Labour must increase military representation

If Labour doesn’t make any progress in this issue, then we will find our party continually losing on defence and Labour continually losing the confidence of the public

A lot of work needs to be done within Labour’s PLP to increase representation and I argue if the Labour Party doesn’t find solutions similar or different to mine soon in terms of ex-military personnel, then Labour will never win over the military communities in the UK. This should cause great panic for Labour.

For decades, the Labour Party’s image has always been perceived as “for the working class”. From doctors and nurses to teachers and trade unions, it is no secret that the Labour Party harbours most of its votes from people in these professions. While this is a positive for the Labour Party to have MPs from these kinds of professions, the question arises as to why the Labour party does not seem to include many ex-military veterans from a working background. It was reported in the Financial Times in 2015 the 650 MPs that are in parliament, there are only around 51 individuals with military backgrounds. If we break that figure down even more into different political parties, the conservatives have 44 MPs from a military background and Labour has only 4 MPs from military background. This needs to change for the relationship between the military and mainstream politics especially in The Labour Party.

Since the creation of the Conservative Party, its image has been seen as the party for the rich and powerful. This might be true in the eyes of the Labour Party supporters and a section of society, but what you can’t fault the party on is the ability to recruit and maintain the amount of MPs it has recruited into its ranks into parliament. David Cameron while he was leader identified the party’s image problem as being the ‘nasty party’ and in the attempt to change the image of his party he ‘sought former servicemen and women to stand in the 2015 election’ (FT, 2015). Through this conscience decision by recruiting more ex-military veterans, the Conservative party has successfully managed to beat Labour Party in regards to the image that they are stronger on defence is by having more MPs from military backgrounds. The ex-military veterans don’t only improve the image of the party but they bring with them experience and knowledge directly from the battlefield to address the common frustration with the lack of understanding shown by some politicians in regards to the reality of conflict.

The Labour Party has a long history in its political past of having elected officials from military background which party activists and elected members forget to mention when citing the party’s great achievements. For example, Jim Callaghan served in the Royal Navy before he was prime minister and Dennis Healy served in the Army before becoming chancellor. Currently, Labour has Dan Jarvis MP who served with the Paratrooper Regiment in Afghanistan as a Major and Clive Lewis MP was a infantry officer in 7 Rifles In 2009 served a 3 month combat tour of Afghanistan. After the last general election 2017 a group called Labour Friends Of Forces met together to discuss their experience of their different election campaigns. Luckily, I was able to join the discussion. It was a fantastic experience to find a large amount of Labour supports who supported the military so publicly within the Labour Party and wanted to at the event to hear from a PPC candidates who stood for Labour in the election who came from a military background. Some of the PPC candidates included ‘Gareth Derrick [South East Cornwall] ex- Royal Navy Commodore, former Army doctor Laura Davies [Shrewsbury and Thatcham], ex-RAF engineer Sophie Cook [East Worthing and Shoreham], former firefighter Gary Puffett [Aldershot] and ex-Royal Signals officer Sarah Church [South Swindon]’ (Labour Friends of Forces site). Jim Murphy MP wrote an article in progress in 2011 urging the group to join the Labour Friends of Forces by writing ‘policy making should not be disconnected from but reflective of the views we aim to serve. We want this organisation to be rooted in service communities’. This shows there are attempts to increase representation and the relationship between the military and the Labour Party but without more support from the party and activists this will not be successful in the future. 

in order to combat the problem of lack of ex-military representation that , that we should be looking at military youth movement and Labour’s youth movement. If we look the military cadets there are around 41,000 cadets with 1,600 locations across the UK and we look at the Labour Party’s Young Labour since the Jeremy Corbyn the membership will be in the hundreds of thousands with groups Young Labour groups formed across the country. I suggest Young Labour and the military cadets work together to learn from each other. For example, Young Labour activist could become more educated in the military in general and the cadets could learn about the differing views within the Labour Party. This would increase the positive culture within both youth movements towards each other, and increase the possibility of recruiting future MPs in the Labour Party. This would not be political brain washing but political education. The second proposal I bring forward is there has to be priority given to veterans in terms of safe seats labour holds or marginal seats, if there is an argument that there has to be a women PPC in a constituency then why can’t the candidate come from a military background and stand, if the argument is it has to be someone with a disability then I argue the candidate can come from a ex -military background who has been injured in conflict either physically or mentally.

If Labour doesn’t make any progress in this issue, then we will find our party continually losing on defence and Labour continually losing the confidence of the public when it comes to defence as a whole which, will hurt when it comes to elections.  

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