Labour today launches a bid to restore its reputation among Britain’s military as the nation marks Armed Forces Day.
Party leader Keir Starmer pledged to “listen and learn” from veterans, soldiers, sailors, airmen and their families as he unveiled a new programme of engagement with the Forces.
Labour insiders admit the party’s image suffered during four-and-a-half years under Jeremy Corbyn.
His patriotism was repeatedly questioned and he was accused of undermining the country’s nuclear deterrent after vowing never to fire the UK’s Trident missiles.
Mr Starmer is keen to paint the party as on the side of the brave men and women who serve in the Army, Royal Navy and RAF.
Today, he launches the Labour Friends of the Forces programme, which officials say is the party’s “most ambitious programme of engagement with the service community”.
Mr Starmer will host a video call with veterans in the first of a UK-wide programme of discussions led by Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey.
The aim is for events to take place in every region with serving and retired personnel and Forces’ families.
In a video message to the Services posted today, Mr Starmer says: “I am proud of my country and proud of those who serve it.
“I want to open up Labour again to our Armed Forces, their families and veterans across our country.
“Today’s event marks the start of an exciting new dialogue with forces communities with an ambitious new Labour Friends of the Forces scheme.
“As we celebrate Armed Forces Day, I say thank you to our forces communities for the role they play both at home and abroad.
“I will make sure we listen to you and learn from you.”
Mr Healey said: “Armed Forces Day celebrates the pride we share in the excellence and professionalism of Britain’s servicemen and women.
“They represent the values the British people admire most – integrity, discipline and service.
“As Britain faces a period of greater global risk and conflict, I want Labour to hear their voices and views, and I want them to play a bigger part in our party.
“We’ve got to understand the hopes and aspirations of the Armed Forces community, as well as the problems they face after a decade of declining numbers, morale and pay.”
Writing exclusively for the Mirror, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner insisted: “The Labour Party stands with the men and women who serve our country, just as we stand with the veterans who served our country in previous generations and remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“Our pledge to our armed forces community is simple: the Labour Party will listen to you and we will fight your corner when it comes to making sure that you and your families get the pay, respect and support that you deserve.”