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Shapps believes Labour’s failure to have a plan to increase defence budget ‘presents a danger to this country’ – UK politics live | Politics


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Lammy says Labour’s commitment to Ukraine ‘ironclad’ and it will stand with Kyiv ‘until it wins’

In his speech yesterday Rishi Sunak claimed that Labour would not be able to continue supplying Ukraine with the military aid it needs in the way that the Conservative government is doing. But as he was speaking David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, and John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, were in Kyiv for a meeting with Rustem Umerov, the Ukrainian defence minister. Labour released details of the visit last night.

Lammy said he and Healey told their hosts that Labour’s commitment to Ukraine was “ironclad”. He said:

As Putin seeks to divide the West, we visited Kyiv together to send a clear message that a change in government in the UK would mean no change in our military, diplomatic, financial and political support to Ukraine.

Moscow’s deepened cooperation with Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang requires us to deepen our cooperation with Britain’s allies to demonstrate that our commitment to Ukraine will outlast Vladmir Putin’s imperial invasion.

The next Labour government’s commitment to Ukraine will be ironclad and European security will be our first foreign and defence priority. Labour’s action plan lays out a wide-ranging approach to stand with Ukraine, confront Russian aggression and pursue Putin for his war crimes. We will stand with Ukraine until it wins.

David Lammy and John Healey visiting a destroyed bridge in the town of Irpin, outside Kyiv, yesterday. Photograph: Alina Smutko/Reuters

Good morning. Normally foreign policy is not a central issue in an election year but yesterday Rishi Sunak embraced it; after months and years of trying to find a compelling reason why he thinks people should not trust Keir Starmer to form the next government, he focused on the argument that with Labour in power Britain would be less safe. Grant Shapps, the defence secretary, has been giving interviews this morning and he has been doubling down on the message.

In truth, the gap between Labour and the Conservatives on defence spending is not enormous. Sunak has given a firm commitment to raise defence spending to 2.5% of GDP, which he plans to fund through civil service jobs cuts and efficiency savings, but he does not plan to reach the 2.5% target until 2030. Labour has said that it aims to increase defence spending to 2.5%, but only when resources allow (which means that it does have have a costed plan to get there).

However, Shapps told Sky News this morning that he thought Starmer’s failure to have a plan to increase the defence budget was a significant problem.

You can’t wish your way to more defence spending. You have to set out the plans and do it and that is why our plans now are fundamentally different to Labour.

And I have to say as defence Secretary, with everything that I know in this role, that I think that the Labour position presents a danger to this country because it will send a signal to our adversaries that we are not serious about our defence if we won’t set out that timetable.

For a host of other reasons, the Conservative party is also vulnerable to the charge that it is not serious about governing and Sunak’s speech yesterday, which opened with a passage about how the UK was about to confront some of the most dangerous threats in its history, coincided with Esther McVey, the so-called “minister for common sense”, announcing that she is going to stop civil servants wearing rainbow lanyards. To her credit, she did not try to argue that this would minimise the risk of attack from Russia, but it did raise questions about whether the government has got its priorities right.

In an interview with Times Radio, Shapps came close to saying he thought McVey was wasting her time. Asked about his colleague’s rainbow lanyard crackdown, he replied:

Personally, I don’t mind people expressing their views on these things. It doesn’t, you know, what lanyard somebody wears, doesn’t particularly concern me.

But I do think – and this is where I think Esther McVey has a point – that what we want is our civil servants to be getting on with the main job. And the main job is to serve the department they work for, in my case, defence, but across Whitehall.

I think she was getting at the idea that that should be the focus for civil servants.

Here is the agenda for the day.

Morning: Rishi Sunak chairs cabinet.

10am: Michelle O’Neill, Northern Ireland’s first minister, gives evidence to the Covid inquiry in Belfast.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

11.30am: Grant Shapps gives a speech at a sea power conference at Lancaster House.

Afternoon: Keir Starmer has a meeting with union leaders where they are expected to raise concerns that the new deal for working people plans are being watered down.

Also, Sunak is hosting a Farm to Fork summit at Downing Street.

And Oliver Dowden, the deputy prime minister, Lucy Frazer, the culture secretary, and Kemi Badenoch, the business secretary, are in Saudi Arabia for an investment summit.

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