I met with world leaders from the US, Europe and the Middle East and I met the Secretary General of NATO. And I pledged to each of them that with a Labour government, the UK would be a point of stability in a chaotic world, that we would always meet our international obligations, take our responsibilities seriously and be a leader on the world stage once more. 

Because when I spoke about D-Day at the beginning I wasn’t just talking about respect for our past, I was thinking about our future as well. Because that is the best example of what cooperation can achieve in the face of fascism and aggression.

Our joint endeavour, our shared values, our common respect for freedom, democracy, liberty, that’s what we were fighting for and that fight never stops. 

There is a narrative you see sometimes that our values are a point of weakness. That’s what Putin thinks. 

But he’s wrong. Ukraine has shown that, and we must be prepared to stand up as well, because those values are our cause and our strength.  

Let me be clear. This is not a party-political issue, this is a national issue. It affects every single individual, every community, and Labour will always put our country first. We will serve working people across our nation, and respect our armed forces as they continue to protect our country. 

But on July 4th there is a choice. And you can choose to rebuild a country that is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with European allies, that leads the way in standing up for our values and our freedom, all around the world, and that will never shy away from doing our duty at home and abroad.  

A stronger, safer, more secure Britain with Labour. 

That is the choice. It’s time to stop the chaos, time to turn the page and rebuild our country, together. 

Thank you very much.