The shadow defence secretary John Healey laid out his five security priorities for a future Labour government at the London Defence Conference this afternoon. In conversation with Professor John Gearson, Head of Security Studies at King’s College London, the MP for Wentworth and Dearne outlined his strategic policy.

Firstly, Healey argued that a Labour government would seek to secure Britain as a leading member of NATO. Also crucial for Healey is the rebuilding of relations with the US, our closest ally, and strengthening our relations with major EU nations that he claimed had been damaged “willfully” by Brexit negotiations. 

Professor Gearson pushed back somewhat by asking whether this EU-centric strategy was not somewhat outdated given the post-Brexit geopolitical realities. Healey responded with a nod to the EU’s timely and alert response to Ukraine which it has used to reboot military spending whilst Britain’s spending has remained at 2 per cent of GDP. 

Another key part of the plan is a new government strategy to work with leading industries to ensure that cutting-edge technology is accessible across all sections of the armed forces. For Healey, if Britain is to be geopolitically secure and ready for any potential mobilisation, defence acquisition should be the centre of modern industrial policy. 

Healey’s final priority is the restoration of the moral contract between the government and the armed forces. He said it was unacceptable that 40 per cent of the military live in unacceptable accommodation, with 4000 servicemen and women in accommodation so poor that rent has been waived.  

The shadow defence secretary finished with a call for a fresh framework for international cooperation and a more cohesive domestic industrial policy but conceded that meaningful action may have to wait as crucial decisions have “been kicked down the road” until the next election.

Watch the 2023 London Defence Conference live here

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