D Insights
May 3, 2024

Strengthening National Security and Resilience in Global Omni-Crises

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Strengthening National Security and Resilience in Global Omni-Crises

In the second of our series focusing on how a prospective Labour Government might respond to specific topics, we focused on national security and resilience. This could not have come at a more relevant time, with both Conservatives and Labour committing to reaching 2.5% of GDP spent on defence.

The latest in Westminster: Run up to the local elections

Whether or not it makes a material difference on the ground, it is no coincidence that the main parties made their defence spending announcements, along with others of significance, ahead of the local elections.

From a Labour perspective, it is likely that the convoluted situation with Angela Rayner will end in their favour. With what could have been more of a politically motivated set of stories ending with Rayner vindicated, it is possible voters will see attempts to land this blow as both punching down from the Conservatives and undermining their credibility when claiming to be focused on delivering key national priorities.

On those national priorities,  Labour could be looking for more formal consultation with industry soon. We will be paying attention to what questions they are interested in having answered.

Why omni-crises?

As we are all no doubt aware, there are multiple domestic and global crises occurring right now. Wars, energy crises, the climate crisis, the cost of living crisis, an NHS teetering on the edge – those are just a few of the issues any new government will face. In the midst of those, there is an increasingly urgent need to commit to defending our borders and improving our national security.

Labour and national security – reform or revolution?

The choice of individual to lead a specific portfolio can tell us much. John Healey, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, is not a revolutionary or radical figure. He is much more likely to focus on reforming the existing system than revolutionising it.

However, it’s interesting to note that the understanding and definition of national security may well broaden. Things like industrial supply chains, food security and energy security are all likely to come under a wider definition of national security in the future.

How will a Strategic Defence and Security Review differ from what’s gone before?

Labour have committed to conducting a Strategic Defence and Security Review in their first year in office. It’s unlikely this will result in putting existing measures on hold, more likely that Labour will attempt to speed up the pace of change. This is particularly likely in areas where they have declared a strong position, such as the lack of appropriate accommodation for members of the armed forces.

In addition, Labour is likely to focus heavily on areas of overspend within the MOD. Their strong commitment to fiscal responsibility under Rachel Reeves as Shadow Chancellor, means they are likely to feel encouraged to turn over whatever stones they need in order to drive financial value, and to uncover areas where there has been unaddressed overspend.

What about existing security and defence programmes? In contrast to some historical Labour positions, the current team under Keir Starmer has been vocal about their commitment to NATO, nuclear deterrence, AUKUS and the 5Is.

Is Labour’s 2.5% commitment weaker than the Conservatives’?

Whereas both main parties have committed to spending 2.5% of GDP on defence, the Tories have identified 2030 as the target year when this could become a reality. Labour have not committed to a timeline, but to when economic circumstances allow.

On the surface that may seem a weaker commitment. However, Labour are likely to be looking at the whole picture. They can anticipate an NHS crisis this and every winter. Mental health services, social care, schools – these areas are all either in or likely to fall into crisis in the coming years. With a limited pot to go around, Labour will be avoiding making a timeline commitment so they can make the right call at the right time on where the money most needs to go.

Is it all about defence?

No. Labour is also vocal about their belief in the importance of UK soft power. They increasingly see the value of an alignment between diplomacy, trade and aid, particularly in reinforcing our national security.

How can industry help?

The Labour Shadow Cabinet’s capacity is quite stretched across a broad range of priorities. This is where support from industry could be invaluable. However, it would require an approach that is perceivably different in tone from current Government-industry relations, which is seen as too demand- and special-interest heavy. Businesses should be considering how to make a sectoral offer to collaborate. These representations should happen sooner rather than later – helping Labour hit the ground running if it forms a government after the next General Election.

What next?

What next?

Have the topics in this brief overview piqued your interest? If so, please do consider signing up to one of the upcoming events in our Election Watch series. They are:

Wednesday 8th May: The Devolution Arms and Place Race

Thursday 23rd May: Britain’s Place in the World: Linking Foreign and Defence Policy with Trade

Wednesday 12th June: Britain’s Place in the World: Does Charity Begin at Home?

Wednesday 26th June: What is Infrastructure for Opportunity and Does it Mean Game Over for Levelling Up?

Wednesday 3rd July: Britain’s Place in the World: Using UK Soft Power More Effectively

Wednesday 17th July: Can a Revised Skills Approach Prevent Net Zero from Widening Inequalities?

You can sign up to these events on our websites:



The views expressed in this podcast are those of the contributors and do not reflect the views of The D Group.  

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