UK Starmer seeks to reassure voters on defence with nuclear deterrent pledge

LONDON – British opposition leader Keir Starmer will pledge on Monday to secure the country’s nuclear deterrent, trying to reassure voters before an election that the nation would be safe in the hands of a Labour government.

Describing Labour as the “party of national security”, Starmer will turn his campaign focus to defence, seen as a weak spot for Britain’s main opposition party under his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, a long-time supporter of nuclear disarmament.

With conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, defence is taking centre stage before the July 4 election, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak saying last month that only his Conservative Party could keep voters safe in an increasingly dangerous world.

“National security will always come first in the changed Labour Party I lead. Keeping our country safe is the bedrock of stability that the British people rightly expect from their government,” Starmer said in a statement.

“My message to them is clear: Labour has changed. No longer the party of protest, Labour is the party of national security.”

He will make a commitment to a so-called “nuclear deterrent triple lock” – constructing four new nuclear submarines, maintaining a continuous at-sea deterrent and the delivery of all future upgrades needed for those submarines.

Even though Labour is far ahead in the polls, officials say they still need to convince thousands of undecided voters to back what Starmer repeatedly calls a “changed party”, one which can be trusted on defence, health and tackling immigration.

The Conservatives believe they have a stronger defence offering, with a pledge to increase defence spending to 2.5% of GDP a year by 2030 — a target Labour says it wants to match but only when “resources allow”.

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