First introduced by the last Labour Government, Armed Forces Day is an opportunity to pay tribute to the men and women who deliver for the nation. A day for celebration rather than remembrance, it is as important as ever to celebrate the pride we have in the excellence and professionalism of our service men and women. Across our region, from the Naval Base in Portsmouth to the home of the Chinook in Odiham, we are all too familiar with just how valuable the service community are. Just as our Armed Forces work to keep us all safe and our country secure, we must do all we can to support them.
While the challenges faced by our communities continue to change, one thing has remained steadfast – our reliance on our forces and their families when times get tough. Historically they have guided us through the darkest hours in our country’s history. Now, amid this pandemic, they are helping keep the nation going by providing vital PPE, supporting frontline services and setting up test centres across the UK.
While it is right that today is about paying tribute to the efforts of our troops, we would be doing them a significant disservice if we did not speak out on the issues affecting them most. Ten years of cuts to the defence budget, troop pay increases delayed for a second year running, a fourth year of the Ombudsman finding a vastly underperforming complaints system, while satisfaction along with morale has been declining for a decade as the forces attitudes survey has revealed. It is high time our troops treatment matched the degree to which we rely on them, and the high standards they hold themselves to.
So, this Armed Forces Day, despite the celebrations being curtailed due to Covid, we must all do out bit to recognise the efforts of our service community. Against the backdrop of the public health emergency and economic crisis, where our armed forces continue to go above and beyond in delivering for us, it is important that we deliver for them.
As the Shadow Armed Forces Minister, I want to open up Labour again to our Armed Forces, their families and the veterans who have already served our country. I want Labour to hear their voices and views. We’ve got to understand where we’ve gone wrong in the past and change. We’ve got to understand the hopes and aspirations of the armed forces community, as well as the problems they face after a decade of declining numbers.
As an MP representing a region proud of its military lineage, and as Shadow Armed Forces Minister, I will continue to ensure the Labour party is listening to the forces community and take action to speak out on the matters that affect them most.