Labour is now the party of national security

“We are living in a more dangerous, volatile world. Our adversaries openly challenge the values we cherish. Freedom, sovereignty, the rule of law – and of course the open international order upon which so much depends”, wrote Lord David Cameron recently in an open letter to The Telegraph (9 June 2024). The Foreign Secretary was aiming to get British voters overseas to back Conservatives because of their ‘harder-edged’ foreign policy.

However, Labour offers a more coherent vision for Britain’s safety and prosperity, with Keir Starmer emphasising economic stability, border integrity, and national security as foundational pillars. Yvette Cooper’s proposed 100-day ‘security sprint’ to assess threats and bolster Britain’s defences, drawing inspiration from the US Homeland Security’s approach to vulnerabilities concerning China.

Labour’s commitment to national security is evident as it positions itself to tackle future challenges effectively.

Economic security: Labour’s plan for renewal

Labour’s manifesto pledges to rejuvenate Britain’s economy, placing economic growth and security at the forefront of its governance. Previously David Lammy, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, has proposed stringent measures against financial crimes, targeting enablers of kleptocracy and incentivising whistleblowers to expose sanction violations. He criticised the current government’s laxity, which has turned Britain into a hub for corruption, and proposed an international summit to address financial crime.

Labour candidates Rachel Blake, Joe Powell, and I, writing for Progressive Britain [add link], have highlighted the need for a comprehensive strategy to make Britain safer, addressing the rampant issue of fraud that affects businesses, the vulnerable, and funds illicit activities. Labour’s manifesto promises an expanded fraud strategy, emphasising collaboration with tech companies to prevent exploitation by fraudsters.

International partnerships

In a world marked by geopolitical rivalry, Labour’s Progressive Realism offers a fresh perspective. Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy critiques the Conservative government’s inward focus, highlighting the economic stagnation, military downsizing, and diplomatic missteps that have characterized the past 14 years.

Brexit’s economic consequences have been real, with the Office for Budget Responsibility citing a 4% potential reduction in productivity. It’s good to see that the Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves is honest about the challenges telling the Financial Times (17June 2024): “The majority of people in the City have not regarded Brexit as being a great opportunity for their businesses”. Services and financial services were pretty much excluded from Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.

Our foreign policy will always be founded on the country’s relations with the United States and Europe. With the possibility of a second Trump Presidency hanging over us as a sword of Damocles, Britain’s relationship with our European neighbours will as I previously wrote for Progressive Britian be critical to our national and economic security.

It is therefore extremely welcome to see that Rachel Reeves has now indicated that a Labour government would seek to break down EU trade barriers and secure billions of pounds of pounds through and early international investment summit if Labour wins the general election. Businesses I work with in the financial, professional services and tech sector, are looking for a confident and engaged Britain as international player, and stability and a clear vision for economic growth at home.

It is unnecessary however that David Lammy and Rachel Reeves so far seem to rule out a deal on youth mobility, something EU capitals actually want. Under Labour a reset between UK-EU relations is coming, and the EU will be receptive – for example on defence, security, carbon markets and perhaps trade. But Labour needs to demonstrate it is serious and understands the dynamics of the EU and the balance of rights and obligations. The UK needs to give and take a bit.

Defence: Adapting to shifting alliances

A recent report published by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change outlines the increasing dangers and complexities of the modern world, emphasising the need for a robust defence strategy. Labour’s commitment to a Strategic Defence Review and increased defence spending to 2.5% of GDP reflects an understanding of these challenges. The Conservative manifesto also aims to meet this target by 2030, though experts suggest an earlier timeline will be necessary.

The UK’s defence strategy has often been fragmented within government sectors. Labour proposes a whole-of-government approach, integrating security and economic priorities into a defence industrial strategy. This plan includes strengthening the defence sector, fostering long-term business-government partnerships, and capitalising on export opportunities.

Labour’s manifesto reaffirms an “unshakeable” commitment to NATO and proposes a new UK-EU security pact to enhance collaboration. This approach aims to ensure Britain’s role as a stable, engaged international player, with a clear vision for both domestic economic growth and global security.

Cyber Security: A global challenge

Recent incidents have underscored the pervasive threat of cybercrime, with the National Cyber Security Centre’s Annual Review highlighting it as a primary concern for consumers and small businesses. The UK, now the third most targeted nation for cyberattacks, must enhance domestic defences and international collaboration.

Public sector entities remain prime targets, with 40% of cyber incidents impacting them between 2020 and 2021. Despite this, a proposed amendment by Labour to prioritise cybersecurity in public procurement was rejected by the government, missing an opportunity to elevate it as a strategic national concern.

As techUK indicates in their ‘Seven Tech Priorities’ for a new government there has been a welcome focus on supply chain security, but more needs to be done to ensure secure hardware architecture and software. Procurement levers can be leveraged to help achieve this and the National Procurement Policy Statement, which provides national priorities and guidance for contracting authorities, could better set out cyber security requirements for procured goods and services.

The security and resilience sector is a significant economic contributor, with techUK reporting a £12.8 billion value-added impact, 145,000 direct jobs, and £9.5 billion in export sales. This sector’s growth, including a 203% turnover increase over a decade, underscores its importance in economic prosperity and national security.

By supporting the innovative, SME-driven security and resilience sector, the Home Office of any incoming government can contribute to the UK’s economic growth, competitiveness, and global influence while ensuring the nation possesses the capabilities to address current and future threats.


The Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron might be trying to get British voters overseas to back Conservatives because of their ‘harder-edged’ foreign policy, but the Labour is now the undisputed party of national security.

Indeed, Rishi Sunak’s early departure from the international D-Day commemorations in France painfully symbolised the slow decline in international statesmanship we have seen over the last few years under successive Conservative Prime Ministers.

For more on security, see Why the Tory national service plan gets both defence and community wrong.