‘Special Relationship,’ Defense Ties to America Likely To Be Unruffled by Expected Labor Landslide in Snap Election

The incumbent Conservative government and its Labor opposition may criticize one another on domestic issues of deep concern to voters, including the National Health Service, taxes and inflation, but they do not appear to disagree substantively on foreign and military policy. 

AP/Jon Super
The Labor Party leader, Sir Keir Starmer, at Liverpool on October 10, 2023. AP/Jon Super

Not to worry, Washington.

British policy on NATO, Ukraine, and carefully wrought understandings with the Brits’ “American friends” on defense from Asia to the Middle East are not at stake in the upcoming elections for the British parliament — and the likely rise of the leader of the Labor Party to the post of prime minister.

Against the tide of conservative leadership in western Europe, the rise of the Labor leader, Sir Keir Starmer, as the likely successor to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in elections for parliament on July 4, does not appear to have had much if any impact on the British-American alliance — or on British support of new relationships forged by Washington in recent years. 

The incumbent Conservative government and its Labor opposition may criticize one another on domestic issues of deep concern to voters, including the National Health Service, taxes and inflation, but they do not appear to disagree substantively on foreign and military policy. 

Mr. Sunak, taking a break from the hullabaloo of campaigning for elections on July 4 that are expected to result in his ouster, was in the lovely southern Italian coastal town of Puglia saying all the right things before the gathering of leaders of the G7 countries.

Mr. Sunak’s words will come as a relief to the Ukraine president, Volodymyr Zelensky, working the diplomats and politicos at the G7, notably President Biden, on hand with the leaders of Italy, plus Canada, France, Germany, and Japan as well as Britain.

After three days of talking, they’re expected to wind up on upbeat pledges that will be music to Mr. Zelensky’s ears — if only he can be sure they’re all committed to doling out all the aid as promised, when needed.

In the rise of the right wing in western Europe, the generosity of left-leaning leaders might be open to question, but the Labor Party, in what they call a “manifesto” issued this week, is not differing much if at all from the policies of the conservatives.

Just to set the record straight at the outset, the manifesto proclaimed Labor’s “unshakeable commitment to the alliance” and to doing all possible, when Labor takes over, to live up to Britain’s commitment to NATO. 

If Labor, under Mr. Starmer, lives up to its word, the Brits, accused of not investing enough for a diminished defense establishment, would devote 2.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product to the armed forces.

Those funds would undoubtedly support Britain’s commitment to deals and understandings reached during the Biden administration, notably the Australian, United Kingdom, and American alliance, known as Aukus, that has sprung up in response to China’s rise as a Pacific power. 

Under the terms of the pact, Australian and British vessels are able to join the Americans in challenging Communist Chinese claims to the entire  South China Sea and also to Chinese threats against the democracy of the Republic of China on the island of Taiwan.

Righteously, if vaguely, the manifesto promised what it called a “strategic defense review” intended to “assess the threats we face and the capabilities needed to address them.”

To that end, the Labor government would invest in a defense industry deemed “capable of leading Britain in meeting the increasing threats we face.”


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