Pulling together to deliver (cars) for Ukraine

Keir Starmer and John Healey’s visit to Estonia to meet our troops sends all the right signals. It further buried the Corbyn past, assured our allies of our present and enduring commitment to NATO, and shows the solidity of our solidarity in helping ensure the safe future of Ukraine.Labour MP Wayne David recalls how the Corbyn leadership didn’t support sending troops to Estonia in 2017. He and the then Shadow Defence Secretary, Nia Griffiths rightly held firm in supporting their deployment. He concludes that “It was pretty clear, though, that Corbyn was prepared to give only lip service to Britain’s membership of NATO.” Those days have gone.Wayne and members of the Labour International Group, myself included, visited Estonia to meet senior leaders and were left in no doubt about their unanimous view that Russia poses a lethal threat to them and NATO, given the chance.I wrote here that countries such as Estonia were clear-headed about escaping the Soviet orbit and joining the West. The question of why so many of Russia’s neighbours are so keen to either join NATO fully, or simply align more closely to the West (as was the case for Ukraine) is never asked or answered by the hard left. Their advocacy of neutrality, a form of neo-imperialism in the Russian column, needs to be defeated in the labour movement for the sake of freedom and also for ordinary Russians.It is essential that Russia and others understand that Labour, which helped found NATO, will not compromise on this. The leadership visit symbolises that very powerfully.It is also right that this is a bipartisan position. Any needless rifts between the two possible governing parties in the UK will only be exploited by Russia.That means both respecting the strong views based on experience of countries such as Estonia and also doing more to visibly provide solidarity to Ukraine. It’s nearly two years since Russia invaded Ukraine and war-weariness is taking hold. But we cannot afford for Ukraine to lose its battle for existence.Some have advocated gifting vehicles to Ukraine that can be transformed into ambulances and mobile gun platforms. That is what the Kyiv Mayor is requesting.My own CLP unanimously agreed to ask the London Mayor and Assembly Members to devise a plan to send vehicles being scrapped under the Ulez scheme and others from the Met and TFL fleets.It’s therefore a great shame that some Conservatives are playing silly games and undermining bipartisan positions. The Mayor is restricted by law in sending Ulez scrapped vehicles. Defence Secretary Grant Shapps and others seem more interested in creating dividing lines in the run up to the Mayoral elections in May than working out how Ulez vehicles can be sent.Fortunately, the former and respected Conservative Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace has blown this little game out of the water in one brief tweet. Wallace revealed he had a good call with the London Mayor’s office and that to get the 4x4s to Ukraine we need the Government, not the Mayor, to allow the scrappage scheme rules to allow a donation as well as a destruction.This is an adult approach. Petty politicking does no favours to the UKor our brave ally, Ukraine.I’m no expert on the law governing the transfer of Ulez vehicles. I also take the Mayor’s point that vehicles in London fleets could also be sent as they are replaced. This could become a steady and maybe larger stream of vehicles to Ukraine. A sensible discussion between ministers and the Mayor could unlock all this potential.Starmer and Healey’s visit to Estonia shows that Labour is serious about NATO and our national security.

For more on security see What can Labour do with Russia