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Labour makes sabre-rattling a priority

LABOUR will embark on a “security sprint” in its first 100 days in office, the party said today in a militaristic start to its election campaign.

Following Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s proposed revival of conscription for 18-year-olds, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer rattled his sabre by pledging to put “security” issues at the top of his agenda in his first set-piece campaign speech.

And party officials confirmed reports that it would conduct not one but two security reviews on attaining office — a long-term strategic defence one and a “sprint” assessment of threats.

The latter, according to a report in The Times, would look at purported dangers from Russia, Iran and other “hostile states.”

It would also examine the current Establishment bugbear of “extremism” and the use of artificial intelligence to create and recruit “radicals.”

The review would bring together security service MI5, the police, Whitehall and other intelligence agencies in a plan likely to entrench Britain’s bellicose international posture as well as incremental authoritarianism at home.

Sir Keir said that voters were asking: “Has Labour changed enough? Do I trust them with my money, our borders and our security?”

“My answer is yes you can — because I have changed this party,” he said. “Permanently.

“This has been my driving mission since day one.

“The very foundation of any good government is economic security, border security and national security.

“Make no mistake, if the British people give us the opportunity to serve, then this is their core test. It is always their core test.”

But the Labour leader derided Mr Sunak’s national service plan, which would see teenagers having to choose between joining the armed services for a year and doing weekends of unpaid voluntary work — or face unspecified punishment.

Sir Keir said it was a scheme for a “teenage Dad’s Army” which would siphon off money better spent on “levelling up.”

The Tories responded in kind to his speech, saying that “an election is about ideas, not waffle,” setting the bar rather high for both parties if the first few campaigning days are any guide.

Most Tories are themselves surprised to be spending their first campaigning days defending the conscription plan, since two days before the Prime Minister unveiled it the government was denying it had any such thoughts in its head.

Defence Minister Andrew Murrison had told a fellow Tory in a Commons written answer that the government would not introduce national service “in any form.”

Elsewhere in an increasingly enervating campaign, Sir Keir refused to commit to taking any action on the voter ID laws introduced by the Tories to suppress election turnout.

Repealing the undemocratic law was not a priority, he said, echoing the position he has taken on much authoritarian legislation over the past four years.

He also told a TV interview that “we absolutely have to stop the boats” carrying refugees across the Channel, another position on which Labour’s rhetoric blurs into the government’s.

Both Tory and Labour were outflanked by Reform party owner and non-candidate Nigel Farage, who alleged that Muslims did not share “British values.”

Mr Farage’s own carefully polished nationalist credentials are suspect after his announcement that he could not be bothered with the British election because the one in the US had greater significance.

The Tory campaign at the weekend focused, beyond the national service idea, on allegations that Sir Keir was “weary” of the election already and “too tired” to be prime minister. 

In a sign of the shape of things to come on the right of politics, outgoing Tory MP Lucy Allan in Telford called on local voters to back the Reform party candidate to succeed her rather than her Conservative colleague.

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