Starmer does not rule out using nuclear weapons as prime minister

As Labour leader visits British troops near the Russian border

Kate Devlin
Thursday 21 December 2023 18:21 GMT
Starmer visits Estonia Nato base to thank British troops for 'courage'

Keir Starmer has not ruled out using nuclear weapons if he becomes prime minister next year as he visited British troops near the border with Russia.

The Labour leader also appeared to suggest he could look at offshore processing to deal with migrants coming to the UK on small boats, saying he would “look at any credible option”.

In a wide-ranging interview, he expressed concern for his family if he did move into No 10 but said he was ready for a spring election.

And he said that he did know the meaning of “rizz” – the newly crowned “word of the year” denoting style or charm – but had forgotten.

In 2015 the then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would never use nuclear weapons as prime minister.

At the time he was accused of putting at risk the UK’s relationship with Nato, which is a nuclear alliance.

But visiting a Nato base in Estonia, Sir Keir did not rule out using nuclear weapons if he wins the keys to Downing Street.

Asked during an interview with GB News if he would fire nuclear weapons to protect the UK, Sir Keir said: “The nuclear deterrent is very important to us. Obviously, I’m not going to discuss with you the circumstance in which they may or may not be used, but it is a very important part of the defence of our country that we are strongly committed to, along with our commitment to Nato and to the security of our nation, which is paramount.”

He said: “There’s been an unshakable commitment to Nato ever since Nato was first created, which of course was under a Labour government ... There’s a real driving sense of purpose here with the troops that are here on the frontline.”

Starmer said: ‘There’s been an unshakable commitment to Nato ever since Nato was first created’ (PA)

Sir Keir said his “ambition” was to increase defence spending, adding “When the last Labour government was in power, it was 2.5 per cent.”

He also said he had a manifesto ready “when we need it” even if the election is just 19 weeks away, to coincide with May’s local elections.

Days after the prime minister said the election would be in 2024, he added: “We are ready for a general election. I’ve had my whole team on a general election footing for some time now.”

But he admitted he was concerned about the possible impact on his family, including his two teenage children.

“I do worry about my family. If I’m honest, I’m very protective of my wife and our children,” he said.

“We don’t name our children publicly. We don’t have photo shoots with them. And so I am very mindful of the impact it could have on them.

“Our boy is 15, our girl is 13. These are, you know, ages where they’re going through huge change. But my aim is to keep protecting them in every way that I can.”

He did not rule out looking at offshore processing to deal with asylum seekers coming to UK shores on small boats, saying he would “look at any credible option, but I think that at the moment, the single most important thing is to take out the gangs that are taking money to put people in those boats”.

On taxation, he said he would “go for growth rather than pulling the tax lever” and seek “to reduce the tax burden”.

He also said Sunak’s government had “got this one wrong” after Ireland announced its plans to take the UK to court over plans to offer immunity to UK soldiers, among others, who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

Sir Keir expressed concern the plans had “no political support in Northern Ireland from any political party and most importantly when the victims and their families in Northern Ireland are not supportive”.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in