The Labour Party is deploying at least seven former military personnel as parliamentary candidates in 2017, believed its largest number since the end of National Service.
They include a former Royal Army Medical Corps and NHS doctor hitting the campaign trail with her newborn infant, an ex-Royal Navy commodore who is the most senior former officer to stand for the party in recent history and a RAF veteran who may become Britain’s first transgender MP.
“We are hugely proud of our former military candidates,” says Nia Griffith, Shadow Defence Secretary. “Their commitment to our country and the ideal of public service sits sits right at the heart of our Labour Party values. Their expertise is invaluable as we seek to undo the damage the Conservatives have done to our Armed Forces.”
Labour Friends of the Forces believes they represent the strongest slate of former military candidates the party has fielded in decades, almost certainly since the Second World War.
“They represent a truly inclusive, progressive and inspiring British patriotism, not the xenophobic nationalism of UKIP and a now hard-Brexit obsessed Conservative Party,” says Peter Apps, a paralysed former war reporter, Army reservist and volunteer coordinator for Labour Friends of the Forces.
“There’s a long-tradition of often mediocre military officers becoming Tory MPs. But for raw quality over quantity, I genuinely believe the Labour Party now has the edge in attracting those with serious, credible military backgrounds.”
Being injured in a war zone showed me the value of the Labour Party
FORMER ARMED FORCES CANDIDATES STANDING IN 2017
Sarah Church – South Swindon
A former Royal Signals major who deployed to Iraq, Sarah Church says she learned her public service values from her NHS doctor mother. After leaving the Army in 2015, she campaigned to safeguard library and other public services in the Swindon area before being selected to fight the currently Tory-held marginal.
“The values that brought me into the armed forces and into the Labour party are the same thing,” she says.
Sarah is married to an Army veteran wounded in Afghanistan.
Want to help get Sarah into Parliament? Join LFoF for their campaign day in the Swindon on Saturday, May 27.
Dan Jarvis – Barnsley Central
A Parachute Regiment officer with operational experience in Iraq, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and Kosovo, Dan resigned his commission in 2011 to fight a by-election in Barnsley before serving in frontbench culture and justice roles
As Patron of Labour Friends of the Forces, he has provided mentorship to a range of other form Armed Forces personnel considering entering politics.
“Dan has been a legend when it’s come to building Labour’s credibility within the Armed Forces community,” says Peter Apps at Labour Friends of the Forces. “His example has been crucial in bringing others forward.”
Gareth Derrick – South East Cornwall
Career RN officer Commodore Gareth Derrick served in both the 1991 and 2003 Iraq wars and a diplomatic post in Tokyo before commanding the Royal Naval and Royal Marine Reserves until 2013.
In 2016, he stood as Labour’s candidate for Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner, coming second just 900 votes behind Conservative winner Alison Hernandez in the final round.
“This election is about the kind of society we want in Cornwall,” the father-of-three told Cornwall Live. “Let’s stop the damage being done to our NHS, to schools and to the job and home ownership prospects of young families.”
Clive Lewis – Norwich South
One of the stars of the 2015 Labour parliamentary intake, Lewis grew up on a council estate in Northampton as son of a single father. A BBC journalist covering political affairs, he joined the Army Reserve and in 2006 commissioned as a junior officer with 7th Battalion, the Rifles.
In 2009, he deployed to Helmand Province in Afghanistan with the regular 2nd Battalion, the Rifles commanding a Combat Camera Team, a small detachment of soldiers operating alongside front-line troops including documenting firefights and ambushes.
Lewis served on the Labour front bench as Shadow Defence and Shadow Business Secretary before resigning to return to the back benches after voting against triggering Article 50 to initiate Brexit.
Dr Laura Davies – Shrewsbury and Atcham
After completing medical school, Laura Davies commissioned into the Royal Army Medical Corps and served in the UK and overseas. She now works as an NHS doctor specialising in trauma.
Laura stood for the first time in Shrewsbury and Atcham in 2015, where she came second with 15,603 votes, an increase of almost a third on the previous party candidate in 2010.
Davies gave birth to second son Nicholas two weeks before the Prime Minister called the snap election. “This was not quite how I anticipated spending my maternity leave but he is doing very well and I’m looking forward to it,” she told the Shropshire Star
Sophie Cook – East Worthing and Shoreham
When she joined the RAF as a 16-year-old technician, Sophie Cook – then Steve – says she was too scared to tell people she felt she was really a woman. Now aged 50, she came out as transgender in 2015 and continues to work as a photographer and presenter for Premier League side AFC Bournemouth.
Since her transition, she says she has been blown away by the supportive reaction of the football club and its supporters, her local community and her own ex-wife and children.
“I’ve been through hell to be who I am but it has been beyond my wildest dreams and if I can make the world a little better it would give meaning to the past pain,” she told the Daily Telegraph. “The time is right for a first transgender MP and the reaction on the doorstep has been amazing. “
Paul Sweeney – Glasgow North East
An Army reservist and former employee at BAe Systems, Paul Sweeney won election in Glasgow North East, recapturing it from the Scottish National Party.
In particular, he has campaigned hard to protect military shipbuilding jobs on the Clyde.
“It is… Critical that both the Scottish and UK governments collaborate to build on the Clyde’s status as the UK is undisputed center of excellence for complex warship design, build and integration,” he wrote in March. “It is not too late. We had a significant window of opportunity to undertake… investment.”
A STRONG LABOUR MANIFESTO COMMITMENT ON DEFENCE
The Labour Party 2017 manifesto includes a firm commitment to maintain UK defence spending at two percent of Gross Domestic Product, the NATO standard temporarily dropped by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats after 2010.
Labour is committed to the replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system, a credible defence industrial platform including a National Shipbuilding Strategy and a Homes Fit for Heroes program for Armed Forces personnel and veterans priced out of the UK housing market.
Labour will launch an immediate review of recruitment and retention with figures this week showing the Army falling some 4,000 personnel behind the government’s own target of 82,000. The Royal Navy and RAF have also again fallen below their intended strength.
Labour will also prioritise protecting Britain’s cyber security, with the May 12 “WannaCry” ransomware attack demonstrating alarming lapses. Britain’s NHS was not the deliberate target of the attack, but the failure to update software left systems amongst the most vulnerable in Europe.
A RECORD OF CONSERVATIVE FAILURE
Under the Conservatives, the UK lost its 2010 status as the world’s third-largest defence spender behind the United States and China. It is now notably outspent by Russia and Saudi Arabia. Recent post-Brexit falls in the value of sterling may also see it drop behind France.
The 2010 Coalition Strategic Defence and Security Review slashed personnel and equipment and sacrificed several key UK military systems. They included axing Harrier fast jet cover for the Royal Navy barely a year before the Libya war and scrapping the recently refurbished Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft, vital for keeping increasingly aggressive foreign submarine patrols away from Britain’s nuclear missile submarines.
To his partial credit, Conservative Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has been scrambling to remedy some of the more obvious oversights since succeeding Liam Fox and Philip Hammond in 2014. New US-built maritime patrol aircraft are now being acquired as an emergency purchase, and should enter service around 2019. In November, he signed an embarrassing but necessary deal with Norway to provide their maritime patrol aircraft cover when Britain needed them.
Under the Conservatives, Britain has let down its Armed Forces, its allies and its people on defence. With a top-flight range of former military candidates in 2017, the Labour Party offers the best chance of doing better.
Labour Friends of the Forces is extremely interested in hearing from current and former Armed Forces personnel interested in becoming candidates for local and national elections, and will be holding a range of events across the country later this year.
Labour Party rules require at least a year’s membership to stand as a candidate. Wherever your thoughts on the current state of the party, now is the ideal time to join and get a say in its post-election future, leadership and policies.
Current and former Armed Forces personnel can join for as little as three pounds a year.
Want to know more? Sign up for Labour Friends of the Forces mailing list here
IMPORTANT. Military regulations contain restrictions on the kinds of political activity serving members of the Armed Forces can take part in, particularly regular personnel or reservists on full-time service. Click here for the Friends of the Forces guide to the relevant Queen’s Regulations.
There should, however, be no problem in serving personnel, including regulars, sharing this on social media in their own personal capacity.