Next week’s Bonn Conference should be important for the future of Afghanistan. It is also a reminder of the extraordinary effort and sacrifice of our armed forces. That is one reason I am so pleased that Jim Murphy has established Labour Friends of the Forces.
Support for the armed forces is not the prerogative of one party. But sometimes in previous periods of opposition we in the Labour Party haven’t wanted to talk about it. I am glad that is not the case now. Perhaps that reflects the widespread recognition of the scale of the recent toll in death and injury. But there is also pride in the extraordinary difference our men and women can make. Labour Friends of the Forces rightly makes an important statement of the value we place on their actions.
That statement, however, is more than symbolism. It is about ensuring our party’s on the ground composition as well as our policies reflect those we seek to support. Policy cannot be distant from people’s lived experience and demands that political parties reach beyond their bases. That is what Labour Friends of the Forces aims to achieve. Our policies on the Military Covenant will be based on the experiences of service families. Our thinking on the equipment programme will be informed by serving personnel and veterans. It is only by being a broad movement that we will be able to find the answers to today’s issues.
When I spoke at Stella Creasey’s constituency fundraiser last week there was a brilliant speech from an ex-policeman. Yet there is not a single ex policeman in the Parliamentary Labour Party (there are two former members of the armed forces). So let Labour Friends of the Forces blaze a trail in broadening our base as a party.