Labour deploying strongest field of ex-military candidates since 1945

FeaturedLabour deploying strongest field of ex-military candidates since 1945

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


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. “


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.


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.







Get out the message with Friends of the Forces

Get out the message with Friends of the Forces

AMembers and Candidates from Labour Friends of the Forces have been out campaigning hard as the election gets into its final two weeks. Join us for our two campaign events this week in Norwich and Ilford, and get out and support your own local candidates across the country.

Wednesday, May 31 – Supporting Clive Lewis in Norwich South

Saturday, June 3 – Supporting Wes Streeting in Ilford North

Sign up here for details of both

Click here for details of our strongest slate of former military candidate since 1945

With the polls narrowing, several members of Friends of the Forces supported Jeremy Corbyn as he launched his speech on security and foreign policy last Friday. Others have been out on the doorsteps, stressing the party’s commitment on defence as well as its wider message.

Read Friends of the Forces Patron Dan Jarvis  on denying the Manchester bomber a propaganda victory

While Tory Defence Secretary Michael Fallon dodged a debate on defence policy to campaign in marginal constituencies, Labour’s Nia Griffith has been a pillar of strength and stability. Read her on commitment to Trident and ongoing strikes against ISIS.

As former Royal Navy Commodore Gareth Derrick wrote last week for Labour List, the party must build itself a solid base of credibility on the topic that should help take us well beyond this election.

Labour Friends of the Forces intends to be a part of that process. Sign up here for our mailing list.

Michael Fallon skips defence debate to campaign in Ilford

Michael Fallon skips defence debate to campaign in Ilford

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon should have spent Monday morning answering tough questions on the Tory record at a London debate organized by the Royal United Services Institute. Instead, he was in Ilford North supporting former Conservative MP Lee Scott’s struggling campaign win back his seat.

In Fallon’s place, the Tories sent Parliamentary Under Secretary For Defence Harriet Baldwin,, who has held that junior ministerial appointment for less than a year. Fallon had been due to take part, but pulled out at the last minute.

“Michael Fallon has serious questions to answer about the impact of government cuts on the capacity of Armed Forces, which is probably why he wanted to duck such an important debate,” said Wes Streeting, Labour Candidate in Ilford North who has served as its MP since 2015.

“I would never pull the Defence Secretary away from talking to serving personnel and reservists to prop up a local campaign. Michael Fallon and the Ilford North Conservative Association should apologise to those who wanted to hear from the Defence Secretary and explain why he felt it was more important to travel up the Central Line to Ilford when he was expected to answer questions in central London.”

Click here to read about Labour’s strongest slate of former Armed Forces candidates since 1945 and Tory defence failures

Click here to sign up for Friends of the Forces  campaign events, including in Ilford on Saturday, June 3

At RUSI, Baldwin struggled to defend the Conservative record, being particularly pushed by a recent Royal Marine officer on collapsing training budgets. [You can see the debate here]. Attendees – who included some of Britain’s leading defence experts as well as veterans, reservists and serving personnel – said privately afterwards they were distinctly unimpressed.

Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith said she was proud to take part alongside senior spokespeople from the Liberal Democrats, Green Party and Scottish National Party. She stressed the  party’s commitment to maintaining military spending at two percent of GDP, the Trident nuclear weapons system and improving lives and opportunity for military personnel.

She also said the party was committed to examining the overuse of private contractors to provide military services such as catering and housing.

“Without Fallon, Labour and Nia Griffith were clearly the strongest in town,” says Peter Apps, volunteer coordinator for Labour Friends of the Forces, who attended the debate. “She clearly knew her stuff, and stuck to her guns. Baldwin admitted her expertise was limited beyond her narrow beat of procurement. Maybe she could sense the crowd was unconvinced.”

“It was clear many in the audience felt the UK was heading towards a psychotically hard Brexit that could be devastating for our economy and defences, many of which already need substantial improvement.”

Labour Friends of the Forces campaign events

Labour Friends of the Forces campaign events

We are organising a number of canvassing sessions for Labour candidates who have been strong supporters of Labour Friends of the Forces.

In addition to the sessions announced last week we will also be canvassing for our Patron and Former Army Major, Dan Jarvis, in Barnsley Central this Saturday at 2pm. On Saturday 27th March we will campaigning for Army Veteran and Labour Candidate for South Swindon, Sarah Church.

Sign up information along with details of our other sessions is below:

  • Stephen Doughty – Cardiff South and Penarth:Thursday 18th May
  • Luke Pollard – Plymouth Sutton and Devonport:Saturday 20th May
  • Dan Jarvis – Barnsley Central:Saturday 20th May
  • Toby Perkins – Chesterfield:Wednesday 24th May
  • Ruth Smeeth – Stoke on Trent North:Saturday 27th May
  • Sarah Church – South Swindon:Saturday 27th May
  • Wes Streeting – Ilford North:Saturday 3rd June

If you would like to attend please RSVP to the session using the online form here. Feel free to bring along any family,  friends and colleagues.

Exact times and locations will be confirmed to the attendees. If you are interested in organising any sessions on behalf of LFOF in your local area please do get in touch with us

Do not hesitate to contact us with any further questions.

Kind Regards,

Labour Friends of the Forces

Sarah Church – Army Veteran and the Labour and Cooperative Party Candidate for South Swindon.

Sarah Church – Army Veteran and the Labour and Cooperative Party Candidate for South Swindon.

Sarah Church – Army Veteran and the Labour and Cooperative Party Candidate for South Swindon writes for Labour Friends of the Forces on her campaign and recent meeting with the Gurkah community in Walcot.  


Today’s meeting with members of the retired Gurkha community in Walcot, Swindon was a real pleasure and a reminder of how much I enjoyed serving with the Queen’s Gurkha Signals as a young officer.

Lal Pun, along with Borough Councillors Abdul Amin and Junab Ali, introduced me to the group of long-retired soldiers and their families. We spoke about Labour’s record in bringing Gurkha Terms and Conditions of Service in line with their British counterparts in 2007, but the continuing unfairness of the pension arrangement that has left retired Gurkhas feeling like second-class citizens compared with British and Commonwealth soldiers.

The most recent campaign fell on deaf ears in Parliament in 2016, and I have promised to sit down with Lal Pun to find a way to relaunch the debate to make progress. There is much hope for a Labour government within this community, borne from the recognition that Labour is a people-centred party that will always work for those facing injustice.

It has been acknowledged that the expectations of ex-Gurkhas changed as service became increasingly based in the UK and Germany, rather than in the Far East after the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997. However, the pension system was slow to catch up and therefore many retired Gurkha soldiers are living on pension rates far below that of their more recently retired counterparts, and consequently are struggling to get by.

Settlement in Nepal is not always straightforward since Gurkha families include children who have grown up in the UK and call it home, and to expect families to split over thousands of miles is unreasonable, but the cost of living differential between our two countries is very marked.

The Government has decided it will not consider retrospective application of pension changes, but this leaves a generation of ex- Gurkhas, men who have risked their lives for the UK, living on pensions that do not keep up with the British cost of living and are a poor way in which to thank them for their service.

Follow Sara’s Campaign here on Facebook and Twitter.

“Wales is leading the way in housing solutions for veterans” says Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

“Wales is leading the way in housing solutions for veterans” says Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

On a visit to the Welsh Veteran’s Partnership’s “Coming Home Project” development in Cardiff, Nia Griffith MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, praised the project as a model that should be recreated across the UK.
The “Coming Home Project” aims to provide affordable housing for veterans. The first development has been delivered together with Trivallis and Cardiff City Council and has provided 16 homes for veterans and their families in Cardiff Bay.
The MP for Llanelli, who is Labour’s spokeswoman on defence, was joined on the visit by Stephen Doughty, MP for Cardiff South and Penarth. Of the visit, Nia said: “This is a fantastic initiative by the Welsh Veterans Project and I applaud Cardiff City Council, Trivallis and all those who have come together to make the Coming Home Project a reality.
“It is vital that we support our servicemen and women not only when they’re serving in the Forces, but also in their transition back into civilian life, and having a good quality, affordable home is key to that. Wales is leading the way in housing solutions for veterans, and I hope that this can provide a blueprint for other similar projects across the nation, and the wider UK”.
Stephen Doughty MP, whose constituency the Coming Home Project is in, said:
“Making sure our brave men and women who serve and have served this country are properly housed is a basic duty. As Vice Chair of the Army group in Parliament I have visited service men and women and veterans up and down the country and housing is one of their top concerns.
“Whilst the Tories have overseen 7 years of failure to address the housing crisis in England, Welsh Labour are taking on the issue in Wales and showing the positive impact we can have, and Cardiff Labour is building new homes here.
“The Labour Government in Wales has been leading from the front with innovative housing solutions, investing to build 20,000 new homes in a sustainable way by 2020 and their pioneering strategy to prevent homelessness has now been replicated in England”.

You can find out more about the Welsh Veterans Partnership here.

Labour Lords question the government on the construction timeline for the Royal Navy’s Type 31 frigate.

Labour Lords question the government on the construction timeline for the Royal Navy’s Type 31 frigate.

Labour Lords yesterday questioned the government’s timeline for the construction of the Type 31 frigate.

Former First Sea Lord and Labour Peer Admiral Lord West questioned the Government’s ability to deliver the required number of Frigates by the 2035 timeline as laid out in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.

During the debate Lord West stated “I cannot see how that can occur by 2035, by which time the oldest of the Type 23s will be 35 years old.”

Lord West highlighted the necessity for a ‘steady drumbeat of ship orders’ if the UK was going to meet its escort arrangements for the fleet.

Concerns were raised throughout the debate about the current underfunded nature of our Defence Budget. The Labour Party is committed to spending at least 2% of our GDP on defence spending.

The Labour Frontbench spokesperson in the Lords, Lord Touhig, pressed the Government on the need to follow Sir John Parker’s report recommendations in ensuring the export potential of the Type 31 Frigate.

The full debate can be read here.